Short Story Smorgasbord: Special Rhysling Nominees Edition!

Last year I listed the autistic speculative poets who were nominees for the 2017 Rhysling award. This year it’s almost time for the 2018 nominees to be announced! But before that happens, I want to take you on a retrospective of Rhysling (and Dwarf Stars) nominations from before 2017. Because some of the most accomplished speculative poets of our time are autistic, and that’s awesome.

This is an incomplete list, mostly for reasons of convenience. For instance, AJ Odasso has many more nominations than this, but I don’t have easy access to a print or electronic copy of many of them right now. Similarly, all three of these poets have large back catalogs of poetry, and I couldn’t possibly review every single poem they have published. Hopefully picking the award-nominated ones is as good as way as any to deliver a suitable highlight reel.


Rose Lemberg, “Odysseus on the War Train” (Abyss & Apex, July 2008). A subversive take on the Greek myth of Odysseus, and on the damage warriors do both to those they fight and to those they leave behind. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Burns at Both Ends” (Star*Line, January 2009). This poem is also the opening poem of “Marginalia to Stone Bird”; it is a paean to intensity, and to using the poet’s talents as they prefer and see fit, not as any concerned people would have them be used. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Godfather Death” (Goblin Fruit, Fall 2009). A poem about a boy who becomes Death’s godson, and a doctor. Intertextual, slyly silly, and genuinely poignant. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Walrus” (Trapeze magazine, August 2010). A… dancing walrus?! This is short and cute, and it was nominated for the Dwarf Stars award. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Twin-Born” (Goblin Fruit, Fall 2010). A myth of birds and blood, grief and flawed creation and desire. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “In the Third Cycle” (Strange Horizons, September 2011). A complex love triangle unfolding over multiple lifetimes, and a part of the Journeymaker Cycle. This poem is not only a Rhysling nominee, but also won the Rannu competition. [Recommended-2]

AJ Odasso, “Parallax” (Stone Telling, March 2012). A poem about gender euphoria! Also about constellations and the liminality of never quite belonging to any accepted category. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Between the Mountain and the Moon” (Strange Horizons, July 2012). A lyrical love myth involving cats, moon goddesses, ritual dance, and a volcano. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “I will show you a single treasure from the treasures of Shah Niyaz” (Goblin Fruit, Summer 2013). The story of all the different forms of labor from all sorts of different people that went into the making and acquisition of a beautiful tapestry. While a single wealthy ruler locks the tapestry away, the poorer people who created such beauty continue with their lives. This one was not only nominated for the Rhysling, but won third place in the long category. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “The Journeymaker, Climbing” (Goblin Fruit, Winter 2013). A small (this one’s a Dwarf Star nominee) poem of a journey up a mountain, with mink and crows and trees and beautiful language throughout. [Recommended-2]

AJ Odasso, “Queen of Cups” (inkscrawl, March 2014). A short poem of uncertainty and longing, of the desire to travel and the struggle to believe that you’ll find what you travel for. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Landwork” (Goblin Fruit, Spring 2014). A gorgeously written tale of a person who stitches broken land back together, quietly doing their healer’s work though that very quietness causes other mages to scoff at them. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Dualities” (Mythic Delirium, October 2014). I mentioned the theme of doubling in my review of Lemberg’s collection, “Marginalia to Stone Bird”. This poem is a prime example, describing the resonance of two people in two different universes who are somehow aware of each other, and whose lives follow inexplicable parallels. [Recommended-2]

Bogi Takács, “You are Here / Was: Blue Line to Memorial Park” (Strange Horizons, November 2014). This poem is a fantastic technical achievement – when a reader clicks “PROCEED”, the words individually rearrange themselves into a completely different but equally intelligible version. Both versions together tell an eerie and evocative story about a war memorial inside a hollow planetoid. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Archival Testimony Fragments/Minersong” (Uncanny, January 2015). One of Lemberg’s rare forays into science fiction, this is a creepy and beautiful poem about an ancient sentient spaceship crushed under rock where miners are poised to rediscover it. [Recommended-2]

Bogi Takács, “The Iterative Nature of the Magical Discovery Process” (Through the Gate, March 2015). This is a seemingly cute poem about a lesbian couple experimenting with magic to make them fly. It does much more than it appears to at first glance, treating magic very naturalistically as a scientific process, complete with false starts and partial solutions. There’s some gorgeous description of food, a beautiful supportive relationship between the protagonists, and even sneaky math re-inscribed as magical incantations. [Recommended-2]

Rose Lemberg, “Long Shadow” (Strange Horizons, March 2015). OOF. This poem is a LOT – it’s long, and epic, and deals with the aftermath of war and trauma in a way that defies easy answers, or even the idea of answers at all. It’s also an instalment in the epic Journeymaker Cycle; it can stand on its own, but there are parts that will mean more if you have “Marginalia to Stone Bird” and can devour all the Journeymaker poems at once. This is one of my favorite speculative poems ever. [Recommended-2]