The 2021 Hugo Nominees: 'The Short Stories' Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

The 2021 Hugo Nominees: 'The Short Stories' Review

Alexander Wallace spends a little time with each of the short stories in contention for this year's Hugo Award.
They say that science fiction is most at home in short stories. They force the writer to laser-focus on the truly interesting aspects of the premise rather than clogging it with drivel. As such, the form is rewarded at all the big awards. I have reviewed all the novellas individually and intend the same for the novels (my reviews to date are detailed near the end of this page). Since short stories are definitionally rather short (it’s in the name!), this article will give a blurb about all six.

Without further ado:

Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse by Rae Carson:
This came from Uncanny Magazine, and in some ways reflects the very best of what that magazine has to offer. Like the name would suggest, it is set during the collapse of civilization at the hands of the walking dead. Its protagonists are, likewise as you’d expect, mothers of considerable martial prowess as they guard one of their own who is on the verge of giving birth. It is a vivid tale of both atrocious violence and human caring with a strong feminist undercurrent to boot, one that provides a scaffolding of thematic depth in what could have been just another zombie story.

A Guide for Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad:
This is an odd one, written almost entirely as a conversation between a number of artificial intelligences. These machines are struggling to adapt to the roles that humans have given them, and try to cope with all that. It has shades of the Murderbot Diaries and perhaps shades of Brent A. Harris’ Alyx: an AI’s Guide to Love and Murder (which I have reviewed for this site). It’s a strange story, doubtlessly, but a clever one.

Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer:
I adored this one. It concerns a woman who runs one of the titular book-boxes in her front yard who has a strange correspondence with someone who leaves notes therein. It’s a paean to the joy that books can bring, and the necessity of spaces where they can be exchanged without fiscal expenditure (for if libraries were new, Amazon would try to shut them down). It is also an exploration of the relationships we can have without ever actually physically meeting them; as a ‘digital native’ it certainly resonated with me that way.

The Mermaid Astronaut by Yoon Ha Lee:
A fellow member of my local science fiction society called this ‘The Little Mermaid as space opera’ and I have a hard time disputing it. It is a story of a lush oceanic world where a mermaid has the option to go off with a crew of spacers and takes it, and how this affects her and the people that she loves. The environment of this water world is described lushly, reminding me strongly of Greg Egan’s Oceanic.

Metal Like Blood in the Dark by T. Kingfisher:
This is another odd one, a somewhat abstract one, or so I read it. It is about artificial constructs that are built and then try to escape their creator. What struck out so much about this one is how lush the writing is; you can tell Kingfisher spared no expense in making wonderful turns of phrase.

Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell:
This is an inversion of an old horror trope: the haunted house. Unlike many houses with sentience, this one has no malice. It legitimately wants to make people happy, and it adores the little girl whose father is looking at the house. Wiswell, unlike many writers nowadays, has an unabashedly positive view of humanity, and also supernatural entities; the conflict is of misunderstanding, not malice. A somewhat whimsical one, and one that I quite enjoyed.

The 2021 Hugo Nominees: Reviews
'Finna' by Nino Cipri
'Ring Shout' by P. Djèlí Clark
'Piranesi' by Susanna Clarke
'Upright Women Wanted' by Sarah Gailey
'Come Tumbling Down' by Seanan McGuire
'Harrow the Ninth' by Tamsyn Muir
'Riot Baby' by Tochi Onyebuchi
'Black Sun' by Rebecca Roanhorse
'The Empress of Salt and Fortune' by Nghi Vo
'Network Effect' by Martha Wells

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad