Hugo Capsules: Novelettes
1. “The Journeyman: In the Stone House“, by Michael F. Flynn
There’s nothing quite like a good heroic fantasy, nor do I ever tire of tales set in the shadows of once great civilizations. Perhaps it is an atavistic preference passed down from my Gothic barbarian ancestors (along with a predilection for little fur hats). Whatever the case, the exploits of Teodorq sunna Nagarajan and Sammi o’ th’ Eagles following their encounter with the holographic AI of a downed spacecraft felt like something out of Swords & Sorcery or in the tradition of “Black Amazon of Mars”. I enjoyed the blending of fantasy and sci-fi, and the odd dialect incorporating contemporary slang spoken by the characters (to whom our expressions would be archaic), which plays into the stories funniest exchange:
“And what is meant by ‘babe’?”
“In the sprock, it is a term of respect for important women.”
The tale ends on a somewhat inconclusive note, being part of a larger series following Teodorq and Sammi, but it is a satisfying chapter, and I look forward to their further adventures.
2. “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale“, by Rajnar Vajra
It’s rather odd that despite being my least favorite overall of the four good nominees, “The Triple Sun” ended up receiving my number 2 vote (for reasons detailed below). Given my poor scholarship in Golden Age SF, I cannot comment on the accuracy of the tale’s subtitle, but it had a very optimistic, future-is-gonna-be-great, can-do,”work the problem” attitude that I have inferred is the hallmark of Golden Age SF. It was a very fun read, and had the second best SF speculation (to my tastes) after “Earth to Alluvium”.
3. “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium“, by Gary Rinehart
This was an interesting little story about a man fighting a psychological and cultural warfare action against an occupying alien force through his own impending death. Despite my attempts to see one character as a kind of Cato of Utica, a last page twist still left a sour taste in my mouth, and for that reason alone “Earth to Alluvium” was bumped below “The Triple Sun”.
4. “Championship B’tok“, by Edward M. Lerner
“Championship B’tok” read very much like several chapters from a larger work that had been compiled together to be submitted as a novelette; a larger work that I would very much like to read. In many ways, from setting (harder SF) to characters (various humans and aliens pursuing different agendas) to mood (political intrigue), I preferred this story to “The Triple Sun” and “Earth to Alluvium”. I ranked those latter works higher because I was voting for the best novelette, and those works were better as stories containable in a novelette, whereas “B’tok” worked decently well, but has non sequitur first chapter and frustrating cliffhanger ending (unless I am missing some context for this story? I read it as part of the Hugo packet, so if it is part of a continuing serialized story, this was not made clear to me by the Hugo packet edition.).
5. No Award
6. “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, by Thomas Ole Heuvelt
A speculative fiction tale that is uninterested in speculation about its own premise, unless it’s to take a cheap shot at religion. A bland story about a bland, whiny, pathetic
man male human human narrator who abandons a woman to her death so it can save a goldfish so it can fail to win back its former paramour.