This is a fantasy-themed post as part of Wyrd & Wonder. If you want to know more, click here!
I discovered short stories through podcasts. Especially LeVar Burton Reads made me fall in love with short stories. So I loved the idea to read all the Short Story Finalists for the 2021 Hugo Awards. I was inspired by this post from Jess @ Jessticulates. Here are the nominated stories and my thoughts about them:
Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse by Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020)
As you may expect from a zombie story, this was really exciting. The writer has chosen quite an unusual perspective: our narrator is about to give birth. It’s a great story on its own, but this would also be a good first chapter of a book. I’d love to read more about these characters and the apocalypse world they live in!
A Guide for Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan, available from Solaris & Tor.com)
I like stories with a unique formatting. So I appreciated that this story is written as a chat conversation between two robots. It’s supposed to be a funny story, but I actually found it a bit boring. I didn’t care about the characters and the plot also didn’t really interest me. Not because this is a bad story; it just didn’t work for me.
Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com)
I was immediately drawn to this story, because I love Little Free Libraries. I didn’t expect this to be a fantasy story (I totally forgot that the Hugo Award are only given to fantasy and sci-fi stories…) So the fantasy element took me by surprise. I enjoyed reading this story, but I do think it’s left too open-ended. It felt unfinished. The ending left me with so many questions!
The Mermaid Astronaut by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020)
This is a beautifully written adventure story. The writer was clearly inspired by The Little Mermaid. I never really liked that fairy tale, but I did enjoy reading this story. I especially liked how mermaids, magic and space travelling are all packed in one story. Fantasy and science fiction are perfectly combined.
Metal Like Blood in the Dark by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
The main characters of this space story are two robots. Although this is quite common in science fiction, it felt weird that there are so few humans. The robots were likable and interesting. I like the idea that they were able to deliberately change their body as well as their “mind”. This was a good story, but it wasn’t really my thing.
Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen)
This story is told from a unique perspective. The plot and most of the characters aren’t especially noteworthy. It’s the unusual narrator that makes this a remarkable story.
So which short story is the best? Every story has something I like. So I believe all of them would deserve the Hugo Award. My favourites are Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse and The Mermaid Astronaut. If I had to pick one, I would choose The Mermaid Astronaut as best short story. I think Yoon Ha Lee very successfully combined two elements you wouldn’t expect in one story.
Image credits: I used stock images from Pixabay