10 June 2013

2013 Hugo Novelettes

Pat Cadigan, "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi": This tells the story of workers in space who have opted (or, in some cases, been forced) to adopt the shape of sea life. The piece starts with a lot of slang, and while the reader eventually understands what they mean by sushi and why one of the characters is called a biped and has to remember to set aside her bipedal prejudices, I found it a bit frustrating at the start. I know there are people out there who enjoy being thrown into the deep end with terminology and slang; I'm not one of them.

On the whole, it's a very transhumanist piece, and some aspects of the story, of the narrator's thoughts, hinted at a queer reading.

Seanan McGuire, "In Sea-Salt Tears": A selkie story in which a selkie falls in love with the sea-witch and pays a very dear price. For people this interests, the protagonist is bisexual. She had relationships with men before she met the sea-witch. It's a compelling narrative, even if I'm not interested in fay stories. McGuire excels at maintaining the sense of impending doom that the story requires.

Seanan McGuire, "Rat Catcher": In pre-fire London, a prince of the Court of Cats has to persuade his father, this court's king, to heed a prophecy. The prince of cats would rather watch Shakespeare than deal with the ins and outs of court life, but his father is a tyrant, and he punishes his sisters for the prince's disobedience. The sense of impending doom is also strong in this piece.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt, "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow": Olde Heuvelt is a Dutch writer, and this piece is set in the Netherlands. The narrator is a boy who doesn't cast a shadow. He has no reflection. Much of the story is spent with him wondering, "if I don't know what I look like, how do I know who I am?" (Which I think is kind of ... problematic; I mean, presumably blind people have a sense of self and identity if they've never seen themselves in a mirror.) Anyway, it's a lot about the narrator finding his identity. One day he gets a new classmate, a boy who is made of glass, who becomes the target of bullies. The glass boy worries about dying before he has a chance to live, because his parents just about literally wrap him in bubble wrap to keep him safe. The ending is poignant.

Catherynne Valente, "Fade to White": I love the idea behind this story: a dystopian near-parody of 1950s America, where McCarthy is president and the west coast is occupied by the Japanese. It's Father Knows Best and the Donna Reed Show crossed with the Handmaid's Tale (including a newly discovered apocrypha to the apocrypha, called Pseudo-Matthew). It's structured with storyboards for advertisements (for vegetable seeds, appliances, etc, all with added radioactive elements for health, apparently) alternating with two teenagers' stories as they prepare for their Presentation.

There's only one problem: I don't like Valente's writing at all. It draws too much attention to itself, and it tries to be too clever. I've tried to like her works, because I think the ideas behind them are awesome, but the writing is just ... twee. Many many people do enjoy her writing, so whatever floats your boat. Her writing doesn't float mine.

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