The Hugo Awards: Best Short Story

Hugo votes close on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. There have been only three short stories nominated this year – which is disappointing, as there were so many worthy short stories released in 2012 – but the works that were nominated are, of course, excellent, and I would like to congratulate all the nominees who made it onto the ballot.

“Mono no aware” by Ken Liu
The Future is Japanese
Lightspeed
Free read: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/mono-no-aware/

Hiroto is the last Japanese man alive, and “Mono no aware” is very much about his longing to remember his culture, his family, and the earth itself, which has suffered an asteroid strike that wiped out all life; Hiroto’s mother was able to arrange a spot aboard an evacuation ship for Hiroto, and much of the story is him remembering his father and the lessons that his father taught him when he was a child on Earth. Aboard the ship, Hiroto has found love for himself; the lovers’ relationship and the father-son relationship are what pull me in most here, as they are both believable and poignant. Hiroto uses kanji twice to illustrate the story; once he compares the ship to the kanji for umbrella, and the second time he uses kanji to illustrate himself. The kanji are printed as part of the story, a nice touch. “Mono no aware” is beautiful and sad, as can be expected from a Liu story, and gives a very human touch to a well-worn concept.

“Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson
Clarkesworld 71 – August 2012
Free read: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/johnson_08_12/

Concise and richly layered, “Mantis Wives” details various methods that mantis women, having realized that they do not have to eat their men in order to bear children, have found for the killing of the mates. They have developed an art for their ritual murders. This story becomes an allegory for destructive relationships. It also asks the question: what is art? And who is the artist when art is a part of life, the one doing the art or the one whom the art is done to? An ambitious story which succeeds in its creepiness as well as its resonance. I won’t ever forget this one.

Reprinted from the Hugo Nomination Reviews, Part Two Post:
“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard
Clarkesworld 69
Free read:
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/debodard_06_12/
Told in alternating second and third person, “Immersion” tells the intertwined stories of you – a woman addicted to the immerser suit that streamlines your appearance and your culture to that of the immerser’s creators, the Galactic – and Quy, whose family owns the restaurant in which you and your husband have come to discuss the pricing for a banquet. The you character is experiencing cognitive issues related to not having taken the immerser suit off for a long while. Quy is not keen on the suits, believing them to be, as they are, a tool for Galactic cultural domineering, and when she recognizes the you character as an immerser junkie, she seeks to help her. The two stories are woven together brilliantly, and the ending is goosebump good. Raises some deep, intriguing questions about cultural identity.
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