The Hugo Awards 2016 Finalists: Best Short Story

The Hugo awards are considered the most prestigious sci-fi awards, but it has been marred by controversy for the past two years. Two regressive groups exploited the weaknesses of the voting system to dominate the majority of the nominees despite commanding less then 15% of the total votes (you can read more on George R.R. Martin blogpost [here]). This year only the most extreme of the two groups used slating, but their nominations still dominated the finalist list, and their picks include their favorite stories, as well as stories added to vilify the award (including erotic stories and my little pony TV episodes). They also added a couple of already popular stories that would have made it anyway, so that they could claim they made it only because they were included in their slate. As a result of the controversy some authors declined their nomination and new one were added in their place.

This post is intended to help you navigate this mess, and I will constantly update it to reflect the current nominees. I am currently reading all the finalist, and as I read them I will add my thoughts on them. This post will over time evolve into my personal Hugo vote entry. I hope you’ll find it useful. Comments are welcomed, but please keep it civil!

Best Short Story

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This is one of the weakest categories for this year: there is nothing that really stands out as a worthy winner. This is quite sad, because many incredible and Hugo worthy short stories were published last year.

Cat Pictures Please
by Naomi Kritzer (ClarkesWorld)
I am very partial to this story because it main fictional character, an AI, was born in the datacenters of the company I work for. It is a fun, light read, where the artificial self-conscious being end up behaving like a corky, cat-loving, nosy human.
Hugo worthy? Maybe yes, but it is far weaker than many other short stories that did not make it to the finalist list.
Was it part of a slate? No
Buy: [Amazon]

Space Raptor Butt Invasion
by Chuck Tingle
This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters as an attempt to vilify the Hugo award reputation. Chuck Tingle, the author of a series of “geeky” gay erotica short stories, responded to his nomination getting Zoe Quinn (the gammergaters arch-nemesis) to receive his award in case of a victory… I decided to set the controversy aside, and read the story and decide in its own merit.
SRBI turns out to be a very unique, often humorous, gay erotic short story with a sci-fi spin. It’s the story of Lance, left alone on a mission on a distant planet, having a (very) close encounter with a (possibly) alien species.
Hugo worthy? No, but I am sad to say it is far better than some of the other Hugo finalists this year.
Was it part of a slate? Yes
Buy: [Amazon]

Asymmetrical Warfare
by S. Algernon (Nature)
This extremely short story is the diary written by the commander of an alien species invading Earth. Each entry describes, day by day, the progress of the invasion. The story details the increasing confusion and puzzlement of the alien forces when faced with the biologic differences of homo sapiens.
I found particularly interesting the stellate race attempts to make sense of humans in terms of their alien stellate biology, and failing. As it is often the case, the most common obstacle to understanding, is trying to understand others in terms of our way of thinking and being.
While very interesting, this is also the weakest point of the story: do we really have to believe that a species that expended across the universe, entering in contacts with many different lifeforms, never met non regenerating life forms before? It is also made clear that the two species can communicate, and that the stellate are closely observing human behavior, making this complete lack of understanding of human biology very hard to believe.
Hugo worthy? No (borderline)
Was it part of a slate? Yes
Buy: [Nature Journal]

Seven Kill Tiger
by Charles Shao (There Will be War, X)
This short story focuses on two main character: Zhang Zedong, a Chinese business manager responsible for the Chinese “settlements” (colonies) in Africa, and Scott Berens, a US CDC employee tracking diseases and virus outbreaks. Zhang is concerned that production in his African mining operation has fallen again this quarter, and that he is going to be held responsible for it. He blames the local population, that he describes in quite demeaning terms. Scott identifies it as an anomaly in the spread of diseases, and his superior Thompson thinks the Chinese may have weaponized a polio vaccine.
Despite the unimpressive characters, the central concept of the story is interesting and disturbing. The most disturbing part is the realization that the utterly xenophobic way of thinking of the fictional Chinese Colonist, exists in every country of today’s world, always ready to flare up at time of crisis and economical recession. The author point of view is never revealed or hinted, to the point to make me believe he may actualy share at least some of the troubling ideas presented in the story.
Trigger warnings: colonialism, xenophobia.
Hugo worthy? No (borderline)
Was it part of a slate? Yes
Buy: [Amazon]

If You Were an Award, My Love
by Juan Tabo and S. Harris
This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters, and it is, so far, the worst Hugo finalist I read. It is a short blog post written as a reaction to / a parody of If You Were a Dinosaur My Love, that is well-known to be hated by the gammergate crowd. It is intended to be funny (but it is not), and I believe it was slate-voted into the finalist as a form of protest, not for its worth.
Hugo worthy? No
Was it part of a slate? Yes
Buy: [Vox Populi]

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