I’d dropped the blog ball over the weekend. I’ve got less than a week before the Hugo Awards Ceremony announces the winners and about three days before the 1939 Retro Hugo Award winners are revealed. No use crying over spilled milk, though, so on to the novelette category:
BEST NOVELETTE 2014
- “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013) – part of anthology Lights in the Deep – Read (4 stars); very good – #1
- “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com / Tor.com, 09-2013) – read when it was first available via the Tor.com website Fall 2013 – Read (3.5-4 stars); liked it – #2
- “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands) – found epub on author’s website; downloaded. Read (3 stars); okay; preachy; obvious – #5
- “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013) – already had the ezine downloaded back in Fall 2013– Read Saturday May 24, 2014 (3 – 4 stars) interesting, but not earth-shattering – #4
- “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam) – available in the voting packet – Read (3.5-4 stars) good – #3
Torgersen again shone brightly in this category, as he did in the novella nominees. I had a hard time deciding who would get the number two spot, as I liked “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” and “The Waiting Stars” equally. In the end I succumbed to a bit of home state vanity and opted for Mary Robinette Kowal’s story over the one created by Aliette de Bodard.
The final two stories didn’t do much for me. Vox Day has a chip on his shoulder and that really set my teeth on edge. I like to see Christian science fiction or fantasy nominated for awards, but the story “Opera Vita Aeterna” just didn’t resonate as I’d hoped it would. Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” left little to no impression upon me, so it was really a tie for last place for both of those stories. In my eyes, there’s a huge gap between first, second and third and the ‘also rans’ by Day and Chiang.
BEST NOVELETTE 1939
- “Dead Knowledge” by Don A. Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Stories, January 1938) – Borrowed A New Dawn anthology; 3 to 3.5 stars – #2
- “Hollywood on the Moon” by Henry Kuttner (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1938) – pdf in voting packet; 2.5 to 3 stars – #5
- “Pigeons From Hell” by Robert E. Howard (Weird Tales, May 1938) – ebook in voting packet; 3.5 to 4 stars – #1
- “Rule 18” by Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938) – not available in US
- “Werewoman” by C. L. Moore (Leaves #2, Winter 1938) – ebook in voting packet; 3 stars – #4
This category provided me the most annoyance for the least return on investment. The late arriving 1939 Retro Hugo voting packet included only three of the five stories. The other two, “Dead Knowledge” by John W. Campbell and “Rule 18” by Clifford D. Simak, became my lost treasure to my pirate ship. The first one didn’t require a treasure map with “X” marking the spot, as I found it conveniently in an anthology containing all of Campbell’s stories written under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart. The second one became a quest unto itself.
Simak’s “Rule 18” was published twice: once in Astounding Science Fiction in July 1938 and again as part of an anthology in 1990, published in the UK, as The Autumn Land and Other Stories. If I wanted to drop between $50 or $100 dollars, I could obtain a copy of the original publication. The same goes for the anthology, as it doesn’t appear to be readily available here in the States. Even Interlibrary Loan showed the nearest copy to me (in Kansas) as being in Dublin, Ireland. In a last-ditch effort, I contacted the local Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, hoping that a member might have either of the “Rule 18” publications. All my efforts proved futile, and the treasure remained lost.
Of the four available novelettes, Campbell and Howard put forth the best efforts. I gave the edge to “Pigeons from Hell” over “Dead Knowledge” but again there was a wide gap between the front runners and the ‘also rans’ of Moore’s “Werewoman” (strange and drawn out, floundered around a lot) and Kuttner’s “Hollywood on the Moon” (which was just plain silly).
Novelette Parting Thoughts
Unlike the previous post on the novellas, the 2014 slate provided more reading satisfaction than the retro slate of nominees. Any of my top three novellete choices for 2014 were good reads, much better than what I muddled through from 1939. The shorter format from the late 30s seemed to mimic the current paranormal fad in young adult fiction today; a subgenre I tend to avoid like the proverbial plague. If it’s got zombies, vampires or werewolves, I usually skip it. The exception was Howard’s “Pigeons from Hell.”
Next Time: Best Short Stories of 2014 and 1939