Hugo Reading: Totaled

I was poking about on the internet, ending up on Mars Is through MHI, and I saw a link to “Totaled.” Being a little ADHD in my internet consumption (“browser tabs” was either a great invention or THE WORST, I’m not sure which) I decided I had to go read it RIGHT THEN.

Wow – I gotta say, if you’re going to do tug-on-heartstrings soap opera scifi, that is the way to do it. The human pathos is intimately intertwined with the speculative fictional elements in a way that neither one can be extricated from the other – which is precisely what I want to see out of award-worthy works. Great writing is great, for sure – but a scifi/fantasy award needs to go to a scifi/fantasy work. Not a work with only a limp, meaningless gesture towards scifi/fantasy elements.

I didn’t cry at the end, but my eyes definitely prickled.


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8 Responses to Hugo Reading: Totaled

  1. Cirsova says:

    There was not enough existential horror for a brain in a jar story. For instance, at the Award Ceremony, little Johnny should’ve looked over, seen the brain in the jar at the back of the room, screamed and dropped his little certificate; Brain-mother is distraught, wondering if little Johnny knew if it was her.

    The ‘research’ project she was being used for didn’t have any weight to the story, either. I told a friend it was kind of like if Transcendence ended when they uploaded Depp to the supercomputer and were like “Well, looks like it worked! I’ll get the lights on the way out.” ::roll credits::

    • pancakeloach says:

      This one is definitely very light on the existential horror, true. And the research project doesn’t seem to have “mattered” but I suspect that’s because the main focus was very soap-opera-ish. Navel gazing without a navel. Taking it as it is, it’s not a bad representation of the Soap Opera subgenre of Hugo Award nominees. I’m pleased to have a far more diverse set of short stories to pick from this year, however.

      I found myself wondering last night who had custody of the children, since their parents were divorced. I don’t recall Mom-in-a-Jar ever thinking about that at all.

      • Cirsova says:

        I don’t think it was bad, but I found myself asking “Is this really the best of the best out there?” It was a story that I felt had a lot of untapped potential; a lot of story hooks were presented, but never explored; they were just window dressing.

        the jerk boss
        the possible disembodied love triangle
        the repercussions of whatever insidious project they were working on
        and, like you said, the missing father!

        I thought the prose style was solid (and far more readable than “Turncoat”, which seems to be a heavy favorite among people I know), but it felt like going to a Chinese buffet and only being allowed at the island where they had the pizza, fries and mac & cheese. You smell the General Tsao, you can see the General Tsao – it’s right over there! – but you can’t put any on your plate.

      • pancakeloach says:

        I don’t think it’s the best of the lot, certainly. Although I did happen to like “Turncoat” but that was primarily for the “sentient ship” theme. (I’d like Leckie’s books better if Breq were still Justice of Toren! LOL)

      • Cirsova says:

        I wanted to like Turncoat, but narrative voice was kind of off-putting. “The Space-ship doesn’t sound very into this space-battle, so why should I be?”

        I’m going to try to find either cheap or free copies of Leckie’s books and get to work on the Novels category next. Maybe… I keep thinking “Maybe I should wait and see if any more people drop out before I get started on anything long.” At this point, getting the Hugo packets together and sent out in a reasonable amount of time must be a nightmare.

        By the way, you don’t happen to know if “A Single Samurai” made it up online anywhere to read, do you? That’s the only one in the short stories category I haven’t read yet.

      • pancakeloach says:

        I got Leckie’s novels from the library. Definitely check your local library for them, because her publisher is a cheapskate and won’t even put the entire nominated work in the voter packet, much less previous novel(s). :-\ I haven’t seen any links to “Samurai” yet but Baen is good about giving their stuff out – I’m sure it will be in the packet. I do feel sorry for the Hugo admin staff too. Hopefully the record number of supporting memberships means they can pay their staff well for dealing with this snafu!

      • Cirsova says:

        She was actually giving a speech/signing thing at my library on saturday, so there WERE (full price) copies for sale, but I hit my low-low library sale budget on a handful of Jack Vance books and old 70s sci-fi pulp magazines. I might see if they have any copies for check-out, though.

        On one hand, I can see why a publisher might be hesitant to provide copies, but that also seems to me that they must be working on the assumption that a Hugo Nom or even Win could never make up in sales for 5,000-10,000 promo copies to voters. Which itself is a worrying prospect.

      • pancakeloach says:

        Haha, last time I was at a library sale, I walked out with a bagful of AE Van Vogt paperbacks, myself. XD Yes, the fact that a Hugo nomination has ceased to be a good piece of advertising is one reason the Sad Puppies campaign exists. But then, most of traditional publishing is actively trying to shoot itself in both feet, so I’m not surprised on that score.

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