Ahoy there me mateys! A short while back, I wrote a post discussing me initial thoughts on the 2019 Hugo awards. At that time, I had read none of the works in the best short story category. I have since remedied the situation and so here be mini-reviews of the short stories and me pick for the 2019 winner.
The short stories are from the list as published on Tor.com. Click on the story title to read the short stories themselves.
Best Short Story
- “The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
Thoughts: This is the tale of a young market rat who becomes the court magician. The story was compelling, clever, and kinda heart-wrenching. The magic has nasty costs to the user. The rules of the magic are also complex and fascinating. I loved this one. For the first story of this bunch, it sets a high standard.
- “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
Thoughts: These days I don’t normally like tales that involve the fae. But this one was silly and fun and turned many of the fae tropes sideways. I also like that it focused on different male fae. It was light and entertaining. I am glad I read it but don’t think it should be the winner.
- “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
Thoughts: I was expecting this story to be emotionally devastating but instead it was a fascinating intellectual exercise. I expected my heart to be shredded and instead my mind was stretched. Apparently, George Washington (our evil first president) purchased teeth from people for his false dentures. This story starts with a quote, “‘By Cash pd Negroes for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoire’ –Lund Washington, Mount Vernon plantation, Account Book dated 1784.” This story explores what the secret lives of the teeth were. I loved this story and it sent me down a rabbit hole about the history behind Washington’s teeth. Check out this article to see a picture of Washington’s dentures and to learn more about the history of false teeth. This was fantastic and be me favourite so far but I am only half-way there.
- “STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
Trigger Warning (provided by the publisher): “This story contains references to the death of a child.”
Thoughts: Okay so this one was rather bizarre, if clever. This story deals with a piece of legal language where a mother who lost her daughter to a self-driving car, uses her citations to express her feelings about the loss and the problems with AI and the cars’ decision making processes. For a seemingly short piece, it took me a while to read because of the disjointed structure. While I did end up thinking this piece was interesting, it was me background in paralegal studies that helped me enjoy this one. I am not sure how accessible this would be to the reader with no law background. I can’t say I liked it. But I am not sad that I read it. This one will not win.
- “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)
Thoughts: This certainly gets weirdest title. And was a fail for me. It is a fairytale about raptors and it was odd and I couldn’t get into it. I tried to read it aloud to the first mate to see if that would make it more enjoyable. It didn’t. The first mate didn’t like what he heard. And when I saw how much more I would have to read, I gave up. I don’t think this writer’s style is for me based on the several others I tried to get through after this one. I tried three more for curiosity’s sake and did not get through any of them.
- “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
Thoughts: This was an excellent story full of librarians, book love, and caring about the people the world has given up on. It is bittersweet and full of truths. I wish the boy and the librarian well.
Now listen up me hearties, the decision has been made:
Hoped for Winner: As if this is any surprise, “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark is me much hoped for winner. Check it out!
So there ye have it. Me Hugo thoughts and wishes for short stories. I think this collection is strong and highly recommend (most of) them. I will keep y’all posted as I continue readin’ through the Hugo nominees before the winners be revealed on 8/18/19. In the meantime:
It’s amazing, really, how many bad reputations pirates get.
Why just think of how many of them have been cannonized!
Hardy har har!
x The Captain