Or, Vox Unpopuli, Vox...

1) “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
I loved this - I liked the layered story, I liked the SF "gimmick" that kicks the whole thing off. I'm a fan of unreliable narrators (though struggle to remember that unreliable narrators are /always/ unreliable, particularly after they've just had a revelation), and I liked the way that this explored its moral question ("is it actually better to remember accurately?") without definitely coming down on one side or the other.
2) “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
So, being a bit thick, it took me a little while to "get" this. I enjoyed it enough on first read, which I took rather at face value. It was only later that I thought about it more allegorically (and it is allegory, without question), and thought that it was a powerful statement about what it feels like to be removed from your own culture and effectively brainwashed in another one, even when that brainwashing is done for (possibly) noble reasons. I quite like the dislocated method of storytelling, but like unreliable narrators, I can imagine people justifiably not liking it.
3) “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com / Tor.com, 09-2013)
Other people seem to have liked this more than I did, which is to say that I enjoyed it, but found that the dilemma element never really convinced me - I couldn't see it ending any other way, and that made it all feel a little pat. I did like the way the characters were drawn, and it is nice to have an old-fashioned SF story with an older women protagonist.
4) “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
Above no award because I felt it wasn't taking the mickey. It's not very good, though - the writing is too "on the nose", to the point of being clunky, the tech gimmick is unoriginal and the politics are stupid and a bit offensive. Oh, and the ending is irritating. But it's not a joke of a story.
No Award
“Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
Ballot-stuffed. Not good in any way. Dull used furniture, bad religion, worse words. Would not support author if entire genre depended on it. Unintentionally hilarious in places.

From: [identity profile] whatifoundthere.livejournal.com

I would have much preferred the Chiang story if it didn't have the clumsy, borderline-racist "LOLOL THE PRIMITIVES JUST DISCOVERED WRITING AND IT IS LIKE MAGIC TO THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE ORAL TRADITION PEOPLES!!!!!1!!!" B-plot. Though I don't expect the average reader on the street to know this, the "writing seems like magic to primitives" trope is a really really gross racist theme in nineteenth-century anthropology, and though Chiang tried to invert it, I don't think he succeeded in any productive way ("MAYBE the MISSIONARIES are the REAL PRIMITVES!" is not a very interesting subtext IMO). A lot of my friends were really smitten by this story and I think it's likely that it'll win, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I wish he'd stuck with the memory-machine bits, which were creative and clever and led to a neat, surprising ending.

I loved de Bodard's work this year and I really want her to succeed (if not in the form of a Hugo, at least in the form of the respect she deserves). I find it interesting that you didn't see the allegory in that story -- it hit me like a fucking freight train pretty much around the fifth or sixth paragraph, but of course I have been raised in such a way as to feel the anxieties that the characters she writes about feels.

From: [identity profile] borusa.livejournal.com

I'm quite slow at spotting allegory full-stop, unless primed to do so somehow.

From: [identity profile] atreic.livejournal.com

Hmm. I found the exploration of how being able to store information in writing changes cultures and the way people think about things a) interesting in its own right, and b) a really useful and strong parallel to the exploration of how being able to record every memory precisely would change cultures and the way people think about things. Do you think there are ways of writing about the general idea that could avoid some of the ikky racist themes that made you uncomfortable?

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