Also back to a non-voting category, but since it’s only short fiction I did, in fact, read everything end-to-end.
- “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, P. Djèlí Clark. Basically a revenge ghost story. Also yet another entry into the Woke American Historical Revisionism pile, though far better than other offerings of that sort previously encountered on the ballot.
- “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society”, T. Kingfisher. Nanny Ogg: The Younger Years. Bonus points for featuring a fat protagonist, but deducted for hyper-sexualization and focusing constantly on said character’s big tits.1
- “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, Alix E. Harrow. Witches run libraries. Extremely conflicted about this one, because on the one hand I did enjoy it, both prose- and story-wise, but on the other hand it’s basically Dangerous Minds: Urban Fantasy Edition, which… yikes. White people. Stop. Please. Also, for bonus points: Ageism specifically directed towards older women!!! Just exactly what I love seeing in my “woke” fiction!!!! Seriously; a few tiny tweaks and this story would’ve been fine but, as it is… uu-uu-uh…
- “The Court Magician”, Sarah Pinsker. Powerful people exploit less powerful people with talent, until all said talent is used up. Told in first person but as third person, in that keeping-the-reader-distanced2 way I never like. Also has a really weird, gross—and possibly unintentional—secondary moral of “wanting to know how things work is Bad and Dangerous”. I keep seeing this stealth itself into American media lately (ref. Acceptance, for example) and… yikes. Just… yikes.
- “STET”, Sarah Gailey. Picking back up on a theme from the novellas, this gives me flashbacks to “Steve Rogers Might Wear Tights, but He’s Not Your Pin-Up Girl“, as well as the other found-object narratives that were apparently All The Rage in Stucky fandom for a while. I like found-object media as a concept,3 though not as a gimmick in-and-of-itself; I guess since I’ve consumed so much of it, I still need a something else to connect to narratives in this format. “STET” is about motherhood and culpability in the context of automation, the former of which I definitely don’t connect to, and the latter of which I don’t think is a particularly interesting moral question.4 The story is basically one big long in-joke about the relationship between authors and editors, though, so authors and editors will love it!
- “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat”, Brooke Bolander. Fantasy AU Jurassic World fic? Obligatory Weird Hugos Dinosaur Story? Either way, even more Ironic Fairytale Voice narration,5 plus a helping of the ol’ hyper-personal authorial Uncanny Valley to boot. Definitely not my bag, baby.
Well… after we did okay with the novelettes, we’re back to the Desert of Hard Passes; Clark’s story again was a stand-out, but the rest here pretty much vary from “fine, but not for me” to “yikes no” in a way that’s hard to classify. Is a story I enjoyed but found hella problematic “better” than a story I didn’t enjoy but also didn’t jar my Oh-Tropes-No Sense? Is, perhaps, this question striking at the true core of the problem with Woke Media Discourse in general? 2,500 words minimum, essays due Friday.
Tl;dr, generally ambivalent no award.
- Blah blah “acceptable” fatness blah blah gods I’m tired of this shit. [↩]
- There he is, our ol’ pal Brecht again! Honestly, I wouldn’t mind so much—well, that’s maybe an exaggeration, but I’d at least understand—if I thought people kept doing this deliberately. But I’m not… 100% convinced everyone is. [↩]
- That little journal booklet thing that came in the box for Zork: Nemesis was very formative in my youth. [↩]
- Wait… what? Yes. Most cases of current automation-related accidents are the same sort of industrial negligence bullshit we’ve been dealing with since the Industrial Revolution, just with waters intentionally muddied by anti-regulation Silicon Valley lobbyists and a brogrammer culture that still largely fails to grasp code has Really Real World consequences. So I think it’s an interesting socio-political and regulatory question, but not an interesting moral or personal one. And when you start creeping into true general AI, the question gets even less interesting, since it starts falling back into normal criminal law. “Are AIs people?” being yet another one of those Common Questions in Sci-fi I find dull and obvious in this, the Year Of Our Monolith 2019. [↩]
- You know that whole “CalArts style” artwank? Sometimes I feel I’ve stumbled on my own personal version of that for specfic short fiction, which I now-no-longer-secretly refer to as “Clarion style”… [↩]