A novelette lives in that nebulous area known as “longer than a short story and shorter than a novella”. Probably somewhere between 7500 and 20,000 words, which is quite a span. I like the novelette and novella lengths quite a bit, so reading the nominees for this category was a fun experience for me.
- “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
- “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente ( Clarkesworld, August 2012)
- “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
- “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
- “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire ( A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” is by the first Dutch author to have a work nominated for the Hugos. I couldn’t find information on whether the work had been translated from Dutch (I assume not, since the translator probably would have been credited), but I always wonder what that’s like. It’s got to be hard to trust someone to convey your ideas properly, especially if you don’t speak the language at all.
Anyway, for me, this was a quiet, detached sort of story that started out feeling like a YA novel and ended up feeling like an adult novel, which is quite an accomplishment, I think. The narrator has no shadow, literally. He can’t be photographed or filmed, can’t be seen in a mirror, and light falls through him to illuminate whatever he’s standing on. I had to turn off my science brain to read it happily, especially since his best friend/boyfriend was made of glass. Once I did, though, it was lovely and bitter and very fulfilling. I went from disliking the narrator to truly wanting to hug him. Pretty amazing for a novelette.
“Fade to White” is by one of my favorite authors, Catherynne Valente. While I love her dense, metaphor-heavy prose, some people find it hard to read. This would be a great place for those people to start. It’s less dense than most of her other work, but the sparsity matches the stark sadness in this post-WWII alternate history where the Japanese fought back against the bomb with bombs of their own. The advertisements that punctuate the story are both amusing and darkly horrifying. And the end image made my heart hurt and my arms stand out in goosebumps. That latter reaction is almost universal in Valente’s work for me. Everything she does gives me the chills.
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (which unfortunately seems to be unavailable online) had to fight me a little bit – for whatever reason, the title put me off a bit. I thought it was going to try to hard to be funny, I think. I was quickly proved to be wrong. Even though there’s plenty of dry, quirky humor scattered throughout this extremely SF-y story, it never over-reaches. The characters are several levels of unfamiliar and strange and human and loving. I want to read more in this universe, so I’ll be looking up Cadigan’s other work.
“In Sea-Salt Tears” and “Rat-Catcher” are both by Seanan McGuire, written in her October Daye world. Having never read any of her work [ducks expected missiles], I can safely tell you that they read just fine even without the backstory. I do wonder how much they benefit from that richness, though, because while I liked both of them, they both also seemed thinner than the other nominees. “Rat-Catcher” is about a Prince of Cats trying to save his people from the great London fire in the 1600s (I think). “In Sea-Salt Tears” hit home better with a love story about a selkie girl who falls for a mysterious girl who doesn’t age, and they both pay a pretty hefty price.
Looking at my reactions to these, I will most likely vote for “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, which rather surprises me. I would have expected “Fade to White” to be the obvious winner for me, but I think “Shadow” achieves the most, and also surprised me the most.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these!