Back in May, during Wyrd & Wonder, I shared my intention to once again read the shortlists for Best Short Story and Best Novelette for this year’s Hugo Awards, and to read the shortlist for the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book for the first time. My intention was to post my wrap-up of the short stories and novelettes by the end of May, but I didn’t get round to it! I’ve been a bit slumpy for most of this year, which kind of sucks, but I really wanted to read the short fiction shortlists before the winners are announced.
I’ve finally done it! So, as it’s #SciFiMonth, this month feels as good a time as any to share my thoughts…
Best Short Story
“Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse” by Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020) “A Guide for Working Breeds” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution ed. by Jonathan Strahan (Solaris)) “Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com) “The Mermaid Astronaut” by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020) “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020) “Open House on Haunted Hill” by Josh Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. by David Steffen)
All of these stories are free to read online – the links are above, if you’re so inclined! – and I’m pleased to say I liked all of them! In fact I have to give Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits a shout out for letting me know “A Guide for Working Breeds” was reprinted on Tor.com, because it ended up being my favourite on this year’s shortlist. I’m not usually drawn to stories about robots, but “A Guide for Working Breeds” was told with such warmth and humour that I loved it. I also really enjoyed “Open House on Haunted Hill”, a surprisingly tender response to haunted house stories that I’m labelling ‘happy horror’, and “Little Free Library” I liked a lot because it reminded me a little of Alix E. Harrow’s “The Ransom of Miss Coraline Connelly”.
While I did like “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, “The Mermaid Astronaut” and “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, none of them have particularly stuck with me since I read them in the spring. Personally, I’m not sure how “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse” has ended up on the shortlist when Sharon Hsu’s “And All the Trees of the Forest Shall Clap Their Hands” was in the same issue of Uncanny Magazine and is a much stronger story, in my opinion.
“Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super” by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2020)
- “Helicopter Story” by Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020) – Please read this statement from Clarkesworld
“The Inaccessibility of Heaven” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020) “Monster” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
- “The Pill” Meg Elison (Big Girl (PM Press))
“Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com)
I’ve only been able to read four of this year’s shortlist! Big Girl isn’t available at my library and I haven’t bought a copy, and unfortunately Isabel Fall received so much abuse online that she was forced to out herself as a trans woman and she asked Clarkesworld to remove her story. On principle I’d love to see her win the award just to give everyone who sent her abuse the middle finger.
Of the four I did read I didn’t dislike any of them, but I didn’t feel particularly wowed by any of them either. That said, I’ve once again surprised myself with my favourite because I’ve struggled with Aliette de Bodard’s work in the past, but I ended up enjoying “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” a lot and it’s convinced me to give her Dominion of the Fallen series a try! The ending felt a little rushed and nothing about the plot was a shock, but I liked the characters a lot and I’m very intrigued by this world.
I also enjoyed “Two Truths and a Lie” despite not loving Sarah Pinsker’s work in the past. This story did actually give me the creeps, which is impressive for how short it is; it reminded me a lot of Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids – but for adults.
I have no idea if Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids ran anywhere outside the UK, but it was a series I watched a lot as a child and some of the episodes haunted me. I’m still not over “Mr Peeler’s Butterflies”.
I liked “Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super” but I don’t think I’ll still be thinking about it, or even remember much about it, in a month’s time – it was another story that felt a little too abrupt for me by the end – and “Monster” is probably my least favourite of the novelettes I read. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t leave me feeling very much.
All in all I’d love to see “A Guide for Working Breeds” win Best Short Story and “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” win Best Novelette, but it’ll be interesting to see which stories get the votes this year!