Crazy Hugo Project: The Novelettes

Little Kitty wonders: Better like this?

Alright, here are the novelettes nominated for the Hugo awards in the order that I read them.

“One of Our Bastards is Missing” by Paul Cornell
This is a story about futuristic England where they are able to make little pocket universes yet they still have a strict social order. In short, the story is about the current princess’s wedding day and the captain of her elite security force who is tasked with making it as secure as he can. Since this is a big political wedding, there are many people who would love to muck it up so security is extra vigilant. Still, someone is able to get through and things go awry.

This was a neat little story but it was a little hard to follow. I didn’t catch on to the little pocket universes thing without a few read throughs. To give the author credit, he wrote from the point of view of the main character (the security chief) and of course the main character would think this technology second nature and not call attention to it. But *I* don’t know what the technology is so “reaching for the space my gun was in” had me going ‘Buh…what? Space…gun…Huh?’ Only after running into this sort of thing a couple times (or maybe they mentioned hiding things away) was I able to suss out that they were using little null spaces to put things in. A bit confusing. This story is also part of a larger piece, or at least it is written like it is. I expect there is story before the actual Novelette and story after the novelette ends as we’re sort of dropped into the events and it seems liek there could be a lot more after the end of this particular episode.

“It Takes Two” by Nicola Griffith
This was an odd story about exploring a kind of brainwashing match making. A saleswoman agrees to participate in an experiment wherein a perfect match is found for her based on he likes and whatnot. The match also agrees to participate in the experiment and fortunately (or purposefully?) her tastes are in line with the saleswoman. Both of them participate in sessions wherein they are drugged so that they have no memory of taking about their likes and dislikes and then they “meet by chance”.

Of course the meeting is arranged, although neither of the participants knows this, and they hit it off like a house on fire. When they discover that they have been “engineered” for a best fit match they begin to doubt whether they feel for each other naturally or have been induced to feel for each other.

I liked the story well enough but to me it has some of the same problems that The City and The City had in that I can’t see where this is really sciency in the SciFi sense and it certainly isn’t very fantasy. Personally, I think a well science stocked social engineering group could pull this sort of thing off present day if they had the manpower and resources at their disposal. Badmovie seems to disagree with me on that and to some extent he is right because it would take a lot of effort for not a great deal of payoff so who would put forth that sort of experimenting? Nobody really. However, I contend that if, say, E*Harmony wanted to try to find a perfect match for a single pair of people and had mad 1337 hypnotherapists and a stash of that date rape drug (which they did use in the story) and a whole dedicated staff of researchers, it could be done. They might even pull off the “love at first sight” thing the story had going for it too.

“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster
This novelette is in contention amongst the four of us who are participating in the Crazy Hugo Project. Three of them Haaaaaated it and I…umm…I really kind of liked the story. This made me very cranky for a while until I realized there were a couple things about the actual story which…well let me explain.

This story, which I will call “Masks” because the real title is longer than the actual story, is about a very bee like society which functions by each citizen choosing a mask to wear every day. The mask is programmed with a “character”‘s persona which the citizen becomes for a day. At the end of the day, the masks are taken off and the next morning a new mask is donned. In the midst of this society, a group of discontents decide to forgo the masks and revert back to their natural state. They go about recruiting other people to become maskless in hopes of throwing off the mask society.

The story is interesting in that it plays with what is real and what isn’t but it also makes you assume things it isn’t telling you in order to make the story work. Personally, I thought the society was some sort of alien insectoid-ish people because a few key things said to me “These people can’t be human”. They aren’t insectoid either as a lot of the body references seem more human than insect. If the author intended for the people to be human than the book has some major flaws…but on the other hand nothing is overtly said to cue the reader in to the alien nature of the people.

The other conceit I had to adopt is that the masks lead to some sort of virtual world, although the main character seems to be mobile while wearing a mask. Perhaps the people are mobile but then return to their domicile (or wherever it is that they keep their masks) at the end of the day. Anyhow, at one point in time one of the masks is for a character who is flayed alive for their skin and the citizen wakes up back at the masks (whole and not flayed). I had a harder time with the masks as a VR platform conceit than I did the “These are aliens” conceit.

“Overtime” by Charles Stross
This is a one shot story in Stross’s “Laundry Novels” universe about our main hero who is forced to work over the Christmas holiday. Apparently, due to a several months long coma, Bob was unable to get in his vacation request and therefor must work over the break. Bureaucracy doesn’t care about your coma, if the time off request isn’t in you won’t get it off. On the plus side, there is an opening for the Night Duty Officer job during the break. It pays triple overtime.

Of course, because our hero works in the department of strange and fantastical things, ominous weird stuff begins to happen pretty early on, cumulative in what could be very bad stuff. Just remember: Some things play by long established rules and conceits and if you don’t have any goodies to feed to the thing trying to come down the chimney then it’s not obligated to leave after it arrives.

I am highly amused by Stross’s writing, he manages to make a story light with ominous undertones. I also appreciated that I didn’t have to know any of the source material (which I haven’t yet read, although TheMan has been telling me snippets of the stories here and there) to read the short. It’s a well done stand alone which also happens to be part of a larger universe of work.

“Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky
This story is about an abused woman who orders herself up a robot lover (which creepily she models after her abusive father). They adopt a kid and then the robot wanders off into the dessert to find himself after the parrot dies.

Yeah…ummm…this was an odd duck of a story because it never really seemed to get off the ground. The woman is abused and…it never really gets addressed other than “This is a characteristic for the main heroine of the story”. Robot lover looks like daddy and…then it never really goes anywhere with that. The parrot is crazy but all parrots are pretty much crazy. So the lesson learned is that dead parrots will cause your robot to lose its mind and wander out into the desert.

“The Island” by Peter Watts
This story is about a generation ship that makes gates in far off places for humanity to come through at their leisure. The crew spends most of their time in suspended animation, only waking up to build a gate to a new place in space. They are also woken up if strange things outside the scope of the ship’s AI crop up. Say a possible intelligent space entity which happens to be right where the gate is scheduled to go.

The Island
One of our Bastards is Missing
Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast
It Takes Two
Eros, Philia, Agape

Or better like this.

2009: JSFR: Lucky Stick (chocolate cream)

2008: Not updating.

2007: It looks like the Bru-ha-ha (which I mentioned above as being the thing that is keeping me from a nap) is going to be well populated again this year. Huzzah!

2006: Vacating and not updating.

2005: They have a frog up on the screen that’s barking. Or something. I don’t know, the mouth is making huge ‘AHP AHP AHP’ motions and occasionally the eyes blink.

2004: JSFR: Chelsea Berry & Milk Scotch.

2003: The preview for the Italian Job cracked my shit up solely for the fact that everyone was taking shots at Edward Norton. It was funny. Shut up, it was too!

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