Oof, I started this series of posts late. It’s just two weeks until Worldcon! (Not that I’m going, though I’d love to this year for Helsinki).
Better late than never though. Without further ado, the Hugo-nominated short stories.
(The Rabid Puppy slate pick is not being reviewed.)
- “The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin, (Tor.com, September 2016)
I love this story.
No, I don’t think you understand. I LOVE THIS STORY.
A homeless black teen is gearing up to act as midwife to the city of New York, to birth it into being, and to defend it against the Cthulhu-like Enemy lying in wait to kill it. This story pulses with life and sensation and voice and imagination. The way N. K. Jemisin writes the birth of the city and incorporates the elements that make New York its one-of-a-kind self is poetry. I love the juxtaposition of someone who is one of the most disenfranchised, vulnerable people in the city is the one destined to birth and become one with a city characterized by wealth and power, but also heterogeneity. People within the city think he’s worthless—especially the cops, especially the Cthulhu-infused cops—
yet his love for New York is as big as the city itself. I loved this story when I first read last September and I loved it again reading it a second time.
- “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong, (Tor.com, March 2016)
- “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander, (Uncanny, November/December 2016)
- “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar, (The Starlit Wood ed. by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe)
- “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn, (Tor.com, March 2016)
Interesting premise—two warring peoples have recently brokered a piece. The Gaant are telepaths; the Enithi are not. Calla, an Enithi nurse and former war prisoner, goes to visit the Gaantish Captain Valk, himself a war prisoner before he became Calla’s warden in turn. Together they play a game of chess that reflects not just the differences between the two of them and their peoples, but adaptations, and communication and connection.
For a story rooted in war, it’s unusually quiet, kind, and peaceful. The Enithi’s blase acceptance of their inability to hide their thoughts, and so not attempting to do so at all, is a different take than any I’ve read before, and it inherently changes the way the Enithi and Gaant fight, but also communicate. Their differences aren’t the reason these people fought, but they open possible doors for nurturing the tentative peace that now exists between them. A thoughtful, thought-provoking story.
My vote: “The City Born Great”, no question.