Two excellent things that have nothing to do with the fiction I read in the last third of the year. This review of Star Trek: Beyond is an excellent love letter to the franchise. Stand it up next to this manifesto about the identity of Science Fiction that's masquerading as a review of The Weave, then stop by Abigail Nussbaum's review of the Clarke Shortlist that tackles the award's status in genre at this moment, and then maybe you'll agree that Strange Horizons is writing some of the best stuff about genre out there right now, and by the way you can support them.
I'll also point out that there's a new literary magazine launching to spotlight speculative fiction from black authors - Fiyah Literary Magazine. Go take a look at the masthead (someday I'll get to see I interviewed the editors when...), read the mission & the history, and then keep your eyes peeled. (In case I haven't mentioned the Fireside Fiction report on antiblack racism in Black Speculative Fiction recently, it's a damning read). So far as I know, Strange Horizons is the only short fiction market to have responded officially. I am hopeful that Fiyah will be one of many other responses.
I read a lot less in the second third of this year, aka the summer home with the kids, but I did get through a few things. I struggled through the Clarke Award shortlist & then discussed it (twice) with Megan & Maureen. If you're interested in writing about award shortlists, I'd recommend Abigail Nussbaum's review (above) & the roundup over at Martin Petto's blog.
The best thing I read came from the Clarke list - Nnedi Okorafor's The Book of Phoenix was very good. Dave Hutchison's Europe at Midnight was also very good (controlled and with a distinct, tense tone where Phoenix burst with ideas and energy and memorable characterization), but I wish Europe had treated its women better. N K Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate started off brilliantly, parceling out information in small quantities while hinting at the horrors all around. As the book wore on, the invisible hand of the author moving plot points from A to B became increasingly visible, and I didn't find The Obelisk Gate as satisfying as The Fifth Season (one of the best books I read last year), or even particularly great on it's own. I am, however, very excited to read the complete Broken Earth trilogy next year. The eventual Clarke award winner, Children of Time was (to quote myself) "ambitious and a bit old-fashioned", and included some really excellent writing about uplifted spiders.
I didn't read much short fiction at all last thirdsy (though I have anthologies piling up everywhere), but I'd recommend Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark. I particularly enjoyed the voice and the sense that early-20th-century Cairo was a character in the story.
I tried a few more "literary" novels: Nina Allan's The Race was good, but I think I need to dive in more closely to really pull it apart & see what made it tick so well. I didn't particularly enjoy Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation when I read it, but it's grown on me, particularly after a conversation with Kate Schapira that'll be posted at some point. Another that I hope to reread, this time rather than attempting to solve the book, I want to read carefully but without seeking mastery.
I read and enjoyed The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, and also read and occasionally enjoyed various shorter length things for Hugo voting (none of the novellas on offer were as good as Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, I'll note with a grumble)
I'm close to finishing Kate Elliott's Traitor's Gate, making progress on Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie & Other Stories, which remains high quality & emotionally wrenching throughout, and working on Joanna Russ's How To Suppress Women's Writing (still sadly relevant). Nisi Shawl's Everfair is coming soon, as is Ken Liu's Wall of Storms. I've got Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad on my shelf so I can be part of the new literary conversations, and also McKillip's The Riddle-Master of Hed so I can catch up on older material. Hopefully with the kids in school, a bit more free time, and no awards hanging over me I can read a bit more and a bit more widely.