Sunday, February 10, 2019

Hugo Recommendations, 2019: Short Story

Time for my yearly Hugo recommendations. I'm beginning with Short Story:

Short Story

A long list of candidates:

Octavia Cade, "The Temporary Suicides of Goldfish" (Kaleidotrope, Winter/18)
Siobhan Carroll, “The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes”, (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 3/15/18)
Adam-Troy Castro, "The Unnecessary Parts of the Story" (Analog, 9-10/18)
Phenderson Djèlí Clark, "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" (Fireside, 2/18)
Beth Goder, "How to Identify an Alien Shark" (Fireside Quarterly, 7/18)
Alix E. Harrow, " A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" (Apex, 2/17)
Kathleen Jennings, "The Heart of Owl Abbas" (, 4/11/18)
Rahul Kanakia, “Weft”, (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 4/12/18)
Rich Larson, "Carouseling" (Clarkesworld, 4/18)
Rich Larson, “Meat and Salt and Sparks”, (, 6/6/18)
Ursula K. Le Guin, "Firelight”, (Paris Review, 9/28/17)
P. H. Lee, "A House by the Sea", (Uncanny, 9-10/18)
Yoon Ha Lee, "The Starship and the Temple Cat”, (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2/1/18)
Marissa Lingen, "Finding Their Footing”, (Analog, 5-6/18)
S. Quioyi Lu, “Mother Tongues”, (Asimov’s, 1-2/18)
Arkady Martine, “The Hydraulic Emperor”, (Uncanny, 1-2/18)
Heather Morris, “A Slip in the Slice”, (Kaleidotrope, Winter/18)
Mari Ness, “The Ceremony”, (Fireside Quarterly, 7/18)
Annalee Newitz, “The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto”, (Robots vs. Fairies)
Paul Park, “Creative Nonfiction”, (Asimov’s, 5-6/18)
Sarah Pinsker, "The Court Magician" (Lightspeed, 1/18)
Josh Pearce, “Such Were the Faces of the Living Creatures”, (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2/15/18)
Hannu Rajaniemi, “A Portrait of Salai”, (Infinity’s End)
Robert Reed, “Love Songs for the Very Awful”, (Asimov’s, 3-4/18)
Alexandra Renwick, "Because Reasons" (Asimov’s, 3-4/18)
Ryan Row, "Superbright" (Interzone, 7-8/18)
Lavie Tidhar, “The Buried Giant” (Robots vs. Fairies)
Cadwell Turnbull, "Jump" (Lightspeed, 9/18)
Peter Watts, “Kindred” (Infinity’s End)
Rick Wilber, "Today is Today" (Stonecoast Review, Summer/18)
S. Woodson, “Lime and the one Human” (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, 7/18)

As ever, a lot of good choices. Here’s the set from which I’ll choose my nominees:

Octavia Cade, "The Temporary Suicides of Goldfish" (Kaleidotrope, Winter/18) – About a shop where you can get turned into a goldfish for a pretty fair price – if you need to escape the world for a time. And the narrator, having picked the pocket of the wrong man, does need to get away. The story lets us learn as we go along the way this magic works, and how and when one becomes human again, and also, incidentally, reveals a little twist about the relationship of the narrator, her girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s grandmother.

Alix E. Harrow, " A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" (Apex, 2/17) -- Told by a librarian (“There have only ever been two kinds of librarians in the history of the world: the prudish, bitter ones with lipstick running into the cracks around their lips who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches” – no prizes for guessing which category our narrator fits), as she encounters a teenaged boy who becomes obsessed with a particular pretty bad fantasy novel – perhaps because he needs escape – any escape. Witches know ways to escape … but that’s against the rules, and librarians are rule followers. Grounded and quite moving.

Kathleen Jennings, "The Heart of Owl Abbas" (, 4/11/18) -- About a songwriter and a mechanical singer and the Little Emperor in Palace Aster of Owl Abbas. Which audiences are really most important for the singer? Or for her city, or her muse? It’s a lovely bittersweet story, and beautifully written.

Rich Larson, "Carouseling" (Clarkesworld, 4/18) – About an artist and a physicist who, when they’re apart, use a virtual reality sort of system to interact. Then the physicist’s current experiment goes disastrously long, and the virtual reality connection is all the artist has of his lover. Larson handles things beautifully and steers the story to a proper and touching ending.

Arkady Martine, “The Hydraulic Emperor”, (Uncanny, 1-2/18) – Like several strong pieces this year, it’s about future art, and (in this case), about art aliens like -- neat stuff, with nice descriptions of the future art, and well-turned interactions between its protagonist and a rival.

Hannu Rajaniemi, “A Portrait of Salai”, (Infinity’s End) -- a rather philosophical piece, set in a much altered far future system where it seems all of humanity’s Great Projects have failed, and the few who remain (having resisted the Great Temptation of Upload) fight the anomie of the apparent realization that there is nothing new under the (damaged) Sun. But perhaps there can be? That’s the question the story asks. Very cool stuff!

Lavie Tidhar, “The Buried Giant” (Robots vs. Fairies) – a human boy runs away, wanting to become a “real boy”, i. e., a robot. He has dangerous adventures, meeting for example a robot cat and a robot fox, and a dead girl and a manshonyagger (I always like the odd Cordwainer Smith reference!) … It’s lovely and moving and perfectly framed.

Peter Watts, “Kindred” (Infinity’s End) – a very philosophical story, and to excellent effect, told as a monlogue from a far future AI to a reconstructed human from our time (we recognize him!), wondering why humans war.


  1. Yoon Ha Lee, "The Starship and the Temple Cat”, (Paris Review, Summer/18) was published in BCS, 1 Feb 2018.
    I look forward to your Retro picks as I read very little new fiction last year.
    Paul Fraser

    1. Thanks! Fixed now. (A cut and paste error, as I'm sure you've guessed.)

  2. I would go with the Hugo winner The 9 metro teeth, yes it was short on plot but it was highly original and actually taught some history, pretty rare for a Hugo nominee! The Court Magician started out well but got too gross for me. A witches guide was o.k. but didn't develop the central Witches-as-Librarians theme enough and I found it too sappy a bit creepy.