Best Short Fiction (Only Part of the Hugos I’m Gonna Get Mad About)

For the most part, the outcome of the Hugo Awards on Saturday did not surprise me. While I’m bummed that Ku Kuru Yo and Castalia House didn’t win, it was still expected, and for the most part, I wasn’t particularly invested in a lot of the categories.

Best Short Fiction was really the only point of outrage for me. I would have loved to see Chuck Tingle* take the prize in that category.  I would have been fine with one of the other stories winning, and even No Award would not have been as terrible, given the circumstances.  But the notion that Cat Pictures Please was the best that the Science Fiction field had to offer makes me want to dash my brains out.  It was almost kept off the ballot except that one Rabid Puppy pick withdrew their nomination, allowing Cat Pictures to back into a slot.

Now, for a minute consider this comment left on a Guardian article:

“Science Fiction is defined by Clarke’s Three Laws, Fantasy is defined by Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories.

That is the end of the matter.

If the right-wing want “swashbuckling fun”, they can create their own damn genre. No, sf/f has never been about “inclusiveness”. It has almost exclusively been left-of-centre visions. Right-of-centre visions are more often found in pay-to-pray megachurches.”

Ignoring the political idiocy of the Guardian commenter, the notion that SFF is not supposed to be swashbuckling fun MUST be pervasive given the support for this sort of stuff.  This change in short fiction was already well under way by the 1970s, as was apparent in some of the worst stories I read in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

And consider that Cat Pictures Please is a preachy little piece about an AI that outs a flimsy stereotype of a closeted gay minister cuz he’ll be so much happier out of the closet.  This is what is considered the best in Short Science Fiction? This is why, while it stands to have so much potential, especially in a tablet-happy reader market, SFF short fiction still feels stuck in a rut.This is why, despite my love of SFF short fiction, I don’t waste my time on the contemporary ‘big name’ publications.

It’s not just Cat Pictures Please, or the laughably bad If You Were a Dinosaur My Love – plenty of Puppy picks and favorites last year and this were twee, saccharine little puffs of winks and cuddles fit more for a volume of Chicken Soup for the SF Soul than to be called “Best Short Story”.  I’ve made no bones ::pun intended:: about the fact that my disappointment with some of the Puppy picks was part of what inspired me to try to promote Heroic Fantasy and pulpy Science Fiction.

Are we regressives? In the sense that we’d like to drag genre fiction kicking and screaming back to a place where it was fun and awesome, I suppose so. SFF at its best should be inspirational and aspirational. There is so much potential, as I’ve said, for this kind of science fiction. People are hungry for new stories, stories they can read in their spare time, on the go, on vacation, and on their tablets—short fiction is PERFECT for that.

By supporting Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, not only are you helping us fight back against the notion that science fiction and fantasy should not be “swashbuckling fun”, you are supporting authors who create swashbuckling fantasy and science fiction by enabling us to buy their stories while paying competitive rates.

*:Worth noting that Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion has done far more for mainstream gay acceptance within the SFF community beyond capital “F” Fandom than a thousand little softly bigoted pieces like Cat Pictures Please could dream to. Also, never forget that despite the faux show of solidarity, Tingle was No Awarded after having initially been bullied and told he needed to drop out by N.K. Jemisin who went on to win Best Novel this year.

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9 responses to “Best Short Fiction (Only Part of the Hugos I’m Gonna Get Mad About)

  1. “Science Fiction is defined by Clarke’s Three Laws, Fantasy is defined by Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories.

    That is the end of the matter.

    If the right-wing want “swashbuckling fun”, they can create their own damn genre. No, sf/f has never been about “inclusiveness”. It has almost exclusively been left-of-centre visions. Right-of-centre visions are more often found in pay-to-pray megachurches.”

    I almost can’t believe some tool actually wrote that. At the very best it indicates the lack of genre knowledge I’ve occasionally ranted about. At worst it’s just a self-deluding lie.

    I haven’t read “Cat Pictures Please,” and I admit I probably never will (actually, I just did, and, wow, it’s the worst sort of smug crap possible). And not because it doesn’t sound up my alley, but because I’ve never made it through a full issue of Clarkesworld. I grew up gorging myself on annual best of anthologies, Analog, etc., and the current crop of short sci-fi leaves me bored and cold. It’s not always the politics and rampant holier-than-thou preaching (thought that’s a lot of it), but the porridge-like dullness and general grayness.

    I pretty much stopped reviewing Beneath Ceaseless Skies because of the increased gauziness and tediousness of most of its fiction. It’s the mag, though, that gets awards, not the in every way superior Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Even Swords and Sorcery Magazine, paying only ten bucks a go, has a higher energy quotient than most of its competitors.

    The only reason I haven’t dropped my e-subscription to F&SF is because it’s cheap and it published Matthew Hughes regularly. And I’m lazy (and I like the reviews).

    All reasons Cirsova existence is very cool.

    • Thanks for the very high praise, Fletcher!

      It’s something that really puzzles me. Because obviously there are enough people out there reading and supporting some of these meandering publications that not only are they not going broke (though I gather a few are treated as loss-leaders by pubs they’re subsidiaries of) but sweeping awards and gaining accolades.

      I’m just shocked that there aren’t more adventure short fic publications out there, given that when adventure short fic was ubiquitous so was short fiction reading.

      • I’ve not read Grimdark Mag yet, but one of our new regulars, Shawn Mansouri, is affiliated with them, so they’re bound to be pretty solid. I need to check them out.

        I’m still in the middle of the first issue of Red Sun; while it’s not all my thing and I could see spots where it could improve (like not having the crazy gloss watermark on the pdf, for one thing), they’re a breath of fresh air.

        I’d be interested in your thoughts on Skelos. It was… not what I was expecting.

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