Editor’s Choice Award April 2021, Science Fiction

The Editors’ Choices are chosen from the submissions from the previous month that show the most potential or otherwise earn the admiration of our Resident Editors. Submissions in four categories — science fiction chapters, fantasy chapters, horror, and short stories — receive a detailed review, meant to be educational for others as well as the author.This month’s reviews are written by Resident Editors Leah Bobet, Jeanne Cavelos, and Judith Tarr. The last four months of Editors’ Choices and their editorial reviews are archived on the workshop.

In The Time Of The Khoji (Part 1) by Ethan “Sam” Rodgers

Every so often I like to shake things up a little bit and do an Editor’s Choice that talks about what makes a submission work, rather than pointing to elements that need work. There are a few copyedit-level issues here, a bit of continuity, and so on, but those are easily fixable. What I want to do is point out the good-to-wonderful aspects of this section of a novella.

From the beginning I was struck by how humane the writing is. The characters have a core of compassion, and the protagonist clearly cares deeply for his family and his world. I can see the antagonists emerging, and get a sense of where the story may go with them, but the focus for now is on the sense of community that the Hi’mu share. I love the way it manifests in Song, and the ways in which their living spaces are designed to facilitate it. It even affects the way children are raised, taught to wait their turn and to work together with their family.

The worldbuilding overall has real depth and breadth to it. I get a good visual picture of Vasant’s portion of Tau-Seto, from his underground habitation to the world it’s set in. The people around him are equally well drawn, especially his family and his driller, Gamya.

The interaction between Vasant and Gamya could use a little polish, especially in her reactions during the scene at the Tavaro Spire—more complexity, more clarification—but her willingness to learn from him, and her patience with his liabilities, underscores the basic humanity of this part of the story. Vasant’s age and the problems it presents come through with both clarity and compassion. He has to do what he has to do, and his coworkers help him as much as they can. It’s one more set of details that establish the nature of their community.

Details in general are well drawn and well chosen. Exposition for the most part weaves seamlessly into the narrative. We learn about specific elements when we need to learn them, and we get just enough to develop a clear picture of what’s going on. The pace of the plot rarely stops for an expository speed bump. In general it flows smoothly onward, carrying us through this section and on to the next.

Altogether this is a lovely opening, and it makes me want to read on. Well done, and well written.

–Judith Tarr


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