Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
My nomination: Images of the Goddess, by Schuyler Hernstrom, published in Cirsova Magazine #2
Gift of the Ob-Men was a nice little regression to a more ideal mean, but Hernstrom blew my socks off with Images of the Goddess. The quality of this story sneaks up on you, as it starts with an innocent monk finagling his way into a quest for a sacred text, but with each successive character Herrnstrom introduces, his writing skills become more and more apparent. The overall structure and tone are reminiscent of a Jack Vance, but carry the light-hearted touch of Pohl Anderson at his lightest, giving this work an increasingly complex and dramatic tone that culminates in an ending at once satisfying and leaving the reader wanting more. Even the gag reveal at the tale's climax is handled with a deftness that amuses the reader without spoiling the suspense and drama of the story.
Longer story (novels)
My nomination: The Invisible City, by Brian K. Lowe
Brian K. Lowe evokes all the best qualities of an Edgar Rice Burroughs in this sprawling 'man out of time' epic that carries its protagonist, a World War I Yankee, to a far flung world populated by everything from alien invaders to downtrodden races to talking and sentient gorillas and...wolverines? That's probably as close a description as you can get for the feral savages Dixon meets in his journey to free a slave race, rescue his infatuation, and save a princess from a corrupt nobleman bent on world domination. Lowe's writing crackles with an energy and style that one doesn't often find these days. it is both lyrical and brutal, and Dixon's voice is as authentic for a man of the early twentieth century as it is refreshingly noble and heroic in these days of science-fiction populated by con-men, complainers, and small potato heroes fighting for vague notions of, "don't judge me, man!" rather than fighting for liberty and justice for all.