Friday, June 18, 2021

Hugo Awards 2021 - Thoughts on Short Stories

I haven't done any reviewing of the Hugo Awards for awhile, mostly because I didn't vote in them for the last couple of years. Last year, of course, I was otherwise indisposed. Before that, we lacked the money for my supporting membership - or rather, I had higher priorities and decided to forego the pleasure of trying to read, review and rate all the wonderful works in the Hugo packet.

With my continuing recovery this year, I felt it was time again to dip into the Hugos and see what my fellow fans think are the best works over the past year or so.

I make no promises that I'll review everything, but I will read and watch and listen to as many of the selections as possible and vote for the ones I like the best. So here we go, starting with the short stories.

The finalists for Best Short Story are:

So let's get to it... I will attempt to avoid spoilers, but I apparently suck at it so read on at your own peril.

First thoughts after reading all of them: Wow, they are all REALLY good. Not one stinker among them, although there are two I don't like as much. Understand, I'm not saying I don't like them - I'm saying I like the others better.

Starting with "The Mermaid Astronaut" - there's something here that doesn't quite click for me. The story is solid, the world-building makes me happy. There are callbacks to other stories with twists. But it never quite rises to the top of excellence for me. I guess it's just a good story and not one that is going to make me think about it for a long time after, despite some profound concepts it touches on. So this will actually probably be at the bottom of my ballot, although it's certainly deserving of its place as a finalist.

"Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse" - If only I wasn't getting tired of apocalyptic stories, this might have hit me better. I like the characters, I thought the world-building was good, but I also felt like there were enough gaps to leave me wanting more in that respect. The concept is good, but oh so disturbing. Life goes on, life continues - but I have a lot of questions after reading it. A good story, but not one that can get to the top of my ballot.

"Open House on Haunted Hill" - This one definitely hits me in all the right spots. Paranormal, skepticism, family and some awesome bits of humor. I want to live in that house. And I want to hear more about the adventures of that place after the events of this story. This had just the perfect amount of world-building, and characters that drew me in. Definitely a contender for the top spot on my ballot.

"A Guide for Working Breeds" - I started out disliking this one intensely, but after I got a few exchanges in I began to be amused, then to really like it, then to love it. In fact, once I finished it I went back and reread it more closely, giggling at the jokes and thinking about the online exchanges I've had that were... well, not similar but certainly had the same flavor. The whole "how to be mean to humans" bit had me rocking in my chair with laughter on the second read. As soon as I finished it, this one jumped to the top of my list.

"Little Free Library" - I first read this on the Tor website back when they first published it, and enjoyed it then. I enjoyed it on the reread, although I found I had misremembered the ending. I love this story - it's fun and quirky and ties into real life in nice ways. And it makes me want to build my own Little Free Library. Overall, it's high on my list, and frankly this makes the third really strong story that I really love. It is not going to be easy to rank these.

"Metal Like Blood in the Dark" - The second in the list that tells a story from the point of view of an artificial intelligence, but this one isn't nearly so light-hearted as "Breeds". In fact, this one draws me into a deep well of wonder then presents a difficult concept to chew on - one that might keep me up thinking about it at night. The feel of the story is epic, like a myth told through time and handed down over the ages. This is a story that will ride with me for a long time to come.

So... I have four stories in my top spot. How will I decide what the final order will be? I'm going to set them aside, leaving this blog post as my only commentary on them, and read some other Hugo material. Then at some point I'm going to come back and look at the list and hopefully I will have formed an idea on how to rank them. Hopefully. But they are all so good, I feel any one of the six deserves the title of Hugo Winner and all are worthy finalists. I'm just not sure which one I'll pick for the top spot yet.