Hugo 2021 Reading – June

My biggest news – not only was “Portal Friends” published in the Mormon Lit Blitz, but it is also now available as an e-book available at your favorite store. I am experimenting with the universal book links, so the above link will take you to a place to choose the store you want.

I am a bit disappointed that I haven’t found more stories by now that I would rate 5 stars. Reading the Hugo finalists for this year definitely makes others pale in comparison. I’ve also been more distracted while listening to the podcasts (thanks kids!). At least school is over now, so I don’t have to be managing their learning as well. Anyway, here’s what I got through.

Who Goes Against a Waste of Waters” by Eleanna Castroianni
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I’m not a huge fan of ghost stories, so the introduction with ghost-sheep, ghost-milk, and ghost-grass put me off. Also, it’s never really explained how the ghost-things are different from live-things – they’re just there to set a mood, which is quite creepy – or what the ghost is that Who Tames Lions follows, so I felt a bit lost. The story has more to do with sibling relationships and grief, which fits the mood well.

Eight to the Eighth” by Liam Hogan
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

This was a cute fairy-tale like story. We’ve got a classic villainous witch who casts awful spells. The protagonist is unique though – a spider fed up with being split apart to create a dress and then put back together. Her plan to get out of it was clever, and the results were surprising. A fun read. It just didn’t have the oomph to give it five stars.

What Happens in Solarium Square 21” by Ashleigh Shears
a short story published by Clarkesworld

The robot shenanigans were fun. Pretending a patient in a nursing home is still alive, and then nearly getting caught, but the negotiations with the robot that gets wise to them don’t go the way you expect. I missed parts of Xohan’s internal struggle the first time through. It’s there, but between the audio, and my state of mind (why does the world have to go to pieces?), I hadn’t quite put it all together. I think that affected how much I liked the story.

Destinations of Joy” by Alexander Weinstein
a short story published by Lightspeed

This is the first of a (so far) three part series, which I didn’t realize until this moment looking back at the story. It stands well on its own. It’s just that millieu stories like this aren’t my jam. I tend to get turned off by long descriptions of place, and this travel brochure is 90% descriptions of fantastical places where people act different forms of joy. It’s only slightly speculative – and I prefer strong speculation, so not for me.

“Answered Prayers” by Scott Edelman
a short story published by Dreamforge

It takes awhile for the speculative element to appear, so it took awhile for my interest to kindle. The story calls attention to the fact that the premise has been done before – a bookstore that contains works that were never finished in our world (Admittedly, while it feels familiar, I can’t think of any particular stories I’ve read where this happens). I did like that this story parallels that premise with the grief of losing a child. I did wonder why the narrator never tried to read the many unpublished books he found, but I suppose it is unethical to read a book inside a bookstore without paying for it.

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