4. A Long Walk Home by Jay Lake, available in the current (winter) issue of Subterranean Online. It's no secret I love Jay Lake's work. And I think I've said before that one of the things I love is how in his short stories his sense of place is so strong without detracting from character or plot. This story, about a genetically-engineered and very old explorer who survives a mysterious event on a colony planet, is almost entirely Place and Character, and Lake melds the two very well. Which is good, since this is one of those stories where nothing much happens although much is implied. In fact, it seems like every time something action-oriented is about to happen (I'm thinking of run-ins with feral dogs here) the narrative slips quietly away to someplace else. That's not something I noticed while reading, but it did strike me as I was composing my thoughts.
5. Nephilim by L. Annette Binder, the October 15, 2010 issue of one story. Another story that is strong on character, somewhat strong on place. There's no real "action" in this one, but there is a forward progression of plot that includes a lot of very small personal moments. Those personal moments form a picture of an unlikely friendship between a woman who suffers from a form of gigantism and a young boy who moves into the neighborhood. There is compassion, and gardening, and a bit of unrequited love. It's a good story for a slow, introspective night, and Binder doesn't try to do anything "fancy" or "artistic" with it. She just gives us a strong single character POV and a sense of what's missing.