Hugo Awards 2021: Best Short Story Nominees

There was a wealth of authors I very much enjoy reading in this slate, and new-to-me authors I was pleased to make acquaintance of! On reflection, I don’t feel that this year’s list was as good as last year’s, tho was still solidly entertaining.

As with last year, I’ll go over each (mostly) alphabetically. A Guide For Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad is a delightful story of sentient AIs, one of whom is forced to be the mentor to the other. It’s got a lovely light novel manga feel to it while still having important things to say about sentience and labor rights.

Rae Carson’s Badass Moms In The Zombie Apocalypse starts off interestingly enough but I swiftly lost interest, even as a mom of three young children who has also had two miscarriages, when it became clear that the point of the story was how some women will risk everything to have a baby. I found that weirdly off-putting but, you know, different strokes etc.

As the owner of a sharing library that I’m constantly curating (aside: I put RPGs and dice in there over the summer and was SO HAPPY when someone took them!), I really enjoyed Naomi Kritzer’s Little Free Library. I wish the ending had been a little stronger, but I’m always a fan of Ms Kritzer’s work.

Metal Like Blood In The Dark by T. Kingfisher is the first of two fairy tale adaptations on this list. This tale, featuring sentient AI that aren’t quite as delightful as Ms Prasad’s but are perhaps more intriguing, edged out Yoon Ha Lee’s The Mermaid Astronaut in my ratings. TMA was lovely and large-hearted and lyrical but just not quite as interesting as the AI stories.

And finally we have John Wiswell’s Open House On Haunted Hill which is the most tender story of hunger and loneliness you’ll ever read. I’m having a hard time deciding between this and MLBitD for the winner, but think I’ll go with Ms Kingfisher’s entry, as the meditation on deceit in its few pages was surprisingly deep. Well, perhaps not so surprising if you’re already familiar with the rest of her excellent work.

Enjoy the links to each story while they’re still up! And let us know in the comments what you think!

Permanent link to this article:


  1. I read these back when the reader’s pack first came out, and I haven’t retained a whole lot about them. I was completely charmed by “Little Free Library” and gave that one my top vote. I also liked the Kingfisher tale a lot and wound up putting that one second. Oh right, now I remember a little more about “Open House on Haunted Hill,” but I wasn’t as taken by it, putting it behind these two and also Yoon Ha Lee’s story. It’ll be interesting to see how our views compare with those of other voters!

    • CN on January 1, 2022 at 2:38 pm
    • Reply

    1. Open House on Haunted Hill- this was the most original of the nominees, would get my vote even though its not sci fi. Really good characterization, especially of the house.

    2. Little Free Library- this was really intriguing, the easiest read of the nominees. A lot of people felt it ended abruptly but I didn’t mind.

    3. Bad ass moms in the zombie apocalypse- this waa very vivid, moves along novels, it could have been an episode of The Walking Dead. I have to say though, deliberately having a baby in this type of environment is a profoundly bad idea.

    4. The Mermaid Astronaut- I liked his too, What happened when the mermaid went into space wasn’t that interesting, but w really liked the idea and the ending. When the witch indicated the mermaid would return to earth and would pay then I wondered how the author would wrap that up, but he did nicely.

    5. Metal like blood in the dark- Although this was good, I thought all the stuff about the robots eating was kind of gross and I wanted more of an explanation of where the robot and drone came from.

    6. A guide for working robots- this was cute, I didn’t like it as much as the authors Fandom for Robots. I didn’t understand what was going on with the murders.and the racoons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.