2008 Hugo Awards Countdown: The Sites and Blogs Behind the Fiction – Novellas

Definition: novella

A story between 17,500 and 40,000 words long.

Nominees for Best Novella

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The Fountain of Age – Nancy Kress


I had her in a ring. In those days, you carried around pieces of a person. Not like today.

A strand of hair, a drop of blood, a lipsticked kiss on paper—those things were real. You could put them in a locket or pocket case or ring, you could carry them around, you could fondle them. None of this hologram stuff. Who can treasure laser shadows? Or the nanotech “re-creations”—even worse. Fah. Did the Master of the Universe “re-create” the world after it got banged up a little? Never. He made do with the original, like a sensible person.

So I had her in a ring. And I had the ring for forty-two years before it was eaten by the modern world. Literally eaten, so tell me where is the justice in that?

And oh, she was so beautiful! Not genemod misshapen like these modern girls, with their waists so skinny and their behinds huge and those repulsive breasts. No, she was natural, a real woman, a goddess. Black hair wild as stormy water, olive skin, green eyes. I remember the exact shade of green. Not grass, not emerald, not moss. Her own shade. I remember. I—

Hard Copy
Asimov’s July 2007
Electronic Copy
Author Website

Excerpt from entry Anatomy of an Idea:

I began by looking through my “idea folder.” This is a paper-and-pen file, not electronic, of high entropy. There are scrawled notes on whatever paper was handy when an idea struck me; some of these are now cryptic and/or indecipherable. There are articles torn from newspapers or magazines on scientific developments. There are opening scenes for stories that got no farther than the opening scene; most of these are hand-printed on yellow-legal-pad paper. It took me a few hours to sift through all this, segregating the ideas that appealed to me now (as opposed to the sometimes hare-brained aha! moment when I conceived them) and also fit the magazine’s parameters. Or could be made to fit them.


Recovering Apollo 8 – Kristine Kathryn Rusch


Part One: 2007

Richard remembered it wrong. He remembered it as if it were a painting, and he were observing it, instead of a living breathing memory that he had a part of.

The image was so vivid, in fact, that he had had it painted with the first of what would become obscene profits from his business, and placed the painting in his office—each version of his office, the latter ones growing so big that he had to find a special way to display the painting, a way to help it remain the center of his vision.

The false memory—and the painting—went like this:

He stands in his backyard. To his left, there is the swing set; to his right, clotheslines running forward like railroad tracks.

He is eight, small for his age, very blond, his features unformed. His face is turned toward the night sky, the Moon larger than it ever is. It illuminates his face like a halo from a medieval religious painting; its whiteness so vivid that it seems more alive than he does.

He, however, is not looking at the Moon. He is looking beyond it where a small cone-shaped ship heads toward the darkness. The ship is almost invisible, except for one edge that catches the Moon’s reflected light. A shimmer comes off the ship, just enough to make it seem as if the ship is expending its last bit of energy in a desperate attempt to save itself, an attempt even he—at eight—knows will fail.

Hard Copy
Asimov’s Feb. 2007
Electronic Copy
Author Website

Excerpt from entry Algis Budrys:

The news came across the lists this morning: Algis Budrys died.

On the one hand, his death was not a surprise. AJ had been sick for a long time. On the other hand, it’s quite a shock. It seems like I’ve known AJ all my life. When I met him, he wasn’t well, but he wasn’t horribly ill either. It just seemed that AJ would be around forever.

I met AJ in June of 1985, when I attended Clarion Writers Workshop in East Lansing, Michigan. In those days, I wasn’t a genre reader. Or at least, I didn’t know I was a genre reader. I read every book in my path. I also subscribed to fiction magazines, including F&SF. I had read AJ’s book columns, but I didn’t know he had written some of the classics in the field until April of 1985, when I got accepted to Clarion. At that point, I read everything I could find by the writers who were going to teach me. Since AJ was going to be the first instructor, I started with him.


Stars Seen Through Stone – Lucius Shepard


I was smoking a joint on the steps of the public library when a cold wind blew in from no cardinal point, but from the top of the night sky, a force of pure perpendicularity that bent the sparsely leaved boughs of the old alder shadowing the steps straight down toward the Earth, as if a gigantic someone directly above were pursing his lips and aiming a long breath directly at the ground. For the duration of that gust, fifteen or twenty seconds, my hair did not flutter but was pressed flat to the crown of my head and the leaves and grass and weeds on the lawn also lay flat. The phenomenon had a distinct border—leaves drifted along the sidewalk, testifying that a less forceful, more fitful wind presided beyond the perimeter of the lawn. No one else appeared to notice. The library, a blunt nineteenth century relic of undressed stone, was not a popular point of assembly at any time of day, and the sole potential witness apart from myself was an elderly gentleman who was hurrying toward McGuigan’s Tavern at a pace that implied a severe alcohol dependency. This happened seven months prior to the events central to this story, but I offer it to suggest that a good deal of strangeness goes unmarked by the world (at least by the populace of Black William, Pennsylvania), and, when taken in sum, such occurrences may be evidence that strangeness is visited upon us with some regularity and we only notice its extremes.

Hard Copy
F&SF July 2007
Electronic Copy
Author Website

Excerpt from entry A Tale Of Two Turkeys (Maybe Three):

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. . . No, scratch that. It was the worst of times. January at the multiplex. A time for Uwe Boll, for DOA comedies starring Ted Danson and Queen Latifah, for loser thrillers and stale action pics (can I get a Rambo!), and for the JJ Abrams “high concept” film, Cloverfield.

For those unfamiliar with Double-J, in the early 90s he was anointed the next Steven Spielberg by those who believed that having two Spielbergs was a good thing. His first script, Regarding Henry, was lauded by Hollywood folk as brilliant and sensitive. It told the story of a soulless yuppie who, after taking a bullet in the head, becomes a warm, loving human being (an interesting object lesson, if not an interesting movie). Since then he’s given us such treats as the Mel Gibson schmaltzfest, Forever Young, Armageddon, and MI3. He has also given us several TV series, notably Lost, a show that had one good season before decaying into a soap opera-ish mire of flashbacks and cryptic teases whose annoyance factor reminds of the computer game Myst, its apparent model.


All Seated on the Ground – Connie Willis


I’d always said that if and when the aliens actually landed, it would be a let-down. I mean, after War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, and E.T., there was no way they could live up to the image in the public’s mind, good or bad.

I’d also said that they would look nothing like the aliens of the movies, and that they would not have come to A) kill us, B) take over our planet and enslave us, C) save us from ourselves à la The Day the Earth Stood Still, or D) have sex with Earthwomen. I mean, I realize it’s hard to find someone nice, but would aliens really come thousands of light-years just to find a date? Plus, it seemed just as likely they’d be attracted to wart hogs. Or yucca. Or air-conditioning units.

I’ve also always thought A) and B) were highly unlikely since imperialist invader types would probably be too busy invading their next-door neighbors and being invaded by other invader types to have time to go after an out-of-the-way place like Earth, and as to C), I’m wary of people or aliens who say they’ve come to save you, as witness Reverend Thresher. And it seemed to me that aliens who were capable of building the spaceships necessary to cross all those light-years would necessarily have complex civilizations and therefore motives for coming more compliated than merely incinerating Washington or phoning home.

What had never occurred to me was that the aliens would arrive, and we still wouldn’t know what those motives were after almost nine months of talking to them.

Hard Copy
Asimov’s Dec. 2007;
Subterranean Press
Electronic Copy
Author Website

Memorare – Gene Wolfe


The moment March Wildspring spotted the corpses, he launched himself across the shadowy mortuary chamber. He had aimed for the first, but with suit jets wide open he missed it and caught the third, flattening himself against it and rolling over with it so that it lay upon him.

Bullets would have gotten him; but this was a serrated blade pivoting from a crevice in the wall. Had it hit, it would have shredded his suit somewhere near the waist.

He would have suffocated before he froze. The thought failed to comfort him as he huddled under the freeze-dried corpse and strove not to look into its eyes.

How much had his digicorder gotten? He wanted to rub his jaw, but was frustrated by his helmet. Not enough, surely. He would have to make a dummy good enough to fool the mechanism, return with it, and….

Or use one of these corpses.

“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known….”

The half-recalled words came slowly, limping.

“That anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided.”

There was more, but he had forgotten it. He sighed, cleared his throat, and touched the sound switch. “These memorials can be dangerous, like this one. As I’ve told you, this isn’t the big one. The big one we call Number Nineteen is an asteroid ten times the diameter of this, which means it could have a thousand times the interior volume. Frankly, I’m scared of it. We may save it for last.”

Hard Copy
F&SF April 2007
Electronic Copy
Gene Wolfe at Wikipedia


Reviews of the Nominees

See Abigail Nussbaum’s reviews of the Hugo 2008 Novella Shortlist.