17 June 2013

2013 Hugo Novellas

Aliette deBodard, "On a Red Station, Drifting": This is set in the same universe as "Immersion," on the short story ballot. In this tale, a refugee from a war-torn planet arrives on a space station where her distant cousins are administrators. Her cousin doesn't want to allow her in, or let her too deeply into the workings of the station Mind, their mutual ancestor. There are naturally repercussions to the refugee's arrival, relating to her flight from her assigned administrative territory in the Empire when the rebels attacked.

de Bodard, a French-Vietnamese writer, paints a picture of a galactic Dai Viet empire, and she uses a very insider perspective to write it. The culture doesn't feel like a veneer painted on for that ~exotic~ flavor, in contrast to another story on this ballot.

Mira Grant, "San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats": This is a strange sort of love letter to fandom and to ComicCon. In Grant's Newsflesh series, summer 2014 was the start of the zombie apocalypse (as seen in last year's nominee Countdown). Having read that, and the rest of the series, I felt impending dread at the title, which only worsened when one of the narrators was introduced as "the last known survivor of the 2014 San Diego ComicCon." (Grant, aka Seanan McGuire, is really good at keeping the reader interested despite knowing what the ultimate outcome is. And in this case, it's tearing your heart out of your chest and watching as she stomps on it.)

I hate zombies. I hate horror. The Newsflesh series is amazing.

Nancy Kress, "After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall": This is a Gaia story. One narrator is a teenaged boy, born after a massive nuclear apocalypse, who has lived inside a dome his entire life, except for the occasions when he jumps through a time anomaly to steal a baby or some supplies. The other narrator is a woman in the present day who is investigating a series of child abductions and mysterious robberies. Even without knowing in advance what the apocalypse was, I found the story rather predictable.

Jay Lake, "The Stars Do Not Lie": An astronomer declares a discovery in front of the Academy of Sciences. He has evidence that people were not created by their gods 6000 years before, but placed on the planet in the Gardens. This is, of course, a heresy to the Church. He gets embroiled in the conflict between the Church and the Thalassic something or others, kind of like Masons with an army. It's a steampunk-y setting, and it's well written.

Brandon Sanderson, "The Emperor's Soul": A woman who was captured stealing an imperial relic is hired to do something risky: Forge the Emperor's soul. Forging, in this world, is a skill that uses seals to stamp a new history on an object, so a decrepit table can be stamped to have been properly cared for and it will change. The emperor was targeted by assassins, and the Forger has 100 days (minus two) to carve stamps for his soul, based on his diaries and what his advisors tell him. It's an interesting premise and well executed.

Here, in contrast to de Bodard's piece, the pseudo-Chinese culture feels like a veneer painted on for that ~exotic~ flavor. Sanderson explains in an afterword that he spent time in China as a missionary, and he was inspired by seeing the chops stamped on various pieces of art. I think if I hadn't read "Red Station" and "Immersion" before this, I wouldn't have noticed. But now I probably won't not notice in the future.

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