You don’t get any more last minute than this when it comes to posting Hugo picks before the deadline, but here I go. I’m happy I decided to participate this year, and now that I’ve seen what’s involved I’m excited to do this again next year. Looks like I’ll have to keep track of what I read this year to put forth as nominations!
“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon
(Apex Magazine, January 2016)
By far, this was my favourite story. I immediately loved Grandma Harkin, the mystery around who was stealing her tomatoes, and the descriptions of the strange desert she inhabits. I plan to read the story that precedes this one as soon as I have a chance.
One of my favourite parts of the setting was the idea that the railroads built across America were alive, and contained train-gods that reflected the cultures of the people that physically laboured to build them – as opposed to the rich people who lived east and paid for their construction. Appease these gods and you might get your shipment to the right place; otherwise you’re out of luck.
I love that the story is built on Native American folklore, with other mythologies blended in, and I found that Grandma Harken’s no nonsense approach to her quest quickly drew me in. I hope the author writes more about Harken, and, if I’m going to be selfish, about the girl with bones made of cholla.
This was my top choice. Read it here.
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong
(Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)
And here’s another story set in a desert. There the comparisons end.
The descriptive writing in this story was masterful. From the very first line Wong grabs you and pulls you into the story.
“When the desert finally lets you go, naked and stumbling, your body humming with raw power and the song of dead things coiled under your tongue, you find Marisol waiting for you at the edge of the bluffs.”
After an opening like that, it’s hard not to dash through the rest of the story to learn more about “you”, and what this character is caught up in. Rarely have I encountered a story written this expertly in the second-person POV.
“You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” really gave me all the western and apocalyptic feelings. It was dark and captivating, with bonus necromancy. I recommend it without question.
Read it here.
The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
(Tor.com publishing, May 2016)
I enjoyed the world-building, and the in-depth discussions about the roles of jewels and lapidaries as part of this strange new culture the reader is introduced to, but I wish we could have had more time to explore the title characters more completely. Considering the author packed so much into 96 pages, I know I shouldn’t complain, but I think the story might have really shone if it had more room for us to get deeper into Lin and Sima’s minds.
Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock
Pass. It’s not that I’m against porn, but I couldn’t take this nomination seriously.
“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
(Tor.com, July 2016)
This was an intricate character study about a young woman trying to find out the truth about her parentage amidst the excitement of the first expedition to Mars in about thirty years, and the buzz about astronauts staying at the hotel she works at. It was beautifully written and haunting, despite the fact that the ending was telegraphed so heavily, and the sci-fi elements were pushed far to the background. I feel I would have enjoyed this story more on its own, instead of in the context of the Hugo Awards.
Read it here.
“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
(Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016
This was an entertaining read with some interesting conversations about consciousness, but I feel like it didn’t go deep enough, especially since the majority of the story involved these discussions.
I find the idea that consciousness is a detriment to sentient life to be completely fascinating, and it’s a concept I’ve encountered before in Peter Watts’ “Blindsight” (who handled it in great detail). As much as feel like I need my consciousness to be me, I wonder if humanity would be better off without it. So that aspect of “Touring with the Alien” hooked me.
Also, I really enjoyed reading about the translator’s attempts to learn how to be human. That is definitely one of my favourite tropes. Outsiders looking in at what we take for granted is always entertaining.
Regrettably , I find that the ending didn’t work for me the way it was written. It was sprung with only a bit of narrative to support the character’s choice. Also, I feel as though this story left me with far too many questions relating to the internal consistency of this world (and what would happen if the story continued).
Read it here.
And that’s it. The deadline for voting passes in a few hours, so this is probably my last Hugo-related post until the winners are announced next month. I’d love to know what people’s thoughts are on the finalists, and how much we differed in opinion!