immersionSince I’m going to WorldCon this year, that makes me eligible to vote for the Hugos. I’m doing my best to take this as a responsibility, especially since it drives me crazy that influential awards like this are often decided by a really small percentage of the community. So I got my reader packet and set to, despite the fact that I’m promoting one book and working on two more. Nah, I didn’t really need that social life anyway!

I started with the shortest main category I could, since I figured I could just sit down and read the three nominated short stories at bedtime, chew them over, and come up with a winner in my head.

Of course, it’s a bit more difficult than that, as always.

The first story I picked up was “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard. I’ve read a few of her novels and short stories, mostly contained in the Obsidian and Blood books. Seriously, a fantasy novel about Aztecs? How could I not at least try them? The research was clearly really in-depth and the writing was very good, but for some reason they failed to become favorites. As a result, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think. Especially since the story started out in second person present tense, which immediately set my teeth on edge.

Summed up quickly, the story was heart-wrenchingly good. You should read it – the link takes you to a free online copy. Once I got the main conceit, that people in this universe fit in by wearing “avatars” that not only showed the world the most acceptable physical face in terms of race, social status, etc., but also changed your actual thought patterns to fit the norms – I was completely hooked.

I honestly came away from “Immersion” choked up and wondering how anything else could possibly live up to that.

mantis_wivesThe next story was “Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson. This is also available online, and quite short indeed. While I thought it was interesting, it didn’t spark for me at all. It’s rather unusual, doesn’t really have a clear plot or main characters. It’s almost experimental, and not in a way that I was interested. My choice for the Hugo was the same.

mono_no_awareThen I read “Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu, and that put me smack-dab in a quandary. The story starts out as a simple generation ship situation and rapidly moves to an obvious conclusion that literally had me weeping. The story is spare and clean, like the kanji that appear in it, and it seems like that sparsity, that use of negative space, is exactly what was necessary to take a common SF trope and fashion it into a spear lodged in my chest. I still clench internally when I think of it.

So … now what? I haven’t decided yet. I think I should give all three stories an0ther read so I can study them without the initial rush of excitement. Maybe that will make it clearer.

This does make it likely that picking a favorite for the rest of the categories is going to be just as painful. Argh.