2022 Hugo Award Short Story Finalists Reviewed

Today I tag along with the Wyrd & Wonder prompt ‘Bite-size delight’. I share my thoughts on the short stories that are nominated to win a Hugo Award. With some of them, I purposely stayed a bit vague. Because the stories are so short, I don’t want to give away too much of the plot. If a story sounds interesting, definitively read it yourself! All of them can be find online.

Mr. Death by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2021)
In this story reaper is a job you can get after you die. We get to explore this fascinating idea with an interesting main character and see his character develop during the story. This story about death is a bit heart-breaking, but also heart-warming and even has some humour. I admire the writer for being able to convey so many emotions in just five thousand words.

Proof by Induction by José Pablo Iriarte (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2021)
The main character of this story is able to talk with his father after he died. The idea is interesting, but the conversations they have are quite boring. There were so much mathematical terms! For me all the math they talk about overshadows the better part of the story.

The Sin of America by Catherynne M. Valente (Uncanny Magazine, March/April 2021)
I just didn’t get this story. It’s about an American woman who had a life full of pain and disappointments. Her dinner at Blue Bison Diner & Souvenir Shoppe is meticulously described. The many details obscured the plot for me. In the end I’m not sure what the writer wanted to tell. This is the kind of story you have to read three of even four times to get. But I couldn’t find anything in the story that makes it worth rereading.

Tangles by Seanan McGuire (Magicthegathering.com: Magic Story, September 2021)
This short story tells about a meeting between a dryad and a mage. They live in a fascinating world with magic and trees that walk. We just get a small insight in this world and I would love to read more about it if possible. The story is also beautifully written.

Unknown Number by Azure (Twitter, July 2021)
If short stories could win prizes for originality, this one would probably get one. This story has the most unique format of all the finalists. It’s a SMS conversation between the main character and theirself from another universe. Their lives have many similarities, but there’s one big difference. The format made the story feel very real. I do think this story has the potential to have more depth. The writer spends quite a lot of time on setting up the story.

Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, March/April 2021)
Another story with an unusual format. This one is formatted like a kind of website about a song called ‘Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’. Various commenters discuss the phrasing and history of the song. Sadly it felt like a huge info dump. I didn’t really like the song, so I had no reason to be interested in its fictional history. The story may have worked if the characters were more relatable.

There were three short stories I enjoyed reading. My favourite was definitively Mr. Death by Alix E. Harrow. It’s based on an original idea that is well executed, and the story is beautifully written. Which one do you think should win?

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