Here’s a list of the short story nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards recognizing excellence in science fiction and fantasy, with my comments. Titles link to the full text of the stories:
- “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” by Rachel Swirsky, published in Apex Magazine
I love the title, I’ve enjoyed Ms. Swirsky’s work in the past, and the story had a nice rhythm and mood, but what spoiled it for me three paragraphs in was having read Laura Numeroff’s children’s story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I started thinking…”If she brings him a goat, he’s probably going to want a glass of milk to go with it.” And then, worse, June Carter Cash began crooning in my brain: “If you were a dinosaur, and I were a lady, I’d marry you anyway, and I’d have your baby…”
Aaaand, that’s Game Over, I thought.
Then I sent June out to the back porch with Johnny and finished the story. Great googly-moogly. It felt like a T-Rex had just noshed on my solar plexus. Well-played, ma’am. UPDATE: “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” won this year’s short-story Nebula Award. Of the other Hugo-nominated stories, only “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” was on the Nebula ballot. My Hugo prediction stands.
- “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere,” by John Chu, published at Tor.com
An odd wrinkle develops in our world—freezing-cold water drenches you if you lie. It makes straight-out lying harder but dissembling more commonplace and complicated. The protagonist is a man trying to figure out how to introduce his homosexual partner to his traditionally-minded Chinese family, and the liquid threat hovering over every sentence isn’t helping matters one bit. It’s well-written and very emotional, but neither the metaphor-brought-to-life nor the protagonist’s sexuality seemed to make much difference to the story, which was a fairly conventional vignette about bringing home a prospective mate you’re certain nobody’s going to accept.
- “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket,” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, published at Tor.com
Wishes are made, wishes are fulfilled, every wish is connected to every other, and, as you might expect, it’s a good idea to be careful what you wish for in this earthy bit of magical realism about a Thai village and its quirky inhabitants. It’s an amusing story, but it felt a little too familiar and predictable to me.
- “Selkie Stories are for Losers,” by Sofia Samatar, published in Strange Horizons
Another bit of magical realism, heavier on the realism, but more haunting for it. The selkie legend threads its way through a young woman’s ramblings on her life, her family, and a new friend whom she hopes will be something more than a friend. The legend slowly emerges into reality but carries a substantial punch throughout the story as a metaphor for abandonment, and loss, and the sometimes impenetrable strangeness a daughter sees in her mother.
I’m picking the Rachel Swirsky story as the winner, though the Sofia Samatar story could give it a run for its money. Give ’em a read, and tell me what you think.