Tag Archives: fantasy

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.

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Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

It’s the next (and 15th) Discworld book and readily available on my Kindle.

Published: 1993

Genre: fantasy

Length: 377 pages

Setting: Ankh-Morpork on Discworld

Summary: Short version: A stolen gun leads to unrest in Ankh-Morpork Continue reading

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His Hideous Heart, Part 7

Time for my next installment of an Edgar Allan Poe story compared to a modern re-imagined version.

“Hop-Frog” by Edgar Allan Poe

Published: 1849

Genre: fiction short story

Length: 13 pages

Summary: Hop-Frog, the cripple dwarf jester, plays the ultimate joke on his king

“Changeling” by Marieke Nijkamp

Published: 2019

Genre: fantasy short story

Length: 19 pages

Summary: The fae Jester rescues deformed children who don’t have a home in society Continue reading

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A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I got an illustrated edition of this book for Christmas and decided it was high time to read it since the libraries are all closed due to the pandemic. It’s my third reread.

Published: 1996 for the original, 2016 for the illustrated edition

Genre: epic fantasy

Length: 843 pages of text, 878 with appendix

Font: Minion

Setting: various parts of Westeros

Summary: Short version: The peace of Westeros is shattered when Robert Baratheon dies Continue reading

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Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

This is the 14th and next Discworld book, following Small Gods in publication order but Witches Abroad in plot. I needed something I knew I would enjoy that was light and funny and available. Discworld books fit the bill for me.

Published: 1992

Genre: fantasy

Length: 400 pages

Setting: Lancre on Discworld, after the events of Witches Abroad

Summary: Short version: Elves try to invade Lancre but the witches stop them Continue reading

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Daja’s Book by Tamora Pierce

This is the third book in the Circle of Magic. Miss Adventure and I listened to Tris’s Book on the way to Philadelphia. This book filled our way home.

Published: 1998

Genre: middle grade fantasy

Length: 232 pages

Setting: Gold Ridge, a city in Emelan, soon after the events of Tris’s Book

Summary: Short version: Fire threatens Gold Ridge and Daja regains her Trader status Continue reading

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Roar by Cecelia Ahern

I was looking for some short stories to read and heard about this collection, probably on NPR. I slowly read and reviewed each of the stories. I’m collecting them all into one post, now that I’ve finished the entire collection. I’ll provide my short summaries of each story and then link to their initial discussion. I reviewed three stories at a time, which I’ll refer to as parts 1-10. My final thoughts for this post will be for the collection as a whole.

Published: 2019 in the U.S., 2018 in the U.K.

Genre: short stories with a fantastical element

Length: 273 pages total, individual stories ranging from ~5-15 pages long


Part 1:

“The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared” – A woman finds out she is literally fading from sight because she’s internalized society’s expectations for an older woman

“The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf” – A woman realizes there is more to life than being kept on a shelf and adored by her husband

“The Woman Who Grew Wings” – A refugee woman sprouts wings to overcome the obstacles of people in her path

Part 2:

“The Woman Who Was Fed by a Duck” – A woman gets advice on her life from a duck she’s been feeding regularly over her lunch hour

“The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin” – A woman is literally being eaten up by guilt because she can’t do everything that is expected of her to perfection

“The Woman Who Thought Her Mirror Was Broken” – A woman has a hard time recognizing her aged image in a mirror and thinks something must be wrong

Part 3:

“The Woman Who Was Swallowed Up by the Floor and Who Met Lots of Other Women Down There Too” – A woman embarrasses herself  and is swallowed by a hole in the floor until she gets over her embarrassment

“The Woman Who Ordered the Seabass Special” – A stuttering customer inspires her stuttering waitress

“The Woman Who Ate Photographs” – A mother gets addicted to the memories she experiences when she eats a photograph

Part 4:

“The Woman Who Forgot Her Name” – A woman tries to recall her identity by sitting with strangers at a restaurant

“The Woman Who Had a Ticking Clock” – The ticking of a woman’s biological clock drives her day-to-day interactions

“The Woman Who Sowed Seeds of Doubt” – A woman doesn’t know what to do with herself when her parents die

Part 5:

“The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged Her Husband” – A 60-year old woman regrets her decisions to return her husband of decades to the shop where she bought him

“The Woman Who Lost Her Common Sense” – A woman going through a divorce realizes she hasn’t lost her common sense, it’s just been warped a bit

“The Woman Who Walked in Her Husband’s Shoes” – A woman is transformed into her husband whenever she puts on her husband’s shoes

Part 6:

“The Woman Who Was a Featherbrain” – A woman focuses too much of her attention on her family and not enough on herself

“The Woman Who Wore Her Heart on Her Sleeve” – A medical condition lead to a woman being unable to hide her true feelings

“The Woman Who Wore Pink” – A woman’s daughter reminds her that people are more than their genitalia

Part 7:

“The Woman Who Blew Away” – A woman only concerned with her image on social media becomes such an airhead she floats away

“The Woman Who Had a Strong Suit” – A woman shows her perseverance looking for an outfit that makes her strong

“The Woman Who Spoke Woman” – A woman disguises herself as a man to be part of the Cabinet in the government

Part 8:

“The Woman Who Found the World in Her Oyster” – A trans woman is invited to a women’s luncheon by her ex-wife

“The Woman Who Guarded Gonads” – A man is denied a vasectomy because an all-female panel doesn’t think it’s necessary

“The Woman Who Was Pigeonholed” – Women complain about being known for a single characteristic

Part 9:

“The Woman Who Jumped on the Bandwagon” – A woman makes it to the top, but not by her own effort

“The Woman Who Smiled” – A woman is told to smile when she doesn’t feel like it

“The Woman Who Thought the Grass Was Greener on the Other Side” – Neighbors think a woman’s life is perfect when it’s not

Part 10:

“The Woman Who Unraveled” – A woman and her sisters are physically falling apart because they concentrate more on their family than their own lives

“The Woman Who Cherry-Picked” – A woman applies her powers of observation to all aspects of her life and succeeds

“The Woman Who Roared” – Everyday women daily go into their secret room and roar

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this collection. There were a couple of stories that didn’t hit with me, but on average they were all excellent. I also found them to be thought provoking. Each one targeted an aspect common to women’s lives, took it to the extreme, and made you think. Many of the stories took a metaphor and made it literal (like being a featherbrain or having your heart on your sleeve). Ahern also liked to take common gender roles and flip them. I was shocked at how awful society seemed when women restricted men’s lives the way men restricted women’s lives. I guess you can get used to anything. I appreciated the variety of female characters that were included in the stories – young, old, mother, trans, friends, sisters, and so on. There was something for everyone in the collection.

Title comes from: The last story in the collection and the epigraph were about women who roared

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #14 for 2020 and an R in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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