Annie Bellet is one of the writers nominated for a Hugo in 2015. Her story “Goodnight Stars” was nominated on the group slate. Ms Bellet managed to be on the Sad Puppies Slate and also on the Rapid Puppies (the splinter group’s) slate. She withdrew her story from consideration, stating the following on her blog:
“I find my story, and by extension myself, stuck in a game of political dodge ball, where I’m both a conscripted player and also a ball.”
That’s a difficult analogy, and an accurate one, because no one who made it to the short list this year can really trust that they got there because people think their work was good. They have to wonder if their work was just a weapon, like a can of red spray paint, and whether behind their backs the people who used the spray-paint are saying, “She’s totally with us!”
I’m not a big short story reader. I wanted to read “Goodnight Stars,” mostly out of curiosity. It is part of The Apocalypse Triptych, edited by John Joseph Adams, and it’s available online here.
I recommend everyone go read this story. Now. Read it now. I’ll wait.
Having read “Goodnight Stars,” I’m not as sad for Annie Bellet as I was, only because, if she writes stories that combine this much convincing action, with characters as well developed as Lucy, while dealing with the themes she expertly handles here, she will have no trouble winning a Hugo. There is probably more than one in her future. (Flippancy aside, I am sad for her. This nomination should have been an experience of unalloyed joy, and that has been ruined. It’s always sad when a cherished moment is trashed.)
Here’s what’s disappointing: the flap over the Hugos means this beautiful, scary tale of survival, sacrifice, and coming of age won’t get the marquee treatment it should. This is an excellent piece of short fiction. I am amazed at what Bellet was able to fit into a fairly small word count. We see Lucy’s attitude toward her mother change over the course of the story; we watch her wrestle with denial, and it doesn’t slow the action. We see the best and worst of humanity in what is, basically, a short road trip story. I may smirk a bit at how lucky it is that her boyfriend is both a war vet and a Boy Scout, so that they are “prepared” when the disaster happens, but that’s well-established early in the story, and fair. Lucy is a convincing teenager, and so is her friend Heidi.
For me, the Hugo material this year is sort of like a pile of rubble left after an explosion. John Joseph Adams had kept this gem from the pile of broken statues and chunks of cement. What I can do is help bring it to your attention.