The stories in the novella category were pretty average for most part. Apparently two of the nominees ended to the list due coordinated voting effort by some readers of righter wing sf-blogs. The stories in question aren’t exactly bad, but not very good either – certainly not worth of an award. At best they can be considered average or at most slightly above average. Kowal’s and Chiang’s stories were the best ones by a good margin and was fairly easy to choose which of them was better one.
“Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
This story was apparently voted into the final ballot by the right wing and bigoted part of US fandom as well as a few other nominees. The author got some notoriety by his extremely racist and misogynist opinions, which were so hate filled that Orson Scott Card started to feel like a moderate liberal free thinker. He got himself kicked out from the SFWA, but apparently collected some sympathy on that part of fandom who lives in the forests of Montana armed to the teeth waiting for the invasion of the UN troops
An elf comes to a monastery to study religious literature. He befriends (or at least comes accustomed with) the monks and decides to stay there studying sacred texts and copies and illuminates a major multipart religious text. He is wooed back to the kingdom of elves regularly, but he refuses. Not as bad I expected, but not very good either. The motivations of the elf were left very vague. As he knew for a FACT that the religion is bogus (he had "magical" abilities which he kept under control) why to spend years on the task? The writing felt slightly clumsy at places, certainly worse than the writing of the most of the other nominees.
“The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
Another story which is on the ballot apparently due organized voting. Chinese attack a space station US is constructing on the orbit. A pair of building crew, who use remote working system unsurprisingly defeat them. A pretty standard Analog-style story. The plot was unsurprising, but the fairly nice writing gave freshness to the otherwise very conventional plot.
“The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
An elderly female astronaut who lives on Mars gets a change to take one last job. She would jump for the change, but her husband is badly ill and will die in a year. They don't even have children as they decided early on their careers, that there would be no room for children in their lives. Should she take the once in the lifetime chance or should her stay home and take care of her husband? A well written, bittersweet, nice story.
“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
People have been using life recording devices for a long time. It has been very hard to access them, though. Now a new program, which enables pretty comprehensive search faculties, is being introduced. A man is testing the software and examines his own memories - do they correspond with the reality? A story of how technology shapes self-perception. Which is true - what really did happen or you conception and memory of the event? Interspaced with the modern (or future) story is a tale of how writing changed or almost changed tribal life n Africa. A good story, but at places especially at the end, feels more like a pamphlet than a "real" story.
“The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
Tells a story of a group of women, who have been raised at an orphanage, alternating with a story a group who is trying to find a derelict space ship. At the beginning, the stories don’t seem to have anything in common, but eventually there is a connection. Not very logical from a technological point of view, but not too bad from the emotional point of view. Apparently the world of the author’s Xuya-universe of the Chinese descent _has_ other societies, than the Chinese derivative, repulsive, one.
My voting order will be:
1. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
3. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
4. “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
5. “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)