Hugo Blogging: Real Best Short Stories

These are my reviews (from Goodreads) of the five stories that *would* have made the ballot had the Puppyfascists not broken this year’s Hugos.
In general, these are not particularly my kind of thing — too much atmosphere and character, and not enough plot or ideas, for my personal taste. But comparing them to Puppyshit is like night and day — all are well-written, interesting, and fundamentally generous-spirited stories, unlike the crap on the ballot.

A Kiss With TeethA Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An enjoyable, but overall rather lightweight, story about a vampire having a midlife crisis, and about settling down without losing sight of your own identity.
Of all the not-Hugo-nominated-because-of-fascist-entryist stories, this one is the most my kind of thing, but at the same time it’s also, I think, objectively the weakest. A good, but not great, story, but at least three thousand times better than anything that kept it off the ballot.

When It Ends, He Catches HerWhen It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rather lovely short-short story, whose genre is not immediately apparent (but is spoilered in some of the other reviews here). The story’s thoughts on death take on an extra poignancy when one knows that the author was terminally ill when writing it, and died the day after publication.
This is one of several stories that should have been on the Hugo ballot this year, were the awards not hijacked by fascists. It’s better than anything that made the list.

Jackalope WivesJackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very strong story about choices and patriarchy, responsibilities and rewards. The basic plot is a selkie story, as so many of the most popular recent fantasy stories have been, but this one is written in a style that reminds me of Stephen King’s better work — apart from the main character, who seems to come straight from Pratchett. In another world I can imagine Granny Weatherwax making exactly the same choices, and for the same reasons.
Another short story that would have been on the Hugo ballot were it not for vote-rigging fascists getting vastly inferior work on there instead.

The Truth About OwlsThe Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very well-written short story, in which the SF/F elements are very minimal, but with a lot to say. Rather than being driven by plot, it’s driven by a set of associations and allusions — folk storytelling traditions, the experience of immigrants whose families are torn apart, assimilation, the Mabinogion, owls, self-harm…
It’s a story about identity, and how identities are imposed on us rather than chosen by us, and so as someone who is the societal default in most ways (straight white cis man) I found it impressive more than moving. I suspect that those who are, like the protagonist of the story, immigrants or religious minorities or (it is strongly implied, but not said outright) women attracted to other women, or mixed race, may have a rather stronger emotional reaction to it than I did.
This is one of several stories that should have been on the Hugo ballot this year, were the awards not hijacked by fascists. It’s better than anything that made the list. I’m sure the fascists were very glad to keep this one off, as it’s everything they hate

The Breath of WarThe Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not really my sort of thing. A story about a world where women have to carve golems that will in turn bring their babies to life when they’re born, and a woman who chooses instead of carving a human-shaped one to carve a spaceship that will end a war she hates. I’m not a huge fan of stories about war anyway, and while this is essentially a fantasy story, it has enough SF trappings that the magical stuff that drives the story doesn’t quite work for me.
This is one of several stories that should have been on the Hugo ballot this year, were the awards not hijacked by fascists. While it’s not to my taste, it’s far better than anything that made the list.

View all my reviews

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.