Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hugo recommendations: Best Short Story

From LonCon: Voting for the Hugo Awards closes soon!  The voting page for the 2014 Hugo Awards is located at  The voting page for the 1939 Retro Hugo Awards is located at  You will also find links to paper ballots which can be filled out and mailed in.  The deadline for voting is Thursday 31 July 2014, 11:59 PM PDT.  The online voting pages will close and any paper ballots mailed in will need to be received by that time.

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky. Not just bad, but laughably, risibly, embarrassingly terrible. When the history of Pink SF/F is written, this Nebula Award winner should stand as Exhibit A. The fact that it was written and published is indicative of a problem in science fiction and fantasy. The fact that it won an award, any award, is a veritable indictment.

"The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Reasonably well-written, seemingly well-researched story set in Thailand. Extremely boring and I'd have to read it again to identify the point. Not interested enough to bother. Neither science fiction nor fantasy.

"Selkie Stories Are for Losers" by Sofia Samatar. The structure is piecemeal, the story is tedious, pointless, amateurish, and narcissistic. On the plus side, it is, unlike the others, identifiable as fantasy. Bad fantasy, to be sure, but fantasy.

"The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu. Homosexual angst story about a Chinese man afraid to come out about his white boyfriend to his family, written by a homosexual Chinese man. It would appear someone took the advice to "write what you know" a little too literally. The writing isn't bad and it would be the best story of the lot (which isn't saying anything at all) if it had anything to do with science fiction or fantasy. Which it doesn't.

My vote for Best Short Story, and my suggestion to others, is No Award.
  1. No Award
I recommend leaving the ballot otherwise blank. This category is illustrative of how far the genre has fallen.


Best Novel
Best Novelette
Best Editor 



Anonymous patrick kelly July 17, 2014 3:19 PM  

so sad, no terribible.....NOOO IT"S HORRIBIBLE !!!!

Anonymous ? July 17, 2014 3:21 PM  

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky

Links to a Kirkus article about Selkies and Memory...

Anonymous jay c July 17, 2014 3:21 PM  

Agreed. Didn't read "Selkie..." but the rest were atrocious.

Anonymous VD July 17, 2014 3:23 PM  

Links to a Kirkus article about Selkies and Memory...

Fixed, thanks.

Anonymous Ha July 17, 2014 3:23 PM  

Sofia Samatar is a fantasy writer, poet, and critic, and a PhD student in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison."

LMAO that tells you all you need to know!

Anonymous ? July 17, 2014 3:29 PM  

The Ink Readers story... I skimmed it... couldn't see any science fiction or fantasy element to it... what did I miss?

Anonymous Gotta ask July 17, 2014 3:34 PM  

How did all this DRIVEL get nominated for a Hugo?

Are these really the BEST fantasy and SF short stories of the past year?

If so, then the genre needs to die. The sooner the better.

Anonymous Salt July 17, 2014 3:44 PM  

How did all this DRIVEL get nominated for a Hugo?

The ballot got accidently dropped down the rabbit hole.

Anonymous A Visitor July 17, 2014 3:50 PM  

That first title Vox reminds me of your warning about books about dinosaur rape fantasy. Frankly I do not know if that title deals with it or not. Still, it shows prescience.

Anonymous GreyS July 17, 2014 3:59 PM  

Among all the nominees in all the categories, I only care about one in particular winning-- If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.

A win for that would give this generation of "authors" exactly what they deserve-- the ability of present and future readers to "laugh, laugh, laugh" at the current SFF world.

Blogger Revelation Means Hope July 17, 2014 4:00 PM  

As a first time Hugo voter (but almost 4 decade SFF reader), reading through this year's collection of stories, editorials, SFF art, and so forth.....
It is no wonder that I rarely set foot in Barnes & Noble any longer. The SFF shelves are filled with dreck.

At first I wondered why I was starting to see teenage girls browsing in the SFF section, something I would never have, and never did see, when I was a teenager. Now I understand. It is romance in space, or rather poorly written romance in space.

Anonymous Cranberry July 17, 2014 4:00 PM  

The Ink Readers story... I skimmed it... couldn't see any science fiction or fantasy element to it... what did I miss?

Ditto. I read it, twice, and I failed to see any SF/F elements in the story, except possibly the appearance of the water goddess at the end, which could be interpreted as mere religious experience and not particularly sci-fi.

As Vox said, reasonably well-written, but no point, and not SF/F.

As for Water That Falls On You, I couldn't give it a second read. Homo angst just drives me to draw a line. It is a well written story and I tried to break through it and give the story a chance, but the message-y message fiction flavor turned me off.

The brief re-cap of Swirky's piece gave me enough to know I'd give it no stars in any rating system.

Anonymous Fred2 July 17, 2014 4:03 PM  

On the other hand the descriptions have this dry humorous quality that belies how much worse they are in the actual reading.

Wow can't you wait to read the Nebula ANTHOLOGY of all these in one place? Imagine the sheer black-hole effect, and the book disappears into it's own event horizon of sheer awfulness.

Anonymous A Visitor July 17, 2014 4:04 PM  

OT: Per ABC News, the White House is on lockdown.

Anonymous Daniel July 17, 2014 4:05 PM  

Are these really the BEST fantasy and SF short stories of the past year?

No. Not even close. It is just that the best short stories are increasingly coming from places that are not on the Hugo's radar.

I think the fact that The Water that Falls From You Out of Nowhere is considered eligible is really funny. I kind of hope Chu wins, just so when his autobiography containing no science, no fantasy and no fiction wins a silver penis, he has something new to explain to his dad.

A better end of that story is if the Mother said, "Well, Son, I still love you no matter what." And then she drowned in a sudden freak hurricane.

Anonymous Daniel July 17, 2014 4:08 PM  

They should give the award to everyone, just for participating. This is clearly a therapy category.

Group Hug-o!

Anonymous Don July 17, 2014 4:22 PM  

What happened with the sad puppies campaign? Didn't Larry nominate anything in the short story category?

Anonymous Trimegistus July 17, 2014 4:29 PM  

Okay, Mr. Beale, I admit I thought you were being over-the-top in your criticism. Then I read Swirsky's story. God damn. If anything, you're too charitable. That's awful. It's also about a page long -- are the readers and authors so damned lazy nowadays that a 5,000-word short story is too long to hold their mayfly attention?

Anonymous Rabbit-Response-Squad July 17, 2014 4:31 PM  


"If You Were Were a Transexual Dinosaur" Homosexual angst story about a Selkie man afraid to come out about his dinosaur boyfriend to his family in Thailand, written by a homosexual Chinese transsexual man.

Anonymous Stickwick July 17, 2014 4:33 PM  

So, we have risible SF/F and non-SF/F presented for prestigious awards. Seems we're rapidly approaching "Best Award for a Short Story Indistinguishable from Something Written by 100 Monkeys Mashing Keyboards for 100 Years."

Blogger Astrosmith July 17, 2014 4:51 PM  

Yep, I've been reading a lot of these Hugo nominees as well, and most are simply terrible. How far the genre has fallen, indeed.

Anonymous Doug Wardell July 17, 2014 5:11 PM  

Swirsky's writing must appeal to someone, but I don't see the merit. There's zero story or point that I can find. It's the sort of thing you might hear narrated over squiggle-vision, crayon animation targeted at children.

Ink Readers isn't painful to read, but it's boring and it's not genre.

Selkie Stories is fantasy at least, but it was awful.

For the most part, I enjoyed The Water. If it were part of a longer story where the water was relevant, and ideally made sense, it might even be good. In isolation though, it just doesn't feel like spec fic.

My ballot:

1. No Award
2. The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere

Blogger Anthony July 17, 2014 5:32 PM  

Supposedly, Swirsky writes actual stories. However, her Hugo-nominated piece is not a short story. It's not a story. It's a prose poem, at best. This does not make me want to pick up her other stuff, when there are other writers who, based on the evidence, do write stories.

If John Scalzi had the guts, he'd write a parody titled "If you were bacon, my love".

Anonymous Richard July 17, 2014 6:06 PM  

No Award is the only way to go.

If you were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine)

Not really a story, more of a free verse poem about a woman’s wishful fantasy after the death of her partner. Not science fiction and indeed not fantasy as it involves no real fantastical or supernatural element. Not entertaining either.

Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons)

Another story in which you have to kind of squint to see any fantastical element. The bulk of it revolves around a young woman who’s mother has walked out her. She falls for a work colleague (also with family issues) and dreams of moving away. She believes that her mother was actually a “selkie” a mythical creature who has returned to the sea. However, she could just as easily be fabricating a delusional fantasy to cope with the loss of a parent. Everyone in this story is sad. The problems presented are not resolved.

The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu (

The water of the title is a downpour that apparently magically appears when a lie is told. Again not even close to being science fiction and the fantastical element is never examined. It just is. And once that is established, the author tells a tired story about a gay man coming out to his family.

The Ink Readers of Doi Saket by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (

The best of the bunch (in that I do not actively dislike it). It is at least unambiguously fantasy although the fantastical element is too much of a deus ex machina for my taste. Had it not been for the dearth of anything else to vote for in this category I would have stopped reading this one. As it was I struggled to the end. It is the best of a very poor bunch but still not worthy of a Hugo.

Anonymous Sigyn July 17, 2014 6:07 PM  

"Ink Readers" is about people getting what they wished for in ways they didn't expect. The murdered boy, too: he wished to know what happens to wishes.

Not really a "point" to it; mostly it's like a "Twilight Zone" episode, but with a really crappy narrator and too much focus on boy-girl business.

Anonymous Jill July 17, 2014 6:16 PM  

I read the dinosaur one and the selkie one. Both sound like they came direct from creative writing programs, where they were critiqued in classroom settings, etc. They aren't terrible stories, but creative writing program stories should be a genre of their own. It's a style that calls for lyrical language above all else. As I've been helping with the editing on a start-up spec fic journal, The Common Oddities Sideshow, I've been enjoying the fact that the [so far limited] entries don't resemble creative writing workshop stories. That is partly due to its status as a start-up, but I hope that doesn't change when stories start pouring in. Oh, come on, now! Surely, they will.

Anonymous Sigyn July 17, 2014 6:31 PM  

Anyway, I has thinkings. You may ignore them:

"Ink Readers" does too much Showing Their Work and not enough incorporating it into the story itself. It might have been an interesting story if the author had gotten around to TELLING it instead of trying to wow us with his mad research skillz. It would surely have been a thousand percent more "twisty" if the monk hadn't believed in the river goddess but expressed something interpretable as a wish to see her.

"Dinosaur" is...lame. I should not be able to sum up a story as "mean people are mean and Jurassic Park is sexy in the dark". If she had actually been injured in the brawl and was hallucinating a dinosaur transformation and then going all How to Train Your Dino on the perps before it was revealed that it was all a dream (and then the perps come into the ER having been savaged by some wild animal, so MAYBE NOT!!!) would be cliche, but at least it would be a story.

"Selkie" has unfulfilled potential. "What life is like for the child she leaves behind" might make sense as a premise if the writer had intended (and then made it more clear) that the narrator is searching for Missing Mom, that she feels both guilt and anger at being left behind, and eventually grows up and realizes that love and loyalty are human qualities and don't appear in the non-human...but this story just sucks. It has potential for a novella or even a full novel--but not as it is, no. And Mona is just irrelevant, sorry, unless the author is admitting that she's looking for Missing Mom in her.

I'm not bothering with the gay white boyfriend story.

Anonymous Jill July 17, 2014 6:32 PM  

Yeah, perused Ink Readers. It's about wishes coming true--fantasy of a sort. I didn't read the whole thing.

Anonymous bob k. mando July 17, 2014 6:32 PM  

the key to Swirsky's story is this:
it's the perfect demonstration of the truth of Game.

consider her actual descriptions of the physical man who is NOT a T-Rex that she weaves throughout the story:
- You’d be a small one, only five feet, ten inches, the same height as human-you. You’d be fragile-boned and you’d walk with as delicate and polite a gait as you could
-Whereas you—fragile, lovely, human you—must rely on wits and charm.
- instead of seizing the pool cues with which they beat you, calling you a fag, a towel-head, a shemale, a sissy, a spic, every epithet they could think of, regardless of whether it had anything to do with you or not, shouting and shouting as you slid to the floor in the slick of your own blood.

1 - Swirsky is in danger of being harpooned
2 - the only males she can attract are Gammas
3 - she oh so desperately wishes that her Gamma was a Conan type Alpha, which "T-Rex" is a euphemism for

so, this is nominally about a geek she liked who got his ass kicked for some reason ... which, if only he had been manly enough ... wouldn't have happened.

uh, if i was the beating recipient, i think i'd just as soon she went somewhere else. i'm sitting here licking my wounds and my woman is telling me it's my fault because i'm not butch enough?

bitch, get the fuck out. now you haven't got ANY man, how you like that?

- I’d watch awkwardly in green chiffon that made me look sallow, as I listened to your vows. I’d be jealous, of course

yes, because green is the color of jealousy, hurr durr. subtlety, not her strong point.

-Still, I’d know that it was for the best that you marry another creature like yourself, one that shares your body and bone and genetic template.

uhhhhhh. somebody help me out here.

remember, this nominally an ode to a 'real' man ... that Swirsky wishes had more of the masculine attributes in which he is so woefully deficient ...

did Rachel really just endorse HBD and anti-miscegnation laws?

-If you were a dinosaur, my love, then nothing could break you, and if nothing could break you, then nothing could break me. I would bloom into the most beautiful flower. I would stretch joyfully toward the sun. I’d trust in your teeth and talons to keep you/me/us safe now and forever

yeah, i know.

a woman seeking external validation in the ( non-existent ) high status attributes of her man.

completely shocking. who could have foreseen this turn of events?

Anonymous Sigyn July 17, 2014 6:43 PM  

-Still, I’d know that it was for the best that you marry another creature like yourself, one that shares your body and bone and genetic template.

uhhhhhh. somebody help me out here.


He's gay, and she's his beard. It's a subtle plea for homogamy.

...No, I'm kidding. She's just gone off on a long tangent before turning into a giant flower and French-kissing random bees.

Blogger GK Chesterton July 17, 2014 6:47 PM  

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky. Not a story. Arguably a poem. Not fantasy. Not Science Fiction. Not eligible.

"The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I agree this wasn't bad it just wasn't exceptional in any sense. I'm torn on ranking this.

"Selkie Stories Are for Losers" by Sofia Samatar. While their are allusions to old stories again NO Fantasy elements and NO SF elements. This is not eligible.

"The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu. Unlike Selkies and Dinosaur this one qualifies. But it is terrible. The main character is selfish and I found myself hoping the sister would win. It propagandizes a lie (oh look happy monogamous couple!). It never explores the premise (lies cause rain) at all. Definitely not listing this.

Anonymous Salt July 17, 2014 7:48 PM  

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" could be parodied to the level of the Hitler parodies. Would be most entertaining.

Anonymous Obvious July 17, 2014 7:58 PM  

Generous of GK Chesterton to determine what's eligible to be voted for on the Hugo ballot. Should save us all the trouble of accidentally voting for a non eligible work.

Anonymous bob k. mando July 17, 2014 8:16 PM  

that does it, i can't take any more.

*will never post again*

also like to reiterate the point about the overwhelming passivity of most of these stories. there's no growth, no change, no problem solving, rarely any resolution.

just stifling passivity.

the 'protagonists' are completely inactive and most of whatever action there is is induced onto them.

it's as if most of them don't even grasp the concepts of 'empowerment' or actualization at all.

Blogger GK Chesterton July 17, 2014 8:23 PM  

Obvious, please list the fantasy or SF elements that I am missing that can't be attributed to a dream. I'll accept one.

Anonymous Daniel July 17, 2014 8:58 PM  

She only screwed up the title and the fantasy object. It should have been called Coda 4: The Redshirts Corollary

If you were a bowl of cereal, my love, you would be Cocoa Puffs. And I would eat you by the box, down to the last carbohydrate. I would not lift more than you. Your daughter would not lift more than you. But you are not Cocoa Puffs, and I do lift more than you, so if you ever even think of begging me for a blowjob again, you are so out of here, mister.

Anonymous Pellegri July 17, 2014 9:05 PM  

As a connoisseur of dinosaurs, I'm sort of pissed that IYWADML went for "a T-rex, but a small one" when the perfectly serviceable Nanotyrannus exists as just that thing.

This is on top of it being really shitty revenge fantasy, of course. I like how the narrator is perfectly happy to set her (unwitting, because he's now an animal) fiance up as a murderer that she can then hide behind. If you were a dinosaur, etc. etc., you could totally wreck those dudes who put you in a coma, and then be put down as a dangerous animal and I'd be double-sad.

Blogger ray July 17, 2014 10:06 PM  

Recently I took Best F&SF on the road, the first such fiction I've bothered with over the past couple decades. I've read about one third so far, and not one story is exceptional... they range from average to Huh?

In the Eighties and early Nineties when I read the Hugos and F/SF winner volumes, MOST of the pieces were at least quite good, and satisfying on some level. And many were marvelous -- and sometimes intimidating concerning my own efforts. Prize winners that stick for years, decades.

I published o.k. but dumped fiction writing in the early nineties, it being obvious that politics, petulance, ideology, Groupism, and especially feminism already had conquered U.S. publishing, literature, English departments, etc. Never regretted getting away from those people, that smarmy in-bred scene.

American art is d-e-d, like its governments, media and schools.

Devoid of real Spirit, the Howling Mediocrities can only slather ideology over the corpse, bestowing upon one another professorships, department chairs, and endless false awards.

Anonymous Porky July 17, 2014 10:07 PM  

Please, please vote for the dino-revenge-porn story. Please. I beg you all.

Anonymous Golden Shower July 17, 2014 10:25 PM  

The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere

Nowhere my ass.

Anonymous Don July 17, 2014 11:24 PM  

Wait, the dinosaur thing already won the Nebula? That can't be true. If the Onion did it I would say it was over the top.

Blogger CarpeOro July 18, 2014 12:20 AM  

"OT: Per ABC News, the White House is on lockdown."

Ahh, their new teenage-thirty year old students have arrived.

Blogger CarpeOro July 18, 2014 12:29 AM  

The descriptions of these stories make it sound like some malicious teenage hackers took over the site and substituted random drivel from some writer's workshop for depressed people. Only they didn't which makes me depressed. I may have to swear off any new fiction beyond the Evil League of Evil authors for awhile. Maybe Glen Cook and definitely not David Drake until his new stuff is heavily discounted. Some of his recent collaborations have been mediocre at best, pink sf at worst.

Blogger Leatherwing July 18, 2014 9:06 AM  

OK, so far only read the dinosaur story. It would have been blown away by pretty much any entry in the OC's Friday Challenges. What a load of crap.

Blogger Worlds Edge July 18, 2014 12:52 PM  

She [Swirsky] holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and graduated from Clarion West in 2005. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, the Sturgeon, and the Locus Award, and won the Nebula in 2010 for best novella.

I guess this means Sturgeon's Law applies to Sturgeon's Award? (Honestly, this is one I'd never heard of before. I'll have to look it up.)

Blogger Worlds Edge July 18, 2014 1:05 PM  

If you were a dinosaur, my love, I’d teach you the scents of those men. I’d lead you to them quietly, oh so quietly. Still, they would see you. They’d run. Your nostrils would flare as you inhaled the night and then, with the suddenness of a predator, you’d strike. I’d watch as you decanted their lives—the flood of red; the spill of glistening, coiled things—and I’d laugh, laugh, laugh.

Ummm, isn't this the sort of thing that would get a high school student sent to mandatory counseling? And their school put on lock down?

Anonymous Daniel July 18, 2014 3:54 PM  

Not when Adam Lanza "wrote" the same stuff, they didn't! I guess when your games of "hide and go die" star your pathetic boyfriend, it doen't even make the NY Post.

Anonymous Beardsley McTurbanhead July 18, 2014 10:36 PM  

At least there aren't any elves discovering religion and quoting Thomas Aquinas.

Blogger Matthew July 18, 2014 11:56 PM  

Beardsley, are you "yama the spacefish"? If not, have you read his work?

Anonymous VD July 20, 2014 7:54 AM  

Beardsley, are you "yama the spacefish"?

Yes, he is. Also known as Andrew Marston of Marshfield MA. He didn't heed my warning to stay away from here, so it's time to take care of business.

Post a Comment

Rules of the blog

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts