RogerBW's Blog

Hugo 2019: Short Story 07 July 2019

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated short stories. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

“The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker: a tale of cycles and loss. Rather downbeat for my taste, but well-executed.

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher: the lass who loved a fairy, or more to the point several fairies in succession, and rather than pining for them had her fun and sent them away. Fun but plotless.

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark: not so much a plot, more a series of vignettes of lives in pre-Revolutionary America, which for me lose some of their force by being set in a world that also has magic. Very well written, though.

“STET,” by Sarah Gailey: is an explanation-by-footnote, but even at its relatively short length it has only one point to make, makes it, and then flounders about making it again. It's almost brilliant, but for my taste takes too long drumming in its basic idea to make sure everyone has got it.

“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander: pretty much summed up by the title, and very much of a theme with The Only Harmless Great Thing in the Novelette category, but more enjoyable to read.

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow: a librarian in the American South spots a black teenager repeatedly reading a fantasy book, not even a particularly good fantasy book. But the librarian's also a witch, so she can actually help.

It's official library policy to report truants to the high school, because the school board felt we were becoming "a haven for unsupervised and illicit teenage activity." I happen to think that's exactly what libraries should aspire to be, and suggested we get it engraved on a plaque for the front door, but then I was asked to be serious or leave the proceedings […]

This one falls down slightly for me because the narrative tension doesn't quite make sense – why are particular actions completely forbidden, in the context of the people doing the forbidding? – but I still loved it. The only one I really enjoyed out of this lot.

My voting order:

  • “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (eventual winner)
  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark
  • “STET,” by Sarah Gailey
  • “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher
  • “The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker
  • “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander

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