The Hugo Awards 2017 Finalists: Best Novelette

The Hugo awards are considered the most prestigious sci-fi awards, but it has been marred by controversy for the past three 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 this did not happen: the minority did manage to get no more than one entry per category, proportionally to their group size. The result is an awesome set of finalist, very diverse (from military sci-fi, to fantasy pieces that investigate the psychological impact of oppression, from space operas, to post apocalyptic fiction), and very strong. It is going to be hard to pick a winner this year among so many strong options! A few of them were among [the ones I nominated], or the ones I almost nominated.
I have read all the finalist in the novelette category, and here are my thoughts and reviews, along with links to where to read the work on-line (legally) for free, or where to purchase it. As I finish reading the nominees in the other categories, I will post my reviews in this blog.

Best Novelette

     

You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong
I am usually not fond of stories with a western flavor, but Alyssa Wong managed to write one I did like, and quite a lot. This is the story of Ellis, a young boy with a very deep connection with his land, the desert, and with mysterious powers. Ellis is being raised by Madame Lettie, the owner of the local brothel, and the second wife of his dead father. In the brothel, Ellis make himself useful with odd jobs, and sometimes as a ware for the not always straight customers.
The story starts three months after a mysterious incidents at the mines, that were the economical fulcrum of town, and three months after the violent death of Ellis’ father…
Hugo worthy? Yes! It was one of the short story I nominated (see: [hugo worthy novelettes]).
Was it part of a slate? No
Read it for free on-line: [Uncanny magazine]
Buy: [amazon]

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
The story is told from two perspectives: the one of a travel guide, narrating events from an almost mythical, and vastly forgotten past, and from the point of view of the people that actually lived those events. This is the story of the end of a kingdom where jewels have tremendous powers that can drive people insane, and some humans, the lapidarys, have the power to bind them and their powers. The jewels, the nobility, bind the lapidarys. This is also the story of Lin and Sima, a princess destined to be married to a far away country, and her lowal lapidary. They get caught in a web of intrigue and deceit, and must find a way to escape the traps set by the past and save their kingdom.
It is a solid story, made remarkable by the world building. I do wish the author will come back to this world, and develop the character further.
Hugo worthy? Yes!
Was it part of a slate? No
Buy: [Amazon]

The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon
An interesting sequel of the award winning “Jackalope Wives”. This is the story of grandma Harken, that liveson the edge of town, in a house with its back to the desert. Some people said that she lived out there because she liked her privacy, and some said that it was because she did black magic in secret. Some said that she just didn’t care for other people. Everybody agrees her tomatoes are great. One day her tomatoes start vanishing one by one…
Hugo worthy? Yes
Was it part of a slate? No
Read it for free on-line: [Apex Magazine]
Buy: [Amazon]

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
After a disastrous first attempt to have men on Mars in 2047, Earth is ready to try again thirty years later. A second expedition is now preparing to launch. This novelette does not focus on the crew or on the preparation, but on Emily, a hotel housekeeper at the hotel where two of the astronauts will give their final press statements, and on her life. Emily is taking care of her mother, Moolie, that worked on the crash site of the previous mission, and that shortly after developed a unusual form of Alzheimer. Moolie has an important message to give Emily, but Moolie’s memories are fading. As the astronauts’ visit draws closer, the unearthing of a more personal history is about to alter Emily’s world forever.
An interesting story, where the science fiction is mainly on the background, and the relationships between the various characters are on the forefront. I enjoyed despite discovering that in this fictional future, Germany still does not have full marriage equality. It is just a brief mention, but it depressed me to think of a future where we are still struggling to treat all our brother and sisters with dignity.
Hugo worthy? Yes
Was it part of a slate? No
Read it for free on-line: [Tor.com]
Buy: [Amazon]

Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Months after mysterious aliens scattered their spacecraft across the globe, no one has a clue what they want. Then suddenly they open up, and people kidnapped at birth come out… without revealing what is happening. Until one day Avery gets a call… it appears that one of the aliens want a tour. This is an entertaining story, with an interesting take on what an alien encounter may look like.
Hugo worthy? Yes
Was it part of a slate? No
Read it for free on-line: [Clarkesworld]
Buy: [Amazon]

Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stic Hiscock
This short story was put on the 2017 Hugo award finalist by a group of reactionary fans as a form of protest, using a form of vote slating. Given that I am one of the fan jurors, I decided to go ahead and read it before casting my vote.
I assume this is intended to be an humor piece, mixing cheap erotica elements, and sci-fi tropes (I doubt anyone could find the sexual intercourse of a T-Rex and a green alien titillating). Read as such, it did manage to make me smile here and there. I was expecting something far worse based on the cover, and on the title. I am not sure what point the protesters were trying to make, and I am sorry that worthy contenders were pushed out from the finalist list by this, but at least it is a funny story to read.
Hugo worthy? No
Was it part of a slate? Yes
Buy: [Amazon]

Relevant links

4 thoughts on “The Hugo Awards 2017 Finalists: Best Novelette

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