Contented Reader

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2012 Hugo nominees: best short story

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“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” by E. Lily Yu

It seems like everywhere I go online, I hear people talking about this story.  It is about politics and invasion among two groups of insects.  It’s exquisitely well crafted.  It is profoundly different from other fantasy stories I have read.  E. Lily Yu is a student.  An undergraduate, even.  It’s surprising how good this story is.  I wonder what will happen when she graduates?  Will she be a new major voice in fantasy writing?  Will she write in some other genre, become a new major voice in mainstream literary fiction?  Will she get a job in a cubicle and stop making time to write at all?  Will she win ‘Best New Writer?’  Anyway, we’ll always have the wasps.

“The Homecoming,” by Mike Resnick

This story is science fiction, but it’s so profoundly human that it doesn’t have to be science fiction.  A man is caring for his wife, lost to Alzheimer’s disease.  He has disowned his son for choosing to be genetically modified  in order to live on another planet- leaving behind not only his home but also his own body.  His son returns, to visit his mother.  The father is angry at his son for becoming a weird-looking alien, in the future.  But this story could be in the present, about a transgendered son who is now a daughter, or it could be in the past, about a son who married a woman of a different race and had a child, it would be essentially the same story.

“Movement,” by Nancy Fulda

Hannah is autistic.  There is a new treatment that will make her ‘normal.’  But in being treated, she’ll lose the unique way she experiences the world now.  Does she want the treatment, or not?  And can she communicate what she wants to her parents?  The best part of this story is the way it allows the reader to experience the world through Hannah’s point of view.  I won’t say, ‘Now I know how it feels to be autistic,’ but I’ll bet that parents of people with autism will be sharing this story to help people understand why their child acts so oddly.


“The Paper Menagerie,” by Ken Liu

Another installment in the ‘Why does Ken Liu want to make me cry?’ collection.  Ken Liu, whatever I did to you, I sincerely apologize.  Please, stop making me cry.  In this story, Jack is a child, growing up with an American father and a Chinese mother, who speaks very little English.  Jack doesn’t understand his mother.  Sometimes she embarrasses him.  And sometimes, she makes, as gifts for him, origami animals which come to life and play with him.  I listened to this story on Escape Pod, on a car trip, with my own mother, and tried really hard not to cry.  It was a sweet story.  But, Ken Liu, how about a happy story next time?

“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: the Dead City: Prologue,” by John Scalzi

Humor!  I love that a straight-up, no-apologies comedy story is nominated for a Hugo.  Humor so rarely gets sufficient respect.  The story was born from a list of the words that appeared most frequently in fantasy novel titles, and the creation of a title which, based on that list, would be destined to sell well.  The story is the prologue to a novel which doesn’t exist- but if it did, I would totally read it.  Read it aloud, if you can, or, ideally, get John Scalzi to read it aloud to you.


Written by Contented Reader

July 14, 2012 at 6:00 am

Posted in Reviews


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