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Posts Tagged ‘winner’

“A Walk in the Sun”, by Geoffrey A. Landis

“A Walk in the Sun” is a 1991 science fiction short story by Hal Clement.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1992.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“A Walk in the Sun” is the story of an astronaut who was supposed to get just close enough to the moon to see it. . . and then crashed.  And how she survives.

Why should you read it?

This is some good hard science fiction.  The limits placed on this character are non-negotiable.  She’s crashed on the moon.  She’s got food to eat.  She’s got a working space suit, that can recycle her air as long as she has power.  She’s got photovoltaic “wings” on her suit to generate power.  Rescue is coming in thirty days.

Now all she needs to do is stay in the light.  All the time.  For the next thirty days.

She can walk faster than the moon rotates.  On day one, anyway.

How long can she keep it up?  Long enough?

Where to find “A Walk in the Sun”.

The story is available online courtesy of Asimov’s.

“Uncommon Sense”, by Hal Clement

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

“Uncommon Sense” is a 1945 science fiction short story by Hal Clement.  It won the Retro Hugo for Best Short Story of 1946.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Uncommon Sense” is the story of an amateur exobiologist whose ship is taken from him by his two assistants upon landing on a planet circling Deneb, a very bright star.  He uses his wits and his knowledge of exobiology to recapture his ship from the mutineers.

Why should you read it?

Now, see, this is the stuff.  The writing, by today’s standards, is absolutely terrible.  For example, there’s a moment when an omniscient narrator jumps into the middle of the story and tells you how stupid the main character is for not seeing the revelation sooner.

The core idea, oh, my god, it’s jaw-dropping still, over sixty years later.  While outside his captured ship, he encounters native life, all of whom have very strange eyes.  But Deneb is so bright that the differential between “daylight” and “shadow” is so great that he can’t figure out how these eyes can work.  And as he waits in his space suit for the mutineers to make a mistake and take his ship back, he realizes… they’re not eyes.  In microgravity and no atmosphere, a particle that is excited off the surface of an object travels in a straight line.  So the sensory organs?  They’re not eyes.  They’re noses, set up like pinhole cameras.  These creates “see” by smelling the things that are in front of them, and can make an image of what’s in front of them this way.

That’s all well and good. . . but how is he going to use these amazing facts to get his ship back?

Where to find “Uncommon Sense”

This story was re-published in 2000 in The Essential Hal Clement, Volume 2: Music of Many Spheres, which is currently available from the King County Library System.  

“Think Like A Dinosaur”, by James Patrick Kelly

February 28, 2013 2 comments

“Think Like A Dinosaur” is a 1995 science fiction novelette by James Patrick Kelly.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1996, and won.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Think Like A Dinosaur” is the story of a man who is helping a woman through the difficult process of teleporting to the stars, and the conflict between his humanity and the . . . dinosaurity of the aliens who actually control this gateway to the universe.  And they haven’t decided it we should have it yet, because we don’t think like them.

Why should you read it?

The old Campbell chestnut: “Write me an alien who thinks as well as a man, but not like a man.”  What if the price for humanity joining aliens in the stars. . . is thinking like them?  What do we give up by changing ourselves to match the way they think?  Would it be an individual decision?  An offer that can be accepted by one person alone?  Or would it be forced on the unwary by others?  And what’s left of the core of humanity inside a person once they’ve looked at this change?

This is an amazingly good story that I am hampered in recommending because I can’t answer any of these questions for you.  If you can, read it.  I have rated over a thousand stories in my database; this got the thirteenth 10 out of 10.

Where to find “Think Like a Dinosaur”

There is no free online version. [UPDATE: there is!  It’s at Mike Resnick’s new Galaxy’s Edge!]  The story can be found in several anthologies.  There is an audio version available online, which I have not listened to.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a 2001 fantasy movie.  It won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation of 2002.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Eight assorted people help a short guy go on a trip to get rid of some jewelry.  (Seriously, I’m not summarizing this one.)

Why should you watch it?

I’ve recently watched most of this series with my boy, who is eight, so I’m focussed on a lot of details that I wasn’t absorbing in 2001, when I first saw it.  Joshua makes a lot of “why?” questions, that really help me see the movie for what it is.

And what that is, is an introduction to a larger story.  There is so much to set up in this movie that it is almost entirely prelude to the events of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

However, it is so lovely.  To see these characters visualized and inhabited so vitally by the actors. . . there is no hint in my mind of machete’ing this movie out of the trilogy.  It is lovely, even though it is largely setup for the events of the later movies.

And to see Bilbo’s 111th birthday party visualized, to see Gandalf on the screen for the first time, were delights as WETA and Peter Jackson proved that this movie wasn’t going to be a disaster.  That it was going to be a delight.

Where to find The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The movie is not available freely, but at this point, even the expanded editions can be had on Amazon.com used for $8.

“One Perfect Morning, With Jackals”, by Mike Resnick

January 31, 2013 1 comment

“One Perfect Morning, With Jackals” is a 1991 science fiction short story by Mike Resnick.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1992.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Mike Resnick has written a series of stories, with the overall title of Kirinyaga.  They are stories about a group of Kikuyu–an African tribe–who have retired their civilization to an asteroid in the asteroid belt.  This story is also the preface to the fix-up novel called Kirinyaga, made up of the first eight stories from the series.

Why should you read it?

Mike Resnick is an amazing author, capable of working emotion out of robots and monsters, but I consider the Kirinyaga stories to be some of his greatest.  Koriba, the formerly Europeanized man who is about to leave for Kirinyaga, is “abandoning” his “civilization” to be the mundumugu, or witch doctor, of the Kikuyu on Kirinyaga.  His son, who is very firmly Europeanized, believes that his decision is silly and unnecessary… but is taking this opportunity to talk to him for the last time.  And give him a gift.  Of jackals.

Where to find “One Perfect Morning, With Jackals”

The publisher, Baen Books, has generously allowed us to read it online.

“Alamagoosa”, by Eric Frank Russell

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

“Alamagoosa” is a 1955 science fiction short story by Eric Frank Russell.  On a spaceship, an inventory is being conducted, and there’s an item on the list that isn’t on the ship. . . .  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1955.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Alamagoosa” is the story of an inventory on a spaceship.  However, there’s an item on the list that’s not on the ship.  The story is a scramble for the officers of the ship to try to figure out what the item is, who’s responsible for it, and who’s going to bear the blame for it being missing.

Why should you read it?

History only, I’m afraid.  This story is, as science fiction, completely deprecated.  There’s no real science fiction here–the story is set on a spaceship, but it could just as easily been set on a sailing ship, or an airplane, in the past or in modern times.  As one of the defintions of science fiction I use is, “If you remove the science or the central conceit of technology, the story collapses”, this isn’t actually science fiction.  That said, it was a fine and enjoyable way to spend fifteen minutes.   There’s a laugh at the end.

Where to find “Alamagoosa”

The story was originally published in Analog, back when it was called Astounding.  They have generously allowed us to read it online.

“Always”, by Karen Joy Fowler

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

“Always” is a 2007 science fiction short story by Karen Joy Fowler.  A woman details her time with a group of supposed immortals, following a charismatic leader.  It won the Nebula for Best Short Story in 2007.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Our viewpoint character, a young woman, moves to the city of Always with her boyfriend.  In Always, run by Brother Porter, everyone is immortal.  Supposedly.  The issue is left open, although there’s evidence that she is being deceived.  However, the effect of the city (cult) on people is very real.

Why should you read it?

“Always” handles the question of whether or not the immortality of the people of Always is real quite gently, and leads you to believe . . . that even if she’s not immortal, she’s been positively changed by the experience of living in Always.  The story follows her progression from basically infatuated with her boyfriend through an almost ethereal translation.

Where to find “Always”

The story was originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, where you can still read it online.  There is also audio.