Hugo Finalists 2019: Short Fiction

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So, the Hugo award finalists have been announced and I am continuing my review coverage of them this year. There was a bit of overlap in this category with the Nebulas, but the three stories that are new on this list are damn good, so please go check those out!

In case you missed my Nebula short fiction post, I have just re-posted the reviews of those stories below.

Keep an eye out for these posts moving forward!

“The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018) 3 out of 5 stars

This was a tragic tale of an orphan, who thought the grass was greener if he could only “make it.” Yet, what happens when you take on a power that extracts a terrible cost? All told from the orphan’s mentor’s perspective this read as a fabulism, but don’t let that stop you. I love Pinsker’s style of writing, but I was expecting more “umph” from this one as a whole. The ending just did not click for me.

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018) 4 out of 5 stars

This was a humorous twist on a relatively old trope of myths, where various fae take advantage of young maidens or virgins. The scene is set on a wondrous glade filled with various fae, including a pooka and selkie. All of them are drinking and much to their chagrin pining over a woman who they have all come upon, Rose MacGregor. Each of them tell a tale of how Rose rode them ragged until they were forced to separate from exhaustion.

Kingfisher does a fantastic job with portraying a fun sort of humor, while sliding in small bits of satire/jabs at the old stories, while re-framing theirs. It’s actually a great skill and one that I feel echoes the best of similar writers who do fractured fairy tales. Don’t miss out on this one!

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018) 5 out of 5 stars

If I could get more fantasy-esque alt American history that is centered on either the Africans brought over or Native Americans, that would be excellent, but for now I think I will be content with this story by Clark. Told similar in style to a historical account, it paints a rich fantastical picture of what the early British Colony in the New World would have looked like with magic.

I loved the prose and the style of this story and while it comes to a rather quiet conclusion, each “account” of each tooth’s owner is startling robust in world building and vital feeling. I couldn’t help but keep reading as I went.

I’ve read Clark’s writing before, but this cements that I have to keep my eyes peeled for more.

“STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018) 5 out of 5 stars

This story is an interesting one and one that holds all of it’s emotional impact until the very end. Gailey has created at first glance an intimidating piece of experimental fiction, where the story is told through comments and footnotes on an paragraph of a larger paper. The comments between Anna and Ed are intense and very poignant.

Gailey exemplifies what ‘showing’ is rather than telling what is between the lines here and it hammers that emotional impact all the more. Won’t say anymore without spoiling it, but persevere with this story until the end to get the whole thing.

“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018) 5 out of 5 stars

I actually reviewed this story(along with the rest of this issue back in August 2018, so click here if you want to read that review.) I have otherwise saved you a click by just re-posting (with minor edits) my original review on this lovely story below.

Now, if you haven’t heard about this one yet, you must read it. Bolander out does herself with this one and while writing an entertaining story, ends up subverting and inverting all the common tropes you usually find in classic fairy tales. We follow a raptor, SSSSSS or Ceecee, and her sisters when they come across a rather self-absorbed Prince who ends up taking her away from her home and sisters. I can’t say much more than that, but this is one that made me wish for a full novel rather than just a one-off story.

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018) 4 out of 5 stars

This is a wonderful little tale about the inherent magic of reading and a fun homage to libraries the source of that magic. The idea of librarians being “witches” was a very fun concept and seeing them do some endearing and heart warming things was a nice spin. The story of a librarian watching over a boy, who comes from a rather tumultuous home has a familiar feel, but it is all the same a timeless one and gets new life with Harrow’s retelling.

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