Reading this week: the Hugo Award stories 2014, and stories from between borders - and short stories by Nadine Gordimer:
Hugo Awards 2014
The Hugo Awards are a set of awards given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year, and have a long tradition, reaching back to 1953. I read the nominated short stories - and it turned out, they are rather international this year, with stories and authors from Asia, Africa, Europe and America. And their themes: no space ships there, no aliens, but reflections on life and the universe, in form of the unusual mind games of speculative fiction: what if there was a tiny rain falling every time someone lie? Where do wishes go? What if you were a dinosaur?
"Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar
"You're not going to Egypt," I tell Mona. "We're going to Colorado. Remember?" - That's our big dream, to go to Colorado..."
“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu
The water that falls on you from nowhere when you lie is perfectly ordinary, but perfectly pure. True fact. I tested it myself when the water started falling a few weeks ago. Everyone on Earth did...
“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky
"If we lived in a world of magic where anything was possible, then you would be a dinosaur, my love. You’d be a creature of courage and strength but also gentleness. Your claws and fangs would intimidate your foes effortlessly. Whereas you—fragile, lovely, human you—must rely on wits and charm..."
quick detour into the past:
The fourth nominated story was a real suprise: it is from a Dutch author (which is a Hugo Award first time). The story isn't set in Europe or in space, though... but in a place I've visited years ago. Such a beautiful way of arriving there again, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Here's a photo from my own trip, and below the story link:
Netherlands / Thailand
“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
"By now the surface of the river was teeming with krathongs. Like any other boy in Doi Saket, Tangmoo had been told the tragicomic story of Loi Krathong’s origins countless times, and so he was aware of the invaluable influence of the village he called home. Seven hundred years ago Neng Tanapong, daughter of a Brahman priest in the kingdom of Sukhothai, had been playing on the riverbank..." “
And 2 more sci-fi stories, recent reads, and both coming with spaceships - but the stories themselves are of a different kind:
"Mono no aware" by Ken Liu (Hugo Award Winner 2013)
"The world is shaped like the kanji for umbrella, only written so poorly, like my handwriting, that all the parts are out of proportion.."
"The Waiting Stars" by Aliette de Bodard (Nebula Award 2013)
"There were tales, at the Institution, of what they were. She’d been taken as a child, like all her schoolmates–saved from the squalor and danger among the savages and brought forward into the light of civilisation..."
Somewhere Between Borders
It's exciting where this short story summer challenge is taking me, or rather: how it shifts the focus and leads to other places, and makes me more attentive to possible international short stories. When I browsed the current stories and essays on the homepage of London-based magazine Litro, I arrived at a story from Africa - and it turned out, it was more than a story. Here's the link and a quote:
"Somewhere between the borders: Night-Train to Kalaki" by Tara Isabelle Burton (Uganda)
"I told him about the old Black Sea Express train that went east from Constantinople to Kalaki...."
Reading the story, I noticed that the first part of the title also is a blog tag: "Somewhere between the borders" ... and when I clicked it, I arrived at a series of stories from other places. Here are some direct links:
"Supersonic Bus" by Jowhor Ile (Nigeria)
"You are travelling from Port Harcourt to Yenagoa. Everybody knows the best place to board a cheap bus is at Mile One Bus Park, right under the bridge. A man is ringing a bell and shouting, “Yenagoa, five hundred naira! Three per seat, five hundred naira.”
"'Til God" (Cyprus) by Polis Loizou
"On the other side of the window, the tips of the cypress trees met five metres above the road, vehicles running between them like children at the feet of kissing relatives. Only fifteen minutes ‘til God from here. The Holy House would sort him out."
"Crying Poverty in Guatemala Airport" by David Hutt
"I waited for my plane back to Britain in the Guatemala City airport I felt the satisfaction and aches of a man who knows he has done a job well. One twenty quetzales note sat in my pocket, kept as a souvenir..."
And an extra link from the current Litro features: a visit to a German town that once was utopia, and a reflection on Berlin... which again brought back memories of an own trip... and a visit of photo files:
"Futures Past" by E.E. Mason
"I walked around and looked and fell in love with this scuffed and battered city. Sleazy, insouciant, grouchy, bleak. Blunt, cheap, edgy. Ah, what great days. I thought I would stay forever..."
And in honour of Nadine Gordimer and her life work, I read some of her stories - Open Culture has a feature up with links, one of the stories is an audio with Gordimer reading: 5 Free Short Stories by Nadine Gordimer. And Granta Magazine has a special feature, too: In memory of Nadine Gordimer
Here's a direct link:
"The Ultimate Safari" by Nadine Gordimer
And a second one, following the city theme that is running through the current short stories. Especially the night train to Kalaki made me think of the book "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino, which includes 55 portraits of imaginary cities, and each city reads like a zen riddle that hints at society, architecture, the shapes we form to live in. So here the final link, a story I have to read yet:
City of the Dead, City of the Living
"The street delves down between two rows of houses like the abandoned bed of a river that has changed course...."
Links & More
Reading the world: a note on the reading journey can be found here: reading the (missing parts of) the world