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 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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Thoughts on biases and manuscript reading from the other side of the Atlantic

Via one of the blogs I follow (Amatopia), I found this interview with veteran author Paul Clayton. He talks a bit about his life and work and then he is asked about where he believes publishing is going and how his late works, most of them self-published, tie with that.

Clayton claims traditional self-publishing is too slow and that the selection process has become incestuous, compromised by what I guess could be described as either identity politics or just a very homogenous editorial class.

But I was never one of these dominant, mega-selling, white males. I was a “mid-list” author, as my first agent told me. But now, anybody that looks and sounds like me, is, in my opinion, wasting their time trying to get past the 20-year-old female, or feminized male, junior acquisition editors and interns. Especially if they write about what I would describe as “traditional America and Americans.”


But along came eBooks and they have given my writing career, such as it is, new life, although not as vibrant and visible as traditionally published books. You CAN publish without waiting five years, but so can everyone else.


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November 15 story: Twenty Feet, Part III

Part I, Part II

“Who is, or was, this Bardo?” Corin asked.

“Is, he is still alive as far as I know,” Dolman said and a faint smile crossed his face. “He was discharged. His place wasn’t the army. Oh, he was pretty good, but…” his voice trailed off and the smile became a chuckle.

“He was one of von Strab’s Morons,” one of the hunters explained.

“That’s uh… an officer?” The scribe ventured.

“No, those were von Strab’s Idiots. The Morons were then brain-scrambled boys they grabbed when the war got really nasty.”

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November 8 story: The Dork Knight

The businessman shot off to nearest alley, loudly cursing the sudden downpour. There, in the recessed doorway of an old building, decorated by the grotesque, jutting moldings that were a fashionable feature of the Old City district, he found shelter. And other men were looking for the same thing, or at least that’s what he thought at first.

The four men didn’t seem worried by the rain, and they walked his way with an almost casual pace. He didn’t like how they were dressed, or how they looked (and looked at him,) but he repressed the thought since he was a tolerant fellow.

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November 7 story: The Dreadful Writer, Part II

The second half of the interview with the fictitious writer James L. Cunningham. Part I is here.


Weber (editor): Does that come from your years in the army? You fought in Sudan, correct?

Cunningham (writer): Yes, against the Mahdists. Although ‘fought’ is not the best word for what happened there. Keep in mind that, when I was young, I read stories and tales of our Empire’s wars in the Far East. The ones from the Indian Rebellion of 57 were my favourites. Soldiers still fought duels back then. Not many, true, but it was not unheard of for men of both sides to single each other out for combat. But when I fought in Sudan… that was not the era of the duelist anymore, but the era of the Maxim gun. The closest I ever got to an enemy was perhaps thirty meters, a very angry Dervishe who became the inspiration for my first published story and, I guess, the original seed for many other.

Continue reading “November 7 story: The Dreadful Writer, Part II”