April 14th, 2018


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The 1943 Retro Hugo finalists for Best Novelette

Several classics here, three of which I had read before. NB that both “The Weapon Shop” and “There Shall Be Darkness” have female human or human-ish characters. (“The Star Mouse” has a non-human and non-speaking female character.) NB also that the protagonist of “The Weapon Shop” shares the name “Fara” with a secondary character in “Bridle and Saddle” and “Foundation”.

6) “The Weapon Shop,” by A.E. van Vogt

Second paragraph of third section:
Fara sniffed once more at the meaning of the slogan, then forgot the simple thing. There was another sign in the window, which read:
I know this is a classic, but I really don't understand what the point is. Particularly in today's atmosphere of Second Amendment debates, it reads very weirdly.

5) “The Star Mouse,” by Fredric Brown

Second paragraph of third section:
"Eggscape velocity, Mitkey! Chust barely, it adds up to eggscape velocity. Maybe. There are yet unknown facgtors, Mitkey, in der ubper atmosphere, der troposphere, der stratosphere. Ve think ve know eggsactly how mudch air there iss to calculate resistance against, but are ve absolutely sure? No, Mitkey, ve are not. Ve haff not been there. Und der marchin iss so narrow that so mudch as an air current might affect idt."
If it weren't for the comic accent of the scientist, this slightly reverse version of Flowers for Algernon would be rather cute and original. However, the scientist has a comic accent, so I'm putting it second last.

4) “Bridle and Saddle,” by Isaac Asimov

Second paragraph of third section:
The fame of Anacreon had withered to nothing with the decay of the times. The Viceregal Palace was a drafty mass of ruins except for the wing that Foundation workmen had restored. And no Emperor had been seen or heard of in Anacreon for two hundred years.
This is the third element of the collection we know as Foundation, where our smart, elderly hero Salvor Hardin outwits both domestic opposition and the local warlord, partly by retaining control of scientific knowledge among his own loyalists. It’s not as good as the other part of the story.

3) “Foundation,” by Isaac Asimov

Second paragraph of third section:
"On us? Are you forgetting that we are under the direct control of the Emperor himself? We are not part of the Prefect of Anacreon or of any other prefect. Memorize that! We are part of the Emperor's personal domain, and no one touches us. The Empire can protect its own."
This is the story where Salvor Hardin manages to wrest control of his world from the Encyclopedists, by the operation of clever politics and inevitable history. It is a nice study of a bloodless coup, planned decades in advance.

2) “Goldfish Bowl,” by Anson MacDonald (Robert A. Heinlein)

Second paragraph of third section:
Already in the boat were the coxswain, the engineman, the boat officer, Graves and Eisenberg. With them, forward in the boat, was a breaker of water rations, two fifty-gallon drums of gasoline &emdash; and a hogshead. It contained not only a carefully packed crate of eggs but also a jury-rigged smoke-signal device, armed three ways &emdash; delayed action net for eight, nine and ten hours; radio relay triggered from the ship; and simple saltwater penetration to complete an electrical circuit. The torpedo gunner in charge of diving hoped that one of them might work and thereby aid in locating the hogshead. He was busy trying to devise more nearly foolproof gear for the bathysphere.
Gosh, an early Heinlein I didn’t know, about a Big Dumb Object which is a bridge to another world. Rare for Heinlein to write a story which leaned quite so heavily on his naval experiences. A pleasing find.

1) “There Shall Be Darkness,” by C.L. Moore

Second paragraph of third section:
The lifting crags that rushed straight up a thousand feet into the clouds were shocking to Earth eyes even after a lifetime on Venus, but Quanna scarcely noticed the familiar sheer cliffs of purple rock hanging like doom itself above her as she climbed. She had been born among these cliffs, but she did not mean to die here. If she had her way, she would die on another planet and be buried under the smooth green soil of Earth, where sunlight and starlight and moonlight changed in a clear sky, she could not quite imagine, for all the tales she had heard.
Much the best prose of any of the stories, as the above extract illustrates. It’s an interesting treatment of colonial and gender issues; Quanna is a Venusian princess (or equivalent) in love with a dashing Earthman, who however is leaving as part of a post-imperial retreat. (Interesting to see this as a theme already in 1942; I guess that the Indian independence movement was well known, and C.L. Moore would have remembered Irish independence too.) The story maybe doesn’t go where a writer of today would take it, but before things can become cliches they have to be told in the first place. A clear first preference from me.

2018 Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Related Work | Graphic Story | Dramatic Long | Dramatic Short | Professional Artist & Fan Artist | Series | Young Adult | Campbell Award
1943 Retro Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Dramatic Short | Fan Artist