Friday, May 30, 2014

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Short Stories

Friday, May 30, 2014
If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (, 04-2013)
Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (, 02-2013)

"The Ink Readers of Doi Saket": This is easily my least favorite of the nominees. There is nothing wrong with the story, but I just never quite connected to it, especially not like I did with the other nominees.  The story is somewhat charming, with the wishes being tossed in the river and answered by a village farther down the river.  I wouldn't recommend it to others, though, and maybe that's my line.

"Selkie Stories Are for Losers" (my review): Based on what I've been reading online about this story, about the Nebulas, and even about how some writers were talking about the Hugos, I would not at all be surprised if this story wins the Nebula this weekend. Samatar has received a lot of good press this year and this story is a very good one.  I feel that this one may be a favorite, even if it is not my favorite.  It is a wonderful story dealing with loss and leaving and not being where you belong.

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" (my review): Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.  I wrote the following as part of my Nebula coverage, and what I said then stands now: "It is no secret that I am a fan of Rachel Swirsky's fiction.  I've been reading her for years and I know each time I read one of her stories that there is a strong chance I am reading one of the best stories of any given year. It is a difficult reputation to live up to, but she does so, and on a consistent basis.  This one twists and breaks my heart and it's the one I've read multiple times and want to pass around and make sure that other people read this." 

"The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" (my review): How I think about this story, at least in regards to the Hugo Award is a partial response to Rachel Swirsky's story. Swirsky's story is heartbreakingly beautiful and powerful, but it is less of a "story" than it is...well, I don't know exactly how to describe its form. Almost a poem.  "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" is very moving in its own way, but it also works with a more traditional story format than Swirsky's story does.  Being "moving" or "heartbreaking" is not reason to regard a story by itself, but Chu's story is just flat out good. It's well constructed and builds to an emotional climax that fits the story being told. I'm lapsing into cliche, because taken down to its bare elements, a story is a story. But John Chu's story is worth remarking on and it is worth recommending. It is also worth a Hugo Award.

Minus the story from Thomas Heuvelt, this is a strong line-up of stories. When I wrote about the Nebula Awards, I incorrectly guessed that Sofia Samatar's story would be the winner, even though I would have voted for the eventual winner (Rachel Swirsky). This time, I think it is more likely that Rachel Swirsky wins the Hugo Award, but if I were voting, I would vote for John Chu's story first. But, with runoff voting, I think that Swirsky's story is likely to have the strongest following. However it turns out, there are three very good stories nominated for the Hugo Award, any of which would be worthy winners.

My Vote:
1. "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere"
2. "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love"
3. "Selkie Stories Are for Losers"
4. "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket"
5. No Award


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