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The Hugo Shortlist, 2006: Short Stories - The Elephant Forgets
The Hugo Shortlist, 2006: Short Stories

The Hugo Shortlist, 2006: Short Stories

Again I find this an excellent list, Of these stories only "The House Beyond Your Sky" made it into my Best of the Year books, but all the others were serious candidats. "Eight Episodes" was left out only because I also wanted another Reed story, "A Billion Eves", which is also a Hugo nominee. "Kin" and "Impossible Dreams" were among the last I considered, and might have been included had I not (as mentioned in previous posts) been very concerned about including too many Asimov's stories. And I actually didn't see "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" until after my contents list was finalized (in the January F&SF -- I didn't get a copy of Fragile Things). I surely would have strongly considered it.

Another strong showing for Asimov's. Indeed, 10 of the 15 nominees are from that magazine. I confess it was my feeling that F&SF had the better year last year, but Asimov's really did have a very strong year. (I note however that none of my personal choices for the winners of these categories are the Asimov's stories.)

Here's my voting order. Again, it is tentative. Certainly I could switch places 2 and 3 easily, and 4 and 5 are not far back. But I do think that Ben Rosenbaum's story is the clear best of the year. (And I would really have liked to see Christopher Rowe's "Another Word for Map is Faith" on this ballot.)

1. "The House Beyond Your Sky", by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons Sept 2006)

"The House Beyond Your Sky" is purely lovely.  It is set in the very far future, when posthumans inhabit a universe increasingly empty as it continues to expand. But this future is complicated by bubble universes and virtual spaces and strange wars -- and by a little girl who may be waiting in the house beyond our sky. This story suggests much beauty and much pain -- partly by evoking wild SFnal ideas and partly simply with excellent prose. I think it deserves to win for the awesome SFnal scope of it -- and the way it makes that scope human -- but above all I think it should win because by damn it is fabulously well-written.

2. "Eight Episodes", by Robert Reed (Asimov's June 2006)

"Eight Episodes" is about a cult TV show that tells a rather dry scientific story, of the discovery of a tiny spaceship in a Permian era rock sample. The spaceship has a sort of message for humanity, a message which concerns, it turns out, the Fermi Paradox. And the story manages some of the same power as Ian R. MacLeod’s classic "New Light on the Drake Equation" in its evocation of lost SFnal dreams, and its reminder that there are still dreams to dream. t think this story both cleverly done, and quite moving -- and it has only grown in my memory.

3. "How to Talk to Girls at Parties", by Neil Gaiman (Fragile Things; F&SF, January 2007)

"How to Talk to Girls at Parties" is very fine work, about a couple of boys in London who end up at a curious party with a number of very unusual girls. There is a redolence of Faery and La Belle Dame Sans Merci about these girls, but, very nicely, the story really seems to be science fiction. With a hint of a dark yet moving and poetic twist. Again, a mixture of cleverness with something deeper and more moving.

4. "Kin", by Bruce McAllister (Asimov's February 2006)

"Kin" is an affecting, but also somewhat chilling, story of a boy who tries to hire an alien assassin to kill the man who wants to kill his sister (that is, abort his mother’s unborn child). The alien and the boy strike up a relationship, and we learn a lot about the assassin in particular -- and we get hints about where the boy’s life may lead him. A quiet story, rather dark in implication, very thoughtful.

5. "Impossible Dreams", by Tim Pratt (Asimov's July 2006)

The is a "mysterious shop" story. This time the shop is a video store, with treasures such as the director’s cut of Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons, and the George Raft version of Casablanca. That’s the hook, and Pratt sets it with a sweet romance between two movie nuts: the geeky young man who discovers the shop, and the girl at the counter. I really enjoyed it, but it must be said that set next to the other stories on this shortlist, this one looks just that bit slight.


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