Reading the Hugos (2019) STET

STET, by Sarah Gailey, is a short story finalist that plays with the layout and formatting possibilities of a website to explain a story through footnotes and comments. It’s basically a very short (a single paragraph) text written in standard, soulless academese but the text is expanded thanks to a copious amount of footnotes which, at the same time, have comments, back and forth, between the original writer and the editor of the piece. In fact, the title of the short story, STET, is the annotation written by writers or proofreaders when commenting alterations made by an editor, and it means “let it stand” (in other words, ignore that comment/I don’t agree with your correction.) It’s through these notes that the real story unfolds and you get a good glimpse of what is going on behind the apparently emotionless text.

As I said, the text itself is quite short, and I’m going to post it here (and there’s a reason I don’t want to link to it right now):

Section 5.4 — Autonomous Conscience and Automotive Casualty

While Sheenan’s Theory of Autonomous Conscience was readily adopted by both scholars and engineers in the early days of Artificial Intelligence programming in passenger and commercial vehicles, contemporary analysis reinterprets Sheenan’s perspective to reveal a nuanced understanding of sentience and consciousness. Meanwhile, Foote’s On Machinist Identity Policy Ethics produces an analysis of data pertaining to autonomous vehicular manslaughter and AI assessments of the value of various life forms based on programmer input only in the tertiary. Per Foote’s assessment of over eighteen years of collected data, autonomous vehicle identity analyses are based primarily on a collected cultural understanding of identity and secondarily on information gathered from scientific database, to which the AI form unforeseeable connections during the training process. For the full table of Foote’s data, see Appendix D.

Now that you have read it, you can jump straight to the first note and read them from there, navigating using the ↩ symbols. Don’t scroll up; only down. I’ve never cared about spoilers in these posts I make about the Hugos, but this time I will wait for you to read the story first; it’s not too long and I believe it’s worth it.


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Reading the Hugos (2019) The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington

Commenting on my last post, where I gave a harsh beating to the previous Hugo short story finalist, Alexandru Constantin mentioned that he “can’t get past the stupid titles.” Yes, I have thought about that too, and it’s a common issue with these award-worthy stories or those that give off some kind of literary aspiration: they usually have humongous titles. It’s like they are trying to compensate for something, or perhaps it’s a way to mark the story as one of their own. It reminds me of that amusing observation about the length of a country’s official names correlating with how undemocratic it is (e.g., People’s Democratic Republic of Something or Other.)

I’m pleased to announce that that does not apply to today’s story, and even if the title is ridiculously long and descriptive, in this case, it seems more a matter of extreme literalism and lack of imagination to come up with titles than anything else.

This one is good.

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Reading the Hugos (2019) The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society

This story is quite pointless. It’s also the female equivalent of those stories written by pervy old men whose dashing protagonists bangs every well-endowed lady in the land, but with the female twist (actually, the need) of the males longing for the woman many years or decades later. But as I said; it’s just pointless. Not bad, just without a point or purpose. I do not know why it exists. I do not know why 1,887 words were arranged to form this short story. I can see this existing as a joke, a post in somebody’s blog, a somewhat comedic snapshot, but I can’t see why this is a Hugo nominee, potentially the best fantasy or sci-fi short story of the year. In fact, there’s hardly anything fantastical in this story aside from the half-satyr’s titanic schlong and Rose’s irresistible sex appeal (and legendary endurance.)

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Reading the Hugos (2019) The Court Magician

It’s that time of the year once more: time to read the Hugo Award finalists and be shocked, amused, horrified, and (occasionally) entertained. As usual, I’ll stick to the short stories because they are free to and it’s where hungry, ambitious authors try to show off, so there’s hardly a better category to get a graphography (is that a word?) of the current zeitgeist, but I may throw in a novelette if I feel like it.

Of course, for the same reason there is such a thing as Oscar bait, there’s also Hugo bait, so expect to see certain patterns with these stories—or just with their authors. Like in previous years, gender is one main theme, and of the four big categories (novel, novella, novelette, and short story,) with 24 stories and 22 authors, 18 of the finalists are women, 2 identify as trans, and 2 weirdos are men. There are also many names you might recognize from previous years. Make of those things what you will.

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Your magic-slinging protag may have ruined magic (unless you’re Jack Vance—then you’re cool.)

Get Mythic, by Amatopia, commenting on a Twitter thread about the decline of a “mythical” feeling in fantasy. The gist of the idea, at the risk of simplification, is that contemporary fantasy has a materialistic feeling. It lacks “a richness, a whiff of the unearthly that permeates everything. Magic is the best word to describe it.” Wonder, awe, whatever you want to call it. Essentially the opposite of a setting where magic has been reduced to supernatural engineering or a form of energy manipulation described by a language (both by the narrator and characters) analogous to the one ushered by the scientific revolution.

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Deep POV shallowness Part 2 : no similes, no metaphors, no style.

Latching a narrator onto a single POV has many unintended consequences, and these are unfortunately invisible until they explode in your face, so one can read (or write) texts that should be, in theory, bristling with excitement but, in reality, are dull and shallow. I mentioned a few ways I believe this happens in the linked post above, but one that I think deserves its own post is this: hardly anybody writes similes, analogies, or metaphors anymore, and these are one of the fundamental tools in any writer’s craft.

Continue reading “Deep POV shallowness Part 2 : no similes, no metaphors, no style.”