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Hugo 2012 3: Novelettes

“The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov's, July 2011)
The world of this novelette is an exceedingly odd one; whilst Cornell posits an alternative physics and an alternative Newtonian system (conveniently leaving aside that the Newtonian system he suggests is in fact Berkeleyan, and was posited), how this leads to the rest of the world he describes – great powers, the balance, and so on – is very unclear to this reader.  Granting that premise, however, and the story simply becomes a fun, confusing mess; there’s too much and also too little happening, with the reader never given any clarity on what’s actually going on in the story, and with characters failing to actually make sense as coherent singular individuals, a real problem in a work this length.  Some interesting and fun ideas, but a novel(la) would’ve been a better length to explore them at.
“Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
Read in Eclipse 4; reread for voting purposes. On a reread, much of the strength of this story evaporates, leaving the bones behind; Swirsky’s story – a paean to nostalgia and “innocent” childhood over actually confronting problems, dealing with difficult emotions or even engaging with them – doesn’t have characters so much as archetypes, none of whom deserve sympathy or raise interest, and none of whom are particularly believable as characters.  This may be Swirsky’s third Hugo nomination, but it’s certainly not Hugo-worthy.
“Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog, December 2011)
Torgersen’s story is a strange little piece.  Leaving aside the strange contradictions and weirdness of the story (no one thought to attack the cloud with, say, a nuke or two?), the characters just don’t seem true; we keep being told about the life-changing events and massive, global tragedy that our protagonist went through, but never see it really having an effect on him at all.  Indeed, the whole story feels a bit like that – Torgersen never quite accepting his premises, walking back from them, and in so doing immeasurably weakening his own story by failing to accept his own premises to the point that nothing quite works…
“Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)
Anders’ story is a romanceless romance, a piece of writing that I really don’t have the mind or heart to believe in; in no small part because I don’t understand either character, neither of whom strike me as remotely human – although perhaps Doug does, somewhat.  Both clairvoyant, in different ways, neither actually seems to use their gift in the way it’s described; Doug doesn’t simply follow the script (because we see him do things not in it), and Judy doesn’t ever try to change her script, seeming more like Doug from the very start.  It’s a really problematic little piece, because its own conceits fail completely, and its own ideas aren’t held to; a surprisingly poor entry onto the ballot, honestly.
“What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September/October 2011)
This story is very much not really genre fiction – it breaks science fiction by turning away, completely, from science as its very premise, and doesn’t really embrace that premise even as it seems to accept it.  As a character study, it has no characters, really; just a set of people who can’t really seem to come into focus in the narrative, worst of all the narrator who doesn’t seem to have character, just be the imprint of others; and as a set-piece, it doesn’t work, because it’s not coherent or whole enough.  This really does disappoint on a number of levels, but most of all in its characters, because they work so poorly as characters.
All in all, this is a really weak field – disappointingly so, given the strength of both novellas and novels this year (to my mind).  Nothing really worthy of a Hugo, I think the only honest vote will be “no award” here, sadly, with only the Cornell to perhaps come before that!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2012 09:11 pm (UTC)
I'm in pretty much complete agreement here. I voted 'No Award'.

The Cornell appeals to me but is ultimately a bit messy and less than the sum of its parts. The Swirsky I thought was OK on a first reading, but the message it ends with seems to me to a dubious preference for wallowing in nostalgia instead of dealing with your problems. The Anders had a good concept but ultimately didn't engage. The Ryman is a failure and the Torgersen is just sort of there. Not a worthy winner among them.
Jul. 14th, 2012 09:54 pm (UTC)
I'm not even entirely sure the Swirsky ends with nostalgia, just... apathy. Which is really, well, apathy-inducing; she completely misses the mark with that, as much as with the failed character-creating.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


reading, books
Daniel Franklin


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