This is the award for best new writer, regardless of output length (or quantity), and year after year it ends up my favourite category by delivering works that I think are better than any of the nominees in the main ballot. This year I will be thwarted however, as the three shorter pieces in this category are all in regular competition. On the upside, this makes this category an easy ask, as I’ve also already read Under the Pendulum Sun, leaving me with just three novels to cover.
Novelettes tend to be long short stories (7500-17500 words). The little bit of extra space gives more flexibility and can lead to greatness (last year’s Tomato Thief springs to mind), but far to often they fall into the uncanny valley where the length makes them flabby without gaining the depth of a longer work.
As mentioned before this is not strictly a Hugo category, it just uses the same voting system with the same electorate and is given out at the same time. It’s also an odd duck, as novels duke it out with short stories and mixtures of both. Still, the Campbell Award often ends up being my favourite slate – in previous years I have preferred the novels represented here to those in the novel category.
The Novelette and Novella are the ugly step children of the Hugos, novelette being a long short story, and a novella being a short novel. Nonetheless, they are often have the most diversity in offerings of the categories.
I love short stories, but don’t read enough of them. For science fiction in particular, a short story represents the perfect length to show off a good idea without getting bogged down. Stories here are less than 7,500 words, listed in order of reading. Given the short length, spoilers are somewhat inevitable.
This collection of stories is best described as horror based magical realism of poor and working class America (except for The Crevasse, which is a straight up riff on the Mountains of Madness). Most of the plots involve people crushed by poverty or living on the edge of it, encountering something supernatural, usually a monster, that throws into relief the fact that their lives were already horrific, and being terrorised, killed, or even just encountering the supernatural doesn’t change that appreciably. Not all the stories are hopeless, but that’s usually the way to bet.
This fits into the most interesting category of book for me, well crafted, interesting, deep, and entirely not to my tastes. This is a good collection of stories, and I did not like it.
Recommended for people who think magical realism would be better if it was more depressing.