Hugo Review – Best Short Story

As I previously mentioned, I’m attempting to consume as much of the 2012 Hugo Short Listed works in order to make an informed vote.

I  am now on to the category of Best Short Story.

This is my review of all five short stories.

Note, this review is obviously subjective and most definitely biased, based on the topics and style of writing which interest and entertain me.

This review may contain SPOILERS.


The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu

A very “heavy” (for lack of a better word) tale about the last hive of a special type of wasps (cartographers), who enslave a nearby bee hive and in exchange for servitude and tribute teach, the bees their knowledge. Such slavery combined with education leads to a not entirely unexpected outcome. Reading this, I had images of the British Empire at its peak, followed by its inevitable decline, and I’d be curious if American readers had similar colonialist images. I think I could re-read this and pick up more, but too many stories, not enough time!


The Homecoming by Mike Resnick

After many years away, a son returns to the family home where his Alzheimer suffering mother is on her deathbed, and his father does not forgive him for leaving. The only thing which makes this story SF, is that the son was away, as he’d undergone surgery to make him look like one of the native species of the particular planet he was studying. As a primarily character driven story without anything that really hooked me, I don’t rate this particularly highly, but tastes vary!


Movement by Nancy Fulda

Hannah is a young girl with temporal autism; it takes days or weeks for her to formulate and deliver the perfect answer to a question, by which time everyone has moved on. A side effect of Hannah’s condition is her incredible ballet dancing ability. Hannah’s parents are faced with a decision – to try an experimental gene therapy which may cure Hannah at the cost of her dancing ability, or to watch as she grows up in a world where she’s different from everyone else, and hope that her dancing makes her extraordinary. I found myself really enjoying this story, and could easily put myself in Hannah’s shoes (so to speak), misunderstood and frustrated at others inability to understand her, and stuck subject to their decisions.  This is definitely a contender for my Hugo vote.


The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

Jack is a half Chinese, half American boy, son of a mail order Chinese bride, growing up in America. Whilst young, he’s fascinated by the paper animals made by his mother, and animated with her magic, but turns away from it and her later as he strives for American normalcy. Resenting his mother for her differences, it’s not until she passes and he discovers a letter from her hidden in one of the animals in the paper menagerie that he comes to understand his mother, and regrets the decisions he made. This was a very heart tugging tale of what it is to grow up different, the way fitting in and being normal are so incredibly important to a child, and that they’ll do almost anything for it, only to regret the lost opportunities later. I think I’ll have a tough choice between this and Movement for my Hugo vote.


Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue by John Scalzi

Written as an April Fool’s joke by Scalzi in collaboration with Tor, if the title didn’t give it away, you know you’re in for parody from the first paragraph – a single 150 word sentence full of nonsensical creature and location names such as Skalandarharia and Drindelthengenflagenmorden. It has it’s moments, and you can tell Scalzi’s enjoying himself, but some of the humour didn’t quite work for me. I’m sad enough that I’d read the book / 15 volume trilogy if it was written though!


So that’s my Hugo reading done. Let’s see how much of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer reading I can get through before I need to vote (I probably won’t have time to review them though!).



Best Short Story Background Material:

Short listed in the Best Short Story category for the 2012 Hugos are:

“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld)
“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s)
“Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s)
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (


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