As the deadline for Hugo voters looms, this voter takes a look at the nominees for best novelette.
1. “The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupu.
Originally published in Fast Forward 2
Bacigalupi looks at where reporting, the internet and our culture are heading with this well-written encounter between a foreign-born correspondent for a news site and a celebrity from his native land. I find the timing interesting, as the evidence clicks in that we value Michael Jackson’s death and its implications over Neda Algha Soltan’s. For a novelette, it could use more of a conclusion, but I enjoyed this, and likely will give it my top vote.
2. “Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel
Originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 2008.
Suppose, while working on the Monster’s Mate in England, Dr. Frankenstein interacted with the Bennets from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Unlike the even more bizarre Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, “Prometheus” remains faithful to and respectful of his sources, and his tale works best if one knows both English classics.
3. “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear
Originally published in Asimov’s, March 2008.
In yet another tribute to masters past, an academic come up against that curiosity of the Atlantic, the common shoggoth. Bear creates an appropriate atmosphere as she uses creations by the brilliant but notoriously racist Lovecraft to examine racism, among other matters.
4. “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner
Originally published in Asimov’s, February 2008.
Written in a style somewhat reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., this original tale involves a young lad who finds an alien raygun (a premise, in fact, of 1978’s Laserblast, a hilariously bad film that contains every 70s cliché—but I digress). Gardner takes us through the lifelong implications of the discovery, and reminds us that, quite likely, should we encounter extra-terrestrials, we won’t ever truly understand them. We experience enough trouble understanding us.
5. “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick.
Originally published in Asimov’s, January 2008.
The story features a wonderful, familiar premise, as two boys, destined to life-long friendship, encounter a quaint shop that is not what it appears to be. Whereas I enjoyed Resnick’s nominated short story, I did not understand how this one rated. The predictable ending I could excuse, but not the handling of the main characters, the old men on whose shoulders this tale rests. I could not really believe in them as characters.