Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Hugo award votes 2015 part 2 – Short stories

All nominees in this category originate from the “puppy lists”. And it shows. I wonder why selected these stories to their slates. There are mostly a celebration of mediocre writing and extreme stupid plotting. The only decent story was Totaled by Kary English. As the nomination was manipulated (and stories were mostly bad) I will vote “no award” for the first place and put the only decent story to the second place.

“Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, 07-2014)
A neuroscience scientist is killed in a car accident and her brain is used for testing a new method of keeping a brain alive. She ends as a brain in a pot, and is able to finish her research- and sees her children for the last time. Not bad, a pleasant surprise considering from where the nomination came. The story could have been longer, now it felt slightly rushed. By far the best of this sorry bunch.

“On A Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
A planet with poor mineral deposits has an extremely strong magnetic field (that is extremely strange, as a strong magnetic field hints to very high concentration of metals.) The natives believe in the afterlife and they have proof. The dead ones stay with them for a long time as the planet's strong magnetic field keeps their essence intact. Then the first human death occurs, and the man stays "alive" as a ghost of sorts. The minister helps him to the pole of the planet where it is possible for the "souls" to disperse. I wonder why the priest is pushing so extremely heavily for the trip and for something which is essentially a suicide when the person himself is somewhat ambivalent? Another clumsy story with very heavy-handed Christian morality - and very strange morality as such.

“Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Posthumans (who are human personalities uploaded to computers), who work with “real” AIs are fighting against biological humans. A ship AI starts to resist the posthumans, who apparently want to exterminate the mere biological humans. The story starts with a boringly described battle, which feels like a transcript of a war game. The Ai starts to get doubts due to a verse from the bible, and eventually does what the spoilerific title tells. And the story ends with a reference to obscure character from US history. (The name didn’t say anything for me and using the Google gave little help as the name in question is fairly common. ) A fellow blogger helped me out eventually. Why would a future computer intelligence know or care about such fairly insignificant centuries old detail or person? A pretty bad and stupid story.

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
Men have disappeared from the world (which was very sinful, there were venereal diseases and people were cremated without proper rites) . Animals discuss what has happened and who should take the lead. They discover that they talk "in the language of Adam" and walk in two feet. And the horror of the horrors - they are naked. All that is written in very pondering language. Extremely, ridiculously bad story, by far the worst of the nominees and with a wide margin. What we learn from this story: if you take up the religion, you turn to human and if you don't you stay animal and you must probably be killed at some time.

“A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)
A samurai warrior burrows into the brain giant lizard which is devastating everything is closing to a major city. The creature apparently has very unusual anatomy with large air filled empty spaces besides its’ brain. He doesn't do the logical thing (hack the brain to pieces with his samurai sword as it supposed to be too big for that) but rather kills himself which somehow magically destroys the beast because the sword is destroyed if the samurai dies and that somehow that kills the monster, also. Kind of far-fetched. A very stupid and not too well-written story.

My votes will be:
1. No award
2. “Totaled”, Kary English


Anonymous said...

I think you've confused Antonelli's story with Rinehart's novelette "Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium." "On a Spiritual Plain" has the chaplain on a segway guiding a ghost to the North Pole, where he can be freed from the planet's magnetic field, if I recall.

tpi said...

Argh. A copypaste error. I write short summaries ofstories to my iPad as soon I read them and later paste them together. I do have a ready made review of that story, I correct it as soon I can. But I won't be at home in a day or two.

tpi said...

I did have a copy in my Dropbox and I was able to make the change straight away.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of reasons why Turncoat is a bad story, but I don't think the Benedict Arnold reference is one of them. We don't know what our folk mythology will be hundreds of years from now - would a Roman in AD 50 have guessed that billions of people in the future would worship an obscure Jewish prophet? The story doesn't tell us what cultural stock(s) the human empire came from or what the founding myth of their nation is, so it's entirely possible that Arnold (who still has iconic status in the US) might figure in there somewhere.

Sorry that your space is the one where I posted this drive-by rant, but I've seen that criticism of Turncoat several times and this is the one that caught me when I had time to answer. I've even seen it argued that the Bible reference was implausible - is it really that hard to imagine that a religion that has lasted two thousand years might last a couple thousand more?

Overall, though, you're correct - the story sucks, and its language use is almost unbelievably bad. I've seen ten-year-olds who could do better.

Anonymous said...

This is LunarG, who commented above. I was sure it was something like that. I enjoyed your reviews; always fun to see what other people get out of stories. My take is pretty similar to yours... The Antonelli one had me wondering if the Chaplain wasn't enabling a form of suicide, for all he knew?