Monday, June 10, 2013

Hugo Nominations: Best Short Story

As I am attending WorldCon in San Antonio this year, I'm entitled to vote on the Hugos.  As opposed to my qualms about nominating, I have no problem with voting, especially since I have the opportunity to review the nominees. 

So, let's start with the Best Short Story nominations.  There are only three nominees this year, due to a rule involving nominees needing to receive at least 5% of the nominating vote.*  The nominees are:
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard ( Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
"Immersion" follows two story tracks: a woman who has lost herself to life in an "immersion" suit  (essentially Google-glass with real-world avatar), and a young woman who works in a restaurant who knows how to use the immersion suits.  The first woman is essentially clinically depressed, and her use of the suit is a metaphor for putting on a fake-it-for-the-world face while feeling dead inside.  There is a certain degree of classism attached to the suits-- the use of the suit is uncommon amongst the restaurant family, and the young woman needs to get hers out and put it on to interact with the occasional customer who wears them, namely the couple with the depressed woman.  Now, why she needs to wear her suit to interact with them isn't clear-- they are engaged with the real world, just from inside their suits.  It seems mostly so the restaurant owners won't come off as a bunch of hicks to the besuited couple.  Not that the woman cares, she's barely aware of what's going on.  The two women have a moment of connection, but not much really comes from it.  It struck me that there's a lot more story here, condensed down to short-story length to the point where something crucial got lost.

"Mantis Wives", I was expecting to like more than I did, mostly because I really enjoyed Kij Johnson's "Spar", which was a wonderful use of economy of words.  Economy of words still applies here, but it's not a story.  It's more of a prose poem, a listing of sexual variants employed by Mantis Wives (who normally would practice sexual cannibalism) in order to avoid or prolong said sexual cannibalism.  It's a lovely gem of an idea, but doesn't do much with it.

"Mono no Aware" is an interesting tale of a one colony ship that escaped some unknown disaster on Earth, so they represent the last survivors of humanity.  The protagonist is the only Japanese native on the ship, thus the lone remainder of Japanese culture.  Something goes wrong with the ship, and he volunteers to repair the damage, which he ties to the Go lessons his father gave him as a child.  This one is dense with ideas, probably a bit too much for under 5000 words, but I definitely enjoyed it, and wanted to read a longer version of the story. 

So, my ranking order would be
  1. "Mono No Aware"
  2. "Immersion"
  3. "Mantis Wives"
___In other news, there's an interview of me over at Book Country.  Go check it out.

*- Hugo voting math always strikes me as exceedingly complicated.  I'm sure it makes sense, but every time I've seen voting-results tables they've made my eyes cross.

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