My votes for the 2021 Hugo Best Short Story Award

The Hugo Awards will be presented at Discon III, the 79th World Science Fiction Convention, in Washington, DC, from December 15 to 19. I plan to be there. As a Worldcon member, I get to vote on the Hugos.

Here’s my ballot for the short stories. Every single one of these stories is worth reading, and choosing the winner is tough. Is a six-way tie possible? I guess not. I have to rank them for voting, and I know other voters have made very different choices, and I can’t fault them.

Note that, at least in my opinion, most of the short stories this year have a bit of a gentle, sweet tone. I suspect that’s just coincidence, but I don’t mind. Lately real life has been rough and bitter for all of us.

6. “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020). An naive pair of life forms made of metal encounter a stronger, evil metal life form in a story that evokes the fairy-tale style of “Hansel and Gretel” and updates its substance.

5. “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse” by Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020) A woman gives birth in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Well-paced and vivid.

4. “The Mermaid Astronaut” by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020). A mermaid wants to travel to the stars, and she does, then discovers the price. Although quiet and sweet, the narration is compelling.

3. “Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer ( A woman sets up a free library, and one of the borrowers leaves strange and wonderful gifts. As so often with her stories, it’s at once gentle, sweet, and terrifying.

2. “Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen). A haunted house wants a family and will do everything it can to make those people happy. Sweet without being sentimental.

1. “A Guide for Working Breeds” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris)). Two robots with mismatched personalities find ways to help each other. This is my top choice because of its humor, the strong voices of its protagonists, the oblique but effective way it tells the story, ending on a sweet note, and because I’m a fan of Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

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