Friday, July 27, 2018

2018 Hugo Ballot, Part Two (Novelette and Short Story)

Check out my 2018 Hugo Ballot, Part One to see what I had to say about the categories for novel and novella.  In this post I'm moving on to novelette and short story.  One of my favorite things about voting for the Hugos (which you can do, too!) is that it exposes me to new things and keeps me something like up-to-date with the SFF field.  This is especially true with the short fiction categories as I don't read nearly as much short fiction as I ought to.  So, thanks, Hugo awards!  There's some really great stuff this year!

Best Novelette

Novelettes are a nice length: long enough for some real development, but short enough to be easily read in one sitting.

1.  “Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)
  • From my Goodreads review:  "After reading this and her novella "And Then There Were N-One" (both Hugo finalists), I think Sarah Pinsker may be a new favorite. "Wind Will Rove" is a generation ship story told by the granddaughter of one of the original passengers and whose great-great-many-times-removed grandchildren will see the new planet. Aside from all the deep ethical issues with the very idea of a generation ship, this story deals with the importance of history and cultural memory for human life focusing on music as a specific example. As a professor in the humanities and lover of the arts I appreciate this quite a bit, especially in these times of artificially created austerity and neoliberal attempts to run schools like "practical minded" businesses. At a deeper level, of course, any generation ship story is a metaphor for our own "generation ship" as we exist between our own ancestors and descendants hurtling through the void."

2.  “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
  • My Goodreads review: "A charming story of a little old robot struggling to find itself useful on the starship it serves. As the story goes on we learn more about the bot, the bots' society, the ship, the humans, and the mission they're all on. And there are funny bits (and funny bots). Good times."

3. “A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
  • My Goodreads review: "An interesting exploration of the concept of forgery involving fake meat."

4. “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
  • From Goodreads: "An interesting vampire story about a transgender man who gets turned into a vampire. Oh, and vampires are a known thing in this world, even in the medical community. I'm not usually into vampire stuff, but this has some nice world building and insights about gender identity."  

5. “Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (, February 15, 2017)
  • My Goodreads review: "Set in the same universe as Ninefox Gambit and focusing on the early days of one of its characters, this story has at least two things the book doesn't: a bit of humor and a relatively simple plot. I like the idea of pathogen duels, but otherwise this is probably going to appeal mostly to fans of Lee's Machineries of Empire series looking for more back story."

6. “Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
  • My Goodreads review: "A pretty decent fantasy story that just didn't quite grab me for some reason."

Best Short Story

Short stories are a challenge both for the reader and the author: How to squeeze a whole story in a just few thousand words or less?  This is especially pronounced in science fiction and fantasy where, in addition to plot, character, ideas, etc., you have to construct a different world.  Here are some authors that succeed in doing all of that!

1.  “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)
  • My Goodreads review: "Virtual reality lets tourists in Sedona, Arizona have "authentic Indian Experiences" with the help of Native American guides. What does "authentic" mean? Where does cultural appreciation become cultural appropriation? What is a "real Indian"? What is real? This story touches on these questions and more in a style that is engaging, occasionally humorous, and often poignant. Great stuff!"

2.  “The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (, July 19, 2017)
  • From my Goodreads review: "In Plato's Symposium, the character Diotima tells Socrates that there is both reproduction in body (the birds and the bees) and reproduction in soul (art, philosophy, literature, etc.), both kinds of reproduction representing a yearning for a kind of immortality for mortal human creatures. One thing I love about science fiction is that it allows us to consider philosophical questions on a grander scale of humanity as a whole. What would happen if the two kinds of reproduction came into conflict on a large scale? What if there was a choice between the possible survival of a small group of humans on Mars versus the construction of an architectural monument that will outlast all of us? ..."

3.  “Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
  • From Goodreads: "A quirky, funny little story that asks: What if a self-aware computer wrote anime fan fiction?"

4. “Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
  • From Goodreads: "An odd story about windup toy people(?) that becomes a melancholy reflection on family, love, life, and death. I wasn't sure I liked it as I read it, but now I keep thinking about it, which is probably the mark of a good story."

5.  “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
  • From Goodreads: "A fun take on the whole magic sword and secret warrior destiny motif."

6.  “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September 2017)
  • From Goodreads: "I don't get it. But it has some striking prose."

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