- “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
Harmless. Like a Eurovision winning song, I found it hard to remember the next day. It might have made admirable filler in an anthology, but fails as the starring act.
On the planet of the Ymilas, the ghosts (or souls) of the dead hang around in a magnetic field for several generations before departing. When the first human (Joe) dies on the planet, lo and behold, the same thing happens to him. Fortunately, a canonical requirement of puppy nominated fiction is that there must be a chaplain provided for any exploratory base, so the human ghost is able to receive spiritual guidance during the uneventful pilgrimage to its dissipation. No attempt is made to answer any of the interesting questions which might arise from the premise of magnetic ghosts. Why doesn’t Joe’s ghost want to hang around for six or seven generations like those of the natives? What do the natives think of this haste to depart? Why don’t the natives object to a human gate-crashing their ritual? The writing is flat and bland, and everyone behaves and speaks like a character from a 50s pulp story. Bob Dylan told the story better in under 6 minutes in 'Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)'.
“Señor, señor, let’s disconnect these cables
Overturn these tables
This place don’t make sense to me no more
Can you tell me what we’re waiting for, señor?”
- “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
A Christian allegory, in Wright’s distinctive flowery and adjective laden prose. Hardly an exemplar of the ‘Puppies’ demand for rip roaring adventures, just like those told in the Golden Age. Instead, with man departed the scene, selected animals must decide whether to take on man’s discarded mantle. So they sit around and talk. And talk. The cat has all the best lines.
- “A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)
From a Monster Story anthology comes a tale of a single, unnamed samurai doing battle with a mountainous kaiju (monster). The monster is laying waste to the landscape. There follows a blow by blow account of our hero's motivations, plus observations and an account of the tortuous difficult pathway to his destiny. Interludes explain the role of the samurai in society, the hara-kiri ritual and the forging of swords, though in this instance not in excruciating detail. The expositions do have a point though, and are crucial to the denouement.
Minor quibble. The story is told in the first person, and that person dies at the end .
Overall, the story is just a bit meh. There is nothing in it which shouts out 'Hugo'
- “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge magazine, July 2014)
The only story in the category which I believe is worthy of nomination. A neuroscientist is injured in a car accident. Badly. The title refers to the triage method used in English’s world. The amount spent on your medical treatment depends upon the economic value which would accrue after the patient’s recovery. The implication could have been explored further, but this is not the thrust of the tale.
As a scientist, the narrator believed herself to be safe from being ‘written off’. But she signed a waiver….and ended up as a brain in a jar (having ‘Futurama’ flash-forwards here) courtesy of the evil corporation which owns her workplace.
The story arc will be familiar to anyone who knows 'Flowers for Algernon'. Communication is achieved (I liked the means used, smells, disgust) with colleagues, progress is made, but decay sets in. Everything has a use by date it seems.
Kary English is nominated for the Campbell Award, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
- “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
The same story as told by Tom Kratman in his nominated novella, told in fewer words, but with higher ratio of weapons porn to storytelling. Blessedly short, and with a massive spoiler in the title.
All told, the short stories category is disappointing. It is difficult to justify voting for the one good story amongst them when the competition is below par.
- No Award
- On A Spiritual Plain
- A Single Samurai
- The Parliament of Beasts and Birds