Hugo Review: Best Short Story, 2007

July 11th, 2007

The Hugo Award isn’t just for novels, of course, but also has sections for Short Story, Best Novelette and Best Novella. All the nominees for Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story are all online. As are three of the Best Novel nominees. This year I’ve only read the Novel and Short Story categories (so far) – I might get to the other two later.

Actually, I heard four of the short stories through the Escape Pod podcast, and the other read by the author. I’m a big fan of Escape Pod and audio short fiction in general.

The five nominees for 2007 are:

  • Eight Episodes by Robert Reed
  • The House Beyond Your Sky by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
  • Impossible Dreams by Tim Pratt
  • Kin by Bruce McAllister

The five nominees represent very different types of short fiction.

Eight Episodes is written in the style of an academic paper, and talks about a strange television series of mysterious origins that tells of alien contact on Earth. This is a strange and complex story that chooses to leave much unsaid, and much to the imagination of the author. That’s something that can work well in a longer piece, but just makes a short story feel a little under done.

The House Beyond Your Sky is a strange story told on multiple levels about god-like beings running simulations of whole universes. Another complicated story, but one that makes better use of the short story form. My only complaint is that the characters feel a bit light, but the strength of ideas carries the day regardless.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties tells the story of a boy who ended up at a party with aliens one time. Cleverly written, with good character work and an interesting central idea, but it is ultimately betrayed by the lack of a strong story – it’s just something that happens this one time, with no broader consequences of lessons.

Impossible Dreams is about a video store from an alternate dimension that appears before a movie addict one evening. A fantastic (albeit derivative) idea is backed up by strong writing and excellent characterisation.

Kin is the story of a twelve-year-old boy who hires an alien hitman. A nice story, but a little bit light on concept and character. Short stories can get away without one, but not both.

All the nominees are entertaining stories that are well worth the five minutes or so they take to read, or the half hour or so it takes to listen to them.

But what will win the day? My favourite of the five was Impossible Dreams, and I suspect that it has enough appeal to the culture of the fan community to make it a strong favourite for the prize.