I re-read “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu yesterday. Find it here, at Clarkesworld.
What a wonderful story that is. It brings “Animal Farm” by George Orwell to mind for obvious reasons – anthropomorphic animals doing political things. “Animal Farm”, however, had a connection to actual political figures, and that got me wondering if E. Lily Yu was saying something as specific as Orwell in her story.
I poked around and found an interview with her, where she was asked about the story. She talked about entomology and a course she took on postcolonialism… and then she said this beautiful thing:
These are guesses. I’m waffling. There are some stories that come to you by grace, or by a neutrino hitting your brain, whose origins are unfathomable. This was one of them.
Before I read that, I felt that the story was about political realities that come about as a result of violence and fear. The story still is about that, but now there is the beauty of grace and a neutrino.
The opening paragraph of The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman:
So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens — four dowager and three regnant — and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.
I just read an excellent post by Nathaniel Givens on the Hugo Awards.
What the Hugos should try to be, in an ideal world, is the best guess of people who are smart and educated (about the sci fi canon in particular) of which of the stories that came out this year are going to be the stories that will still be powerful, relevant, and important in the future. In short: which of this year’s stories are great.
Indeed! A standing ovation from me.
Not achievable, though, because we can’t insist that people be “smart and educated” about the sci fi canon. That is a nice idea for a juried award.
For the Hugos, I’d settle for readers voting and nominating based solely on the quality of the work, with lots of participation.