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2014 Hugos: Best Short Story - Bela Lugosi's Dead, Jim
June 10th, 2014
08:17 pm
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2014 Hugos: Best Short Story

General notes:

  • Major spoilers for everything on the ballot!
  • Reviews in order of reading/watching.

My current ranking is:

  1. Selkie Stories Are for Losers
  2. The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere (but it’s hard to order this with Selkie Stories).
  3. If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love
  4. The Ink Readers of Doi Saket

Selkie Stories Are for Losers (Sofia Samatar)

A girl hopes to break out of the logic of the fairy tale she’s stuck in (or perhaps is just using as a lens to interpret the troubles in her life), but in fact seems destined just to unthinkingly revisit the same misfortune on others that was unthinkingly visited upon her. Concise. Sad but compelling.


The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere (John Chu)

The water of the title falls whenever you lie. Truth can be drying, and equivocation psychologically uncomfortable, all in all with surprisingly(?) little apparent effect on human lives and relationships (though it must be said that the story is set just a few weeks after it starts happening, which maybe a little short for the effects of such a fundamental change to the epistemic environment to work themselves out).

It’s a love story about Matt and Gus. Superficially the thing that is stopping them marrying is Matt’s traditionally-minded parents but as it turns out they actively approve of Gus pretty much the moment they meet him, and take an appropriately science-fictional approach to their remaining concerns (a bit of a contrast to the complete lack of apparent interest anyone seems to have in where the water comes from, why this has started happening, etc). The real problem turns out to be Matt’s abusive sister.

It’s a nicely written story but (and I had a similar objection to Redshirts) the lack of curiosity by the cast about why such odd things are going on feels rather strange.


The Ink Readers of Doi Saket (Thomas Olde Heuvelt)

A village clique in northern Thailand works to grant the occasional wish in order to maintain the incoming cash associated with the wishes. The plot is structured around the murder of a boy who overhears one of their arguments, but mostly consists of colorful, if slightly mannered, descriptions of the villagers and their activities. The fantastical element is that their world really is a magical one, where wishes really can come true without cheap fakery. Very high footnote density.

Not bad but I did find it a little slow.


If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love (Rachel Swirsky)

(Not in the Hugo packet but online at http://www.apex-magazine.com/if-you-were-a-dinosaur-my-love/.)

A delicately constructed lament, starting out quirky and sweet before taking a dark turn.

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From:sesquipedality
Date:June 16th, 2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
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I did not rate Dinosaur. It is not SF (other than in the broadest possible sense that it contains speculation) in my opinion.

The only one I really liked was "Water", which elegantly hung a story about culture, family and acceptance off what might have otherwise remained a very slight premise. Selkie Stories was OK, but failed to grab or impress.
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From:ewx
Date:June 16th, 2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
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I thought Dinosaur had in some ways a better claim than Doi Saket: you could remove the fantastical element from the latter and not actually do it much harm, but rip it out of the former and there'd basically be nothing left.

Analogously, I don't think Selkie Stories fails to be SF just because of the strong suspicion that there's a very unreliable narrator; one could argue that Dinosaur falls into the same category with the difference being that the narrator has explicitly revealed their unreliability.

De gustibus etc l-)
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