Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

2020 Hugo finalists and 1945 Retro Hugo finalists for Best Short Story

One interesting point that jumped out at me from reading this year's Hugo finalists in this category, and comparing with the 1945 Retro Hugo finalists: the protagonists of the stories on the 2020 ballot are all women, and the protagonists of the stories on the 1945 ballot are all men.

Admittedly this is a sweeping statement that has to be qualified a little, but only a little. "As the Last I May Know" is about the peculiar relationship between a young girl and a much older man, but it's clearly her story more than his; and “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” doesn't have protagonists as such but is rather obviously about women. And although the narrator of “I, Rocket”, by Ray Bradbury, is the rocket (which doesn't apparently have gender), the protagonist is Captain Lamb, a man.

All of the 2020 finalists do at least have male characters (five out of six have male characters with names, the exception being “A Catalog of Storms”, which features an unnamed fisherman, the Mayor and the Mayor's unnamed son). As for 1945, in "And the Gods Laughed", Hilda Race, "who loved little flowers and was a botanist, egad!" is part of the crew and the first to fall victim to the aliens' plans. She is referred to as "Hilda", while the men on the crew are referred to by their surnames. "Desertion" features Miss Stanley, "the best qualified conversion operator in the solar system". In the other Simak story, "Huddling Place", the protagonist's mother puts in an appearance on the third page and is not heard from again. "I, Rocket" has a cute Martian girl, Yrela, off-stage. "Far Centaurus" has a cute but unnamed Earth girl off-stage. "The Wedge" has no visible women at all.

Anyway, here they all are, with links to the original publications in all cases.

2020 Best Short Story Hugo finalists

“And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, by Shiv Ramdas

Second paragraph of third section:
Every so often, slowly, gingerly, she runs her tongue along the inside of her gums, wincing a bit. Her teeth and mouth hurt all the time now, why she doesn’t know. From the force-feeding? Or maybe that’s merely the part of her that was being eaten from the inside out when the soldiers returned to the bungalow.
Magic doll wreaks revenge for the Bengal famine.

“As the Last I May Know”, by S.L. Huang

Second paragraph of third section:
The snow falls over nothing.
I beg three small graves to place incense
But echos have no tombs.
War, and the story of a young girl whose death is (a bit implausibly) the key to victory.

“Blood Is Another Word for Hunger”, by Rivers Solomon

Second paragraph of third section:
“With all the accoutrements gone, this place doesn’t feel like much of a home at all,” said Ziza as she helped set the table for supper. She’d invited herself to stay. “Looks like a tomb in here.”
Slavery, murder, magic and birth.

“A Catalog of Storms”, by Fran Wilde

Second paragraph of third section:
We go up there a lot to poke around now that we’re older.
Parenthood, family and weather.

“Do Not Look Back, My Lion”, by Alix E. Harrow

Second paragraph of third section:
“They do not need you,” Eefa tells Talaan. “Even Ukhel herself went home to her husband in the early months, to rest and grow her daughter strong.” Talaan nods, but there is a slight vertical line between her brows.
Love, birth and death in a matriarchal gynocratic warrior society.

“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, by Nibedita Sen

Second paragraph of third section:
“It’s not for no reason that women have, historically, been burdened with the duties of food preparation. Or that it is women, not men, who are called upon to limit their appetites, shrink themselves, rein in their ambitions. A hungry woman is dangerous. [ . . . ] Men are arbiters of discourse, women the dish to be consumed. And the Ratnabari, in the exercising of their transgressive appetites, quite literally turn the tables on their oppressors.”
Vivid, briefly expressed story about cannibalism and oppression.

1945 Best Short Story Retro Hugo finalists:

- “And the Gods Laughed”, by Fredric Brown

Second paragraph of third section:
I said, “But of course with animals like that, you never know whether they’re dangerous until you’ve been around them for a while. You can’t judge by size or looks. Like if you’d never seen a snake, you’d never guess that a little coral snake was dangerous, would you? And a Martian zeezee looks for all the world like an overgrown guinea-pig. But without a gun — or with one, for that matter — I’d rather face a grizzly bear or a — ”
Interesting alien invasion and body-horror story, with a well-executed final twist.

“Desertion”, by Clifford D. Simak

Second paragraph of third section:
The tractors, combing the nearby terrain, found no trace of him, unless the skulking thing reported by one of the drivers had been the missing Earthman in Loper form.
Doomed astronauts are being sent on a mission. The most senior one takes his dog, with interesting consequences.

“Far Centaurus”, by A. E. van Vogt

Second paragraph of third section:
A great sadness came to me. Poor, brave Pelham. Inventor of the Eternity drug that had made the great plunge into interstellar space possible, he lay dead now from his own invention.
Hibernating astronauts travel to Alpha Centauri. When they get there, they find that they are too late.

“Huddling Place”, by Clifford D. Simak

Second paragraph of third section:
For long minutes after the shape was gone he stood there, hands gripping the railing in front of him, eyes still staring up into the steel-like blue.
An agoraphobic protagonist has the chance to carry out a politically important medical procedure. What does the robot butler understand to be his real priorities?

“I, Rocket”, by Ray Bradbury

Second paragraph of third section:
The moon, and after the moon a thousand dark meteors crashing by, silent. Tides of space itself, indescribable, and the urge of stars and planets. And then a thing called momentum when my jets were cut and I moved without breathing or trying to move.
Space politics and shifting missions, told unusually from the rocket’s point of view.

“The Wedge”, by Isaac Asimov

Second paragraph of third section:
His fingers moved on either side, and the line of armed men backed away to form a passage, along which Devers strode to the foot of the Chair of State.
The smart Foundation guys outsmart the locals. (The theme of a lot of Foundation stories.)
Tags: hugos 2020

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.