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Best Novelette 2014 Hugos

1) “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang

This really blew me away. I wasn't sure at first; Chiang's trademark is to tell us of emotionally complex material with an apparent air of academic attachment, and that only works if there is an original idea to use it on. But, gosh, here Chiang takes the concept of being able to reconstruct accurately what you did and said at past times in your life, and shows that facts are not really always very helpful in getting to grips with feelings - either in traditional low-tech societies, or in contemporary families. For me, it sailed through the Philip K. Dick "My God! What if..?" test.

2) “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard

I've sometimes found de Bodard's richly detailed Vietnamese spacefaring future a bit too different from my personal experience to properly appreciate, but I loved this story and was all set to vote for it (until I read the Chiang). It is a great tale of personal identity, artificial intelligence and family dynamics across the generations, mingling together tropes from cyberpunk and space opera and making them her own. Great stuff.

3) “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal 

This story somewhat controversially was not included on the list of finalists last year, despite having sufficient nominations; now that it has actually been published in written form, it deservedly is on the list. I liked very much the descriptions of a recently settled Mars, and a child survivor of disaster who grows up; I was less convinced by the nature of the narrator's key personal dilemma, or by the choice she made.

4) No Award

5) “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen

A story about a near future space conflict between a gender-balanced US military and the Chinese. I was startled to read of "the familiar hammer, sickle and stars of the People's Republic of China", and there were some other editing fluffs that I did not expect to see from Analog ("assuming the worse", several uses of "i" where "me" would be more usual). Leaving those niggles aside, basically this story could have been written in the 1950s, and I think the genre has moved on just a bit since then.

6) “Opera Vita Aeterna”, by "Vox Day"

I've already written about the deficiencies of the Latin in this story (and Stephanie Zvan has analysed its linguistic deficiencies more generally). A very clunky beginning settles into an elf doing undergraduate theology and an attempt at a sentimental ending. Not quite as bad as I had expected, but still not very good. Certainly by some way the worst story on the ballot.

Even if that were not the case, the fact that the author has unapologetically called a black writer a "half-savage" and defended throwing acid into the faces of feminists is something that I cannot ignore. You vote how you like, I am putting it last.

You can vote in this year's Hugos, and the 1939 Retro Hugos, by joining Loncon 3 at http://www.loncon3.org/memberships .

2014: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Artist
1939: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 29th, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC)
I'm enjoying your voting posts and they are helping me choose things to read. Thank you!
Jun. 19th, 2014 06:53 pm (UTC)
My rank-ordering:

1. "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" Ted Chiang

Exploring the effects of technology on the human condition is one of the definitions of science fiction that has often been bandied about. Of course, that definition is way too narrow. But this story actually fits within that narrow definition; and fits powerfully, despite the detached, reportorial tone that is common to Ted Chiang's fiction. An easy choice for #1 in this group. Ted Chiang is a Hugo-winning juggernaut. He has had 8 previous Hugo nominations. The first four times he was nominated, he lost. But he now has a four-nominee winning streak, and he may well be about to extend that streak.

2. "Opera Vita Aeterna" Vox Day

The two main characters here were vividly (and economically) drawn. I thought the evolution of their relationship was nicely portrayed. Hey, it was a more interesting relationship than the one between Elma and her husband Nathaniel in "Lady Astronaut of Mars." It had more passion in it, too. Though somewhat foreshadowed, the ending of this story sort of came out of nowhere for me. Still, it had impact.

3. "The Waiting Stars" Aliette de Bodard

Though the story captured my interest, the ending here was wacky even by science fiction standards. Talk about a bridge too far! What seems to be the main theme of de Bodard's work ("Asians gotta be Asians, let Asians be Asian, don't be trying to colonialize the Asians!") doesn't really resonate with me. I'm just not big on ethnic solidarity. Also, I have no clue why the Galactic Federation was doing what it was doing to the mind-ships/girls. Seemed like a lot of trouble to me.

4. "Lady Astronaut of Mars" Mary Robinette Kowal

An aging astronaut, one possible final mission, a dying husband...adds up to a Hugo nomination, I guess. Elma the astronaut has this unquenchable desire to be in space. We're supposed to just accept this. Look, I'm a long time science fiction reader. I think it would be cool to go in space. I also think it would get old fast. After all, what is Elma signing up for? Years of solitary confinement in a tiny room that will definitely be damaging to her health. (Sounds awesome. Sign me up!) Anyway, it will get her away from her dying husband, which she seems to regard mostly as a perk. Except for the guilt she'll feel. But Doctor Fangirl will look after him (I guess her medical practice isn't that busy). I really disliked the final line. It's supposed to make us feel better that she has a metaphorical means to "let my husband fly." But that poor, magnanimous dude isn't flying anywhere, literally of figuratively. The story contains the sentence: "That the need to explore is necessary." Kowal has done better.

5. "The Exchange Officers" Brad R. Torgersen

Torgersen gives us no reason to have a stake in the outcome.

I think it's going to be a battle between Chiang and Kowal. I'm pretty confident that de Bodard will finish third.

Edited at 2014-06-19 06:57 pm (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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