2005 Hugo Award Nominees: Short Stories

June 6, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Short Stories | Leave a comment

I won’t be casting a ballot for this year’s Hugos, but for once I am making an attempt to at least read most of the stories. Thankfully, this year all the stories shorter than novel length are available online. I started with the short stories. I read very few short stories, so I am not well-versed in past stories, what’s been done, etc. NOTE: Spoilers ahead.

  • “The Best Christmas Ever” — I would categorize this story as “solid”. Human as pet in simulated environment is hardly a new theme, but the story takes it in some interesting directions. I thought the ending lacked oomph. Others called it uplifting or somehow hopeful despite the grim situation, but I thought it was depressing. For the ending to be happy, I demand the protagonist acquire some sort of meaning or direction in his life beyond just surviving. Not a bad story, but IMO not award quality.
  • “Decisions” — I would sum this up as a bad Star Trek episode. Not only did it not make much sense, I found the alien philosophy (which, I thought, the author seemed to paint sympathetically) to be ridiculous. The idea that the goals and motives of a race (a race, mind you, not even a culture) would be static and thus unreformable is absurd. Also, the idea that humanity is exceptional in this regard is also pretty lame. Definitely not a fan of this one.
  • “A Princess of Earth” — Some people found the use of Burroughs’ John Carter to be charming. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of the Mars books, but it sure didn’t sound like John Carter to me. I wasn’t too impressed with the main character’s disfunction, either. Or the solution, for that matter. Or, as I’m sure is clear, the story.
  • “Shed Skin” — This was the most typical of the five stories in structure, but it really fell down in content. Ugh. I’m not sure what was the worst part of the story. The “shed skin” concept destroyed any suspense of disbelief right away. I can’t imagine a society at all like ours allowing this. Then there were pages of tedious “As you know Bob” exposition that covered very basic ramifications of mind-copying in gruesome detail, not trusting the reader to have the wit to understand unless told clearly and in simple terms. Then came the hostage negotiator who knew nothing about hostage negotiating. His ineptness, however, was matched by the sniper. The ending was, though bland and predictable, at least inoffensive. Of course, watch it win…
  • “Travels with My Cats” — This was ably written but, if you ask me, not a story. Although I’m not found of horribly disfunctional characters this one was slightly interesting. The central conceit of the story was simple and little was done with it. I guess this story lived and died by its ability to jerk the reader’s emotions, and it didn’t make the grade with me, so it didn’t come off too well.
  • “No Award” — Definitely my vote. Believe it or not, I do like some short stories. I’ve read some very good stories by Dick, Sturgeon, Wolfe, etc. But…man, I really hope for the sake of Analog and Asimov’s subscribers that these aren’t really representative of the best of the year. Eesh.

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