Shiver me Timbers! The 2020 Hugo Finalists – Part Three – Best Short Story

Ahoy there me mateys!  A short while back, I wrote a post discussing me initial thoughts on the 2020 Hugo award nominees.  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 2020 winner.

The short stories are from the list as published on  Click on the story title to read the short stories themselves.

Best Short Story

Thoughts: This was an excellent gritty historical fantasy horror.  It takes place in 1943 during the Bengal Famine in India which I knew nothing about.  The plot is that the white British Governor of Bengal tries to force an old Indian woman, Apa, to make a doll for his wife.  The dolls are made of jute, another thing I knew nothing about.  This story was compelling, sad, and weirdly satisfying.  I didn’t know what I was in for but this story immediately gripped me.  The research I did afterwards took longer then it did to read the story itself and I learned all sorts of new things.  Bonus!  Check out this link to see what I think the dolls look like.

Thoughts:  This was a portrayal of war and what obstacles have been put in place to determine when to use atomic warfare.  One child stands as the center point of the question of if and when the use of those weapons are justified.  I enjoyed the structure of the story but there were no answers here.

Thoughts:  I don’t know what I think of this one.  Well written.  Kinda disturbing.  Unpleasant but interesting.

Thoughts:  I absolutely loved this one.  It is rich in imagery and poignant in how it deals with love and family.  This one so far is the best and completely suits me taste.  And not just because it’s the first story on this list with a hopeful ending.

Thoughts: Damn this one was so good too.  Excellent world building and characterization.  While I loved the language and poetry of the last story, this one did hit me harder emotionally.  Completely different tone and feel.  Loved this one’s ending too.

  • “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare Magazine, May 2019)

Thoughts:  This was a very clever use of bibliographies and the last title made me actually laugh.  The story was fun but not in the top three for me.

Now listen up me hearties, the decision has been made:

Hoped for Winner:  This was such a struggle.  Seriously.  Two stories vie for favorite and I kept switching back and forth while discussing them with the First Mate.  But I only get one vote so it goes to “Do Not Look Back, My Lion”, by Alix E. Harrow.  The length of it was perfect for the plot and characterizations.

So there ye have it.  Me Hugo thoughts and wishes for short stories.  I think this collection overall was well written and I am glad to have read them all.  I will keep y’all posted as I continue readin’ through the Hugo nominees before the winners be revealed on 8/2/2020.  In the meantime:

Always remember:

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

21 thoughts on “Shiver me Timbers! The 2020 Hugo Finalists – Part Three – Best Short Story

  1. Looks like there were some great short stories in the mix this year! I hadn’t planned to read the nominees but now you’ve tempted me to read your two favourites (I’m guessing the one that vied for your vote but came in second was Catalog of Storms?), and also the one set during the Bengal Famine.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I just read them, and all three are great! I can see why you had trouble choosing. But I think ‘Do Not Look Back, My Lion’ would be my top choice too. At first I was a bit confused with the mixture of hes/shes and husbands/wives but then I figured it out and it drew me in. It felt a bit like an Ursula Le Guin short story actually.

        The storms one was very evocative too, but I think the one about the Bengal Famine would have come in second for me – I liked the focus on the jute doll-making (thanks for the image link!) and the grim but satisfying ending. Also I’ve never read a story that describes what starvation feels like before – very chilling.

        Anyway, thanks for mentioning these and linking to them, I’m glad I read them!


  2. I love that you have these Hugo posts. It makes me really happy and inspires me to read more short stories, novellas, and novelettes. I only know a few of these authors, and my gut would also say Harrow. Her writing really speaks to me. I find myself completely encased in her writing, her world, her characters, her story.

    I’m also not surprised Solomon was disturbing. Yeah. Pass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad ye like me posts. The stories are fun to read and write about. I have a whole slew of short stories saved to read at some point. The Solomon stories are well written, disturbing, and in a style that I don’t completely love. I can see why others do though. The several that I have tried handled important themes.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bengal Famine — I was clueless as well. But that‘s part of the reason we read, right? There is this thing bouncing around the internet — „I read books, I drink (insert beverage of your choice) and I know things“. In my case that is „drink wine and learn things“. Ok, I know things, too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the saddest thing about the education I have received is how little history I learned. We always seemed to focus on Europe and nothing else. Oh and the white victory side of things. I don’t have the time to learn about every new thing I want to (who does) but I especially appreciate getting the other perspective on the history I did learn. Books about Henrietta Lacks or the Hemings or even this short story about crappy British colonization techniques. Or how the American West was not just white but filled with diversity. I’ll stop there. Thanks for the comment.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

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