So as I explained in my post on the Hugo nominated novellas, I’ve signed up for the Worldcon supporter membership, which gives you access to the “voter packet”, in which most authors and publishers kindly provide their nominated works for you to review! Not free, but a very cheap price for the year’s favourites.
So I’ve decided to do my best to read as much of it as possible to vote fairly (since you do, also, get to vote) and put the reviews out there. It feels like that’s the least I can do for authors who provide their stuff for free (membership money goes towards organizing Worldcon and the Hugos, not to the authors).
I’m currently reading my way through the Novel and Astounding nominations (and doubting I’ll make it through them all before the 19th) but I thought I’d take a short break and go through the short stories! These are all free to read somewhere online, I’ll put the link down there as well.
So, in order of the ballot:
- “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020) [link]
What it says on the tin. A badass, feminist story about two women who have a baby… in the middle of a horde of blood-thirsty zombies. And the women’s enclave who fights for/with them for the baby to get a chance.
I really loved this one. Very strong writing, emotional, well thought-out, an all around grip-your-heart kind of story.
(content note: childbirth, menstruation, death, blood, lots and lots of blood)
- “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris)) [link]
A contract killer robot
and a raccoon/dogmaid cafe robot
bond over bad workplace practices
and lots of dogs (and a possom)
Really hilarious bit of banter between the robots, fun and sweet, and you can really feel a much bigger universe behind the short bursts of dialogue. Loved it!
- Little Free Library, Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com) [Link]
Meigan sets up a Little Free Library in her new home, and starts receiving strange gifts and messages in exchange for books.
It’s an odd and wonderful read, mysterious and heartwarming at the same time, maybe because of the real world setting and the fact that it could very well happen, perhaps, maybe
- “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020) [link]
Again, exactly what it says on the tin! This one is very whimsical and has a fairytale quality to it, which I think is hard to capture in a scifi story. And it manages to subvert a few tropes of the Little Mermaid story, which is always a bonus! Not fully sure what I think of the very very end, but very happy with it overall!
- “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020) [link]
Two innocent robots walk into an asteroid field…
In this house, we love T. Kingfisher. That said, don’t expect the usual dark humour of her novels, though it has its own humour in a way. I really loved the thinking that went into the concept of a computer learning to lie, and the implications for code, etc. And aside from that, a really good and interesting short story with space robots.
- “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen) [link]
That specific haunted house is really eager to get new owners. I thought it’d be creepy, but it’s actually really sweet and heartwarming! I want to give everyone (and everything) in this one a good hug!
I enjoyed every one of these stories in its own way, and it’s going to be very hard to pick an order of preference! They all have very different vibes to them, they’re honestly barely comparable. But voting aside, they’re all very strong and you should go and read them for yourselves!
My ranking for the stories:
1. Open House on Haunted Hill- I really like how this was written, the characters were very real, even the unscrupulous real estate agent. I bought the whole thing.
2. Little Free Library- This was really intriguing, as many have noted but I didn’t mind.
3. The Mermaid Astronaut- the adventures in space weren’t that interesting but I really liked the ending which had been alluded too but was satisfying.
4. Bad ass Moms in the Zombie apocalypse- not that original but vivid and memorable.
5. A Guide for Working Breeds- good but Inot as good as the author’s Fandom for Robots, I didn’t quite understand what went on with the murders and racoons.
6. Metal Like Blood in the Dark- good but I wanted more explanation of the robots and drones origins.