The Hugo Packet has been released, at least for this year’s Hugos (the retro-Hugos are on their way), so as I finish each section I’ll do a quick blog post explaining how I’m going to vote and why.
The short story category this year is… odd. There’s a certain sameness to the stories, which all seem to be cut from the same cloth. They all read, in fact, like the work of a university writing group given the job of writing a magical realist story — most are based around some little emotional epiphany or other, and the SF/F content is minimal. That means that none of them are really my kind of thing — frankly, if I want to read lit-fic about people’s relationships, there are better places to look than the Hugo candidates — but they’re all well enough written that I’ll put them all ahead of No Award.
From best to worst, I’ll be voting for:
“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu
This is essentially a rather touching story of a gay man coming out to his conservative family, one with enough little touches that ring true (replace the Chinese culture of the family with the Minnesotan one, and they could be my in-laws — the sister reminds me vry much of Holly’s aunt) that I suspect it’s largely autobiographical. The SFnal conceit — that water suddenly starts appearing on everyone when they lie — is absurd and thin, but in rather a good way. It just allows the personal relationships to play out, and provides for occasional moments of comedy.
If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky (not in the Hugo Packet for some reason, but available at the link).
A woman sits by the side of her comatose lover’s bed, fantasising. Very nicely written, utterly not my kind of thing, but I can see why other people would absolutely love it.
Selkie Stories Are For Losers by Sofia Samatar
This interweaves folk tales about the Selkie, but uses them in much the same way as the Swirsky story, as metaphorical background for a non-genre story, in this case a love story between two women, one of whom has a mother who abandoned her family, the other of whom has a mother who attempted suicide. This one thinks it’s cleverer than it is.
and bottom The Ink-Readers of Doi Saket by Thomas Heuvelt
This one is by far the closest to my sort of thing out of these, but seemed to me more than a little unintentionally racist. It reads like affectionate mockery of Thai culture, but affectionate mockery of a culture one is not part of is a difficult thing to pull off, and this doesn’t quite work well enough not to leave a slight bad taste in the mouth.