Hugo Awards Assessment: Assymmetrical Warfare

So, as noted in the plan the last short story I’m going to look at is “Assymmetrical Warfare”. And I actually quite enjoyed it. Which is strange, because when I looked it up and quickly skimmed it it didn’t look all that interesting.

The concept itself is fairly standard: alien invasion of Earth, overwhelming the humans, and yet some final at first grudging and then earned respect for the human fighting abilities. This basic idea has been done to death in science fiction, in all media. However, there are a couple of things that, to me, make this story really work. First, I do think that using an alien race of “stellates” — essentially, I think, starfish-like creatures — actually does give it a new twist, and allows for misunderstandings that I hadn’t seen before. Second, unlike “Cat Pictures, Please” the structure of the story is done really, really well. The asides are not asides, but are important pieces of information that play out later. The story builds from the start towards its ending, and at the end it’s pretty clear what the author was trying to get at. At that point, everything just comes together and it feels like a payoff for what the rest of the story built.

Thus, one could criticize it for being derivative, but it seems to me that it both does things well enough and adds enough new things for it to still be considered a quality story. I’m not going to claim that it deserved to win, but it definitely did not deserve a “No Award”.

While for the novels I’m going to have to — out of necessity, if nothing else — do my assessment of the overall category in a separate post from the discussion posts of any of the works, here I think I’ll just give my assessment now. I could not review “Seven Kill Tiger”. Space Raptor Butt Invasion was considered a joke entry to everyone. While I only skimmed it, “If You Were an Award, My Love” doesn’t seem to be a work that really applies, as it’s a parody of a science fiction work but doesn’t have any connection to science fiction itself, which makes me glad that I don’t have to rate it. So that leaves “Assymmetrical Warfare” and “Cat Pictures, Please”. “Cat Pictures, Please” is the more innovative, but doesn’t do anything with that new concept. “Assymmetrical Warfare” uses a more standard concept, but is structured better and adds enough new things to make it interesting. Thus, if I was voting, I would have given the win to “Assymmetrical Warfare” over “Cat Pictures, Please”, and think that, taking the two stories as those stories independently of any politics, “Assymmetrical Warfare” is clearly the better work.

Once the novels come in, I’ll have to start reading them, so it may take a couple of weeks for me to post my first review of any of the novels. But the short story category revealed itself to be a dog’s breakfast where, as far as I can tell, the worst story won, only because it wasn’t nominated on a slate and was written by someone — and talked about issues — that the anti-Puppies liked. Not a good start.

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2 Responses to “Hugo Awards Assessment: Assymmetrical Warfare”

  1. Andrew Says:

    A majority of people who neutrally investigate the evidence start sympathising with the “puppies” position. Which of course proves that they were never truly neutral. If they were truly neutral, they wouldn’t have examined the evidence in the first place.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      I think you’ve confused “neutral” with “apathetic”. Neutral merely means that they come in without strongly favouring one side or other; they think that one side may or may not be right. If they don’t care which side is right — or even if there’s a right side — then they won’t examine the evidence, but if they care about which one is right, then they will.

      In my case, I both have an occupational hazard as a philosopher in figuring out what the right answer is AND have an interest in the genre since I was trying to get back into reading the genre when this all broke loose. I don’t think that works of the kind the anti-Puppies claim to like are necessarily bad and don’t think there’s an a priori reason to avoid diversity — done well, it can actually IMPROVE the genre — but am wary of any attempts on any side to work towards or incorporate an ideology into works of fiction. Thus, I can’t say based on what people are saying about each side which, if any of them, is right when they say that the other side promotes crap. Thus, I need to investigate it myself. Which is what I’m doing.

      Even in this post, it’s possible that “Seven Kill Tiger” is crap, too, since I couldn’t evaluate it. So I’m still on the fence about whether or not, say, both sides are advocating for inferior works on the basis of some kind of ideological point.

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