Hugo Nominated Short Stories

ConNew Zealand has become a virtual con. That means I can actually participate. Since I am an active member, I get to vote on the Hugo Awards this year. Members also get a packet full of all the nominees. I’m going to try to review all the different categories, starting with the short stories. I probably won’t be able to review all the nominees in each category at once after today, but I’ve at least I’ve got a chance with the short stories. While these stories were included in the Hugo Award packet, I’ve linked to their original locations so anyone can read them (or often listen to them) online for free.

“Do Not Look Back, My Lion” by Alix E. Harrow

Published: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2019

Genre: fantasy short story

Setting: a medieval-technology world

Short summary: The Emperor finally break The Lion of Vox when she claims her daughter for the war

Final thoughts: A fine enough story. I found the relationships tricky to keep track of. Husband and wife referred to role, not gender. So, between the non-gendered names and the non-gendered roles, it was a bit tricky to keep track of the characters. The story was about broken promises and endless war and who is the strong one in a relationship.

Title comes from: It’s what the Lion’s husband says to her as she goes to assassinate the Emperor

“A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde

Published: Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2019

Genre: fantasy short story

Setting: a medieval-technology world

Short summary: Some people in the village turn into weatherman who name the storms that are coming to protect the village

Final thoughts: Another fine enough story. The idea of some people sacrificing themselves to save the others is pretty standard. The storms attacking the village weren’t typhoons and hurricanes. They were fantastical storms, with names like a Vivid, Searcloud, or Ashpale, and equally fantastical effects. I found the end a bit anticlimactic.

“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” by Nibedita Sen

Published: Nightmare, May 2019

Genre: horror short story

Setting: a paper for a college class

Short summary: A research paper presenting different accounts of a cannibal tribe of women

Final thoughts: An interesting format, since it takes the shape of a research paper with excerpts and citations and everything. The story itself was odd and disjointed. Sen did provide ten different viewpoints on the native population, everything from eyewitness accounts of the first contact to social commentary about stories of cannibalism. I found the story to be more of a social commentary on women, with a thread of cannibalism. The cannibalism might have been important for procreation (there were comments on a mostly female line and another thread about how a pregnancy occurred after an episode of cannibalism at a British boarding school). Not really my cup of tea.

“Blood is Another Word for Hunger” by Rivers Solomon

Published: Tor, July 2019

Genre: historical fantasy short story

Setting: it felt to me like America, at the start of the Civil War

Short summary: A rebellious slave births ghosts whenever she kills someone

Final thoughts: This was another dark story. Sully has finally had enough of being a slave and kills her owners. That action connects her to the etherworld and allows her to give life to dead people there. This creates a family around her. Sully keeps herself apart, though. She has spent so long suppressing her emotions that it takes a long time before she allows herself to feel anything for those people around her. Sully wants to make a safe space for her new family, but soon realizes it won’t be safe until the whole world is safe.

“As the Last I May Know” by S. L. Huang

Published: Tor, October 2019

Genre: science fiction short story

Setting: it felt like a near-future Japan

Short summary: In order to get the codes to the ultimate weapon, a president must murder a child

Final thoughts: I love this story. It is so powerful. How to do you make sure the president has exhausted all other avenues before using the weapon that can destroy whole cities at a time? Insert the codes to activate that weapon into a child who lives with you during your presidency. If you want the codes, you have to kill the child yourself. If you can’t yourself to kill one person, why should you be able to kill a whole city full of people, even if they are technically enemies. Huang shows the relationship develop between the president and the carrier. That makes it even harder to kill the child. And the carrier believes in what she’s asked to do. She’s given an out, and provides the perfect retort, “‘It’s not about right and wrong…. It’s about making it hard.” I think it should be hard to kill a whole city of people. It’s my favorite story of the group.

“And Now His Lordship Is Laughing” by Shiv Ramdas

Published: Strange Horizons, September 2019

Genre: historical fantasy short story

Setting: India during WWI

Short summary: Apa gets her revenge against the British by making a laughing doll

Final thoughts: Also a good story, although I think Huang’s is slightly better. This story focuses on terrible the British were to the native populations of their colonies. They were thrilled with the starvation and death occurring with their Denial of Rice Policy. The native populations are of no consequence and should be happy to just survive. And how dare anyone say no to the British Government. Well, Apa doesn’t decide to say yes to the Governor’s “request” for a just doll for his wife because she is frightened or wants to live. She says yes because she’s figured out how to get her revenge. And of course, no one suspects the little old lady can put enough magic into a doll to kill everyone in a room. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to die of laughter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Story review

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.