Six fine novelettes made it to the final ballot for this year’s Hugo Awards. Any one of them deserves to win, so how do I decide? Literary merit can be measured in many ways, such as technical excellence or imaginative leaps. I’ll rank them according to my opinion of their daring. Which one took the biggest risks?
6. “Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super” by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2020) Superheros are feared and hated — by themselves and by the public at large — for their poorly controlled powers. Emotions in the story are carefully depicted. This novelette excels in technical excellence.
5. “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020) What happens after Paradise Lost by Milton? The fallen angels become prey in a fast-moving murder mystery. An impressive imaginative leap.
4. “Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com) A woman finds herself caught in a web of her own lies. Genuinely creepy horror. Both technical excellence and an imaginative leap are at work here.
3. “Monster” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020) A medical researcher looks for a friend, and the search takes a terrible turn. People are not who they seem to be in this powerful story of betrayal. Technical excellence and a daring plot twist.
2. “The Pill” by Meg Elison (from Big Girl, PM Press) A pill can cure obesity, and people rush to take it despite its “acceptable” casualties. A daring story that dissects our current society with a pitiless scalpel, exposing how deep our prejudices reach and how much pain they cause. This story might change the way you think.
1. “Helicopter Story” by Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020) Without a doubt, given the intense negative reaction to the story on many fronts at its initial publication, this story took the most risks. “To be yourself well is the wholest and best feeling that anything has ever felt,” the story says, but, “We are propelled by disaster.”