Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Starting to vote on the Hugos . . .

Working my way up from short stories to novels, because obviously short stories are so much less of a time commitment.

That matters because I’m starting to work on my own stuff again now. I’m writing a short story/novella short story set in the Black Dog world, and in fact set after the second book. That’s to get in the mood, plus I had the whole plot in my head (very unusual for me). My goal is to pick up the second book on Monday and basically have a rough draft finished by the end of August. That should be very doable, since it’s roughly 75 days. If I write 4 pp per day (roughly 1300 words), that will be 300 pages, and since I have 100 pages sitting there already, that should get me there. Unless I overwrite by 100 pages, which has happened to me TWICE and is very annoying.

I’m pretty sure I know the whole rough plot for Book 2. I sure hope I do, because if certain events do not occur, then the short story I’m working on now is going to find itself orphaned for lack of continuity, which would be unfortunate.

Anyway! Hugos.

Of course there were only the three short story nominees: “Immersion” by de Bodard, “Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson, and “Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu.

I’m putting “Mono no Aware” first, “Immersion” second — I genuinely liked both of these; I was particularly impressed by how Liu’s story strove to evoke a particular emotion or attitude that doesn’t really translate to English. I think it succeeded pretty well. It’s fundamentally a tragic story, of course, but actually the mono no aware attitude makes that more bearable.

Then I’m voting for No Award before “Mantis Wives,” which as you may recall, I loathed when I first read it. Still loathe it. Plus, hello, it’s NOT A STORY. It’s a series of images, which is not the same thing.

Okay, novelettes!

I actually disliked “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Heuvelt so much I didn’t finish it. I hated the protagonist and that stopped me from caring about what was going to happen, and I just quit.

I am not very familiar with Seanan McGuire’s paranormal Toby Daye series; I read the first couple but didn’t really like them; that may be why I didn’t really get into her “Rat-Catcher“, which I also didn’t actually finish, though I didn’t hate it like the Heuvelt one.

I did finish “In Salt-Sea Tears” and I . . . sort of liked it, in a way. I could see the “twist” coming a mile away and I thought the relationship which that plot-twist depended on was kind of forced. And actually I didn’t believe in some aspects of Selkie society, and in fact the more I think about the story, the more trouble I have with this aspect. I don’t want to go into details that would spoil the story, but that’s how it was for me.

I enjoyed “Fade To White” by Valente. I thought it was an extremely clever and artistic story, but the way every possible sub-plot worked out in the most depressing way possible is basically designed to make me unhappy.

For me the pick of the lot is definitely “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Cadigan, which was funny, clever, entertaining, SF rather than fantasy (which I think is a plus for the Hugo, though it’s not a dealbreaker for me), and at least moderately upbeat. Sorry, don’t see a link for it, but it’s definitely worth reading.

So for me, the novelette lineup is: “The Girl-Thing”, “Fade to White”, “In Salt Sea Tears”, and No Award.

On to the novellas! I have two more to read before I can vote on those. Also two more novels to read — a bit awkward when I need to be working on Black Dog Book 2, but I’ll manage. Too bad I didn’t have them on my Kindle when I was in Costa Rica, but on the other hand I can hardly regret reading all those books by Andrea Host. I think I may buy The Touchstone trilogy in paper so I can lend them.

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7 Comments Starting to vote on the Hugos . . .

  1. Elaine T

    The Seanan McGuire Selkie story is available free on her website.

    I read it: meh.

    I didn’t believe in the selkiness, I think.

    Of course the most plausible selkie story I ever recall reading wasn’t a real selkie. It was a kid who swam with the seal in a sealskin, though. His neighbors thought he was a selkie.

  2. Rachel

    I like the idea of selkies — which I guess means that I already have an idea of what selkies ought to be, and this didn’t match that idea, so it bothered me. I don’t really want to put in serious spoilers, but the idea that selkies have actually been killing their own childrento keep their deep dark secret — clearly indicated in one line of the story — is not really believable. And also repulsive.

  3. Elaine T

    It is, and I wonder how often it comes to that.

    I’ve been thinking about why that one book (TALARGIN by Joyce Gard) works for me as a selkie story, and realize a good part of it: Seals! The title character actually interacts with seals, he names them, knows personalities, etc., calls the herd to bring attack enemies…. If selkies are seal-people, I want to see them in water, with seals and so on. (So I can suspend my disbelief about our hero surviving in waters off England’s coast circa 800AD in naught but grease and a sealskin, and being thought a selkie.)

    In the short story that started this conversation, we hardly go near the water, and we certainly don’t interact with it or seals much, if at all. It is only a selkie story because that’s the chosen mcguffin, it could be any lost love story.

  4. Linda S

    SPOILER WARNING FOR SHORT STORIES

    I’m really torn on the short stories. I liked “Immersion” better this time around than I did when I first read it, but parts of it still felt like getting whacked in the head with a ball-peen hammer. On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, I do give de Bodard a lot of credit for not making Galen a villain.

    I thought “Mono no Aware” was very moving (I cried at the end, though that’s not a particularly high bar), and I liked it much better than any other Ken Liu story I’ve read. My only hesitation in putting it first is that I’d rather not encourage people to write yet more stories where the world is destroyed and billions of people die. At least it’s central to the story in this case and not just a backdrop for the post-apocalypse story the author is actually interested in.

    When push comes to shove, I’ll probably put “Mono no Aware” in first place, with “Immersion” in second. Based on your posts, I decided to skip “Mantis Wives.”

  5. Linda S

    SPOILER WARNING FOR NOVELETTES (and for Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly)

    I liked “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” well enough to finish it, but I agree that the protagonist was pretty unpleasant. Also, it’s basically magical realism (or possibly just allegory) rather than the sort of fantasy where the world is supposed to make logical sense given certain assumptions, and that isn’t really my cup of tea. In the kind of fantasy I usually prefer, you might have people made of glass, but you certainly wouldn’t send them to school to run around with kids who could easily kill them! But of course Heuvelt isn’t interested in figuring out what the world would be like if some people were actually made of glass; the glass thing is just a symbol of the fragility of life, or whatever.

    I also finished “Rat-Catcher,” but the whole fae cat-people society didn’t do much for me. The fact that the protagonist thought it was more important to keep the veil of secrecy intact than to warn his human friends of the fire didn’t make him especially likable. But of course I’m not a cat person.

    I agree with you that the selkie society in “Salt Sea” didn’t really make sense and that the relationship with Annie seemed kind of forced. Also, the story assumes that it’s obvious that the kids would all desperately want to be selkies (possibly because the author would), but I wasn’t sure exactly what the protagonist was pining after so desperately. When Jenny had to choose between John and Morkeleb in Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane, I knew exactly what the choice was and why it was hard. Here, I didn’t viscerally feel either side of the choice, and insofar as I did, I felt that Liz was obviously making the wrong one.

    “Fade to White” actually felt pretty heavy-handed to me. I guess it’s possible that people might have set up a horrible society like that under the circumstances, but that’s not a story I particularly want to read. And as you said, she worked very hard to have every single subplot end as horribly as possible.

    I don’t think I liked “Girl Thing” as much as you did, but I definitely appreciated the fun, breezy tone. This will definitely be my #1 pick; I’m not sure yet if I’ll rank the others or just go with “No Award” as #3 or even #2.

  6. Rachel

    Hi, Linda — I think I liked The Girl-Thing more after reading the others than I would if I’d read it first, since I really didn’t care for the rest of them. And that’s an excellent point about DRAGONSBANE and how different the choice felt when it was properly set up.

  7. Rachel

    You’re right, Elaine, adding actual seals to the mix would make all the difference in the world for me!

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