Hugo Awards 2011: Best Short Story

The Best Short Story category is one of the original Hugo Award categories. Short stories are defined as stories of less than 7,500 words. Good short stories are hard to find, as there is not a lot of room to develop big ideas. But when a good short story clicks, it can take the reader on an intense, powerful journey.

Best Short Story Nominations (515 ballots cast)
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

72 “The Things” by Peter Watts (13.98%)
42 “Ponies” by Kij Johnson (8.16%)
29 “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (5.63%)
29 “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (5.63%)
(Category has 4 nominees due to 5% requirement under 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution)
25 “Elegy for a Young Elk” by Hannu Rajaniemi (4.85%)
23 “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time” by Catherynne M. Valente (4.47%)
23 “Sleeping Dogs” by Joe Haldeman (4.47%)
22 “Under the Moons of Venus” by Damien Broderick (4.27%)
21 “Futures in the Memories Market” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (4.08%)
21 “I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno” by Vylar Kaftan (4.08%)
20 “Standard Loneliness Package” by Charles Yu (3.88%)
20 “The Green Book” by Amal El-Mohtar (3.88%)
19 “The Incarceration of Captain Nebula” by Mike Resnick (3.69%)
18 “Conditional Love” by Felicity Shoulders (3.5%)
18 “Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots” by Sandra MacDonald (3.5%)
16 “The President’s Brain is Missing” by John Scalzi (3.11%)
16 “When the Yogurt Took Over” by John Scalzi (3.11%)

Best Short Story Final Ballot Results (1597 ballots)
(Final ballots are counted using the instant-runoff method.)

My Ranking


Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4


“For Want of a Nail” (WINNER)






“The Things”














No Award


No Award Tests
• 1230 ballots ranked “For Want of a Nail” greater than No Award; 150 ballots ranked No Award greater than “For Want of a Nail” – PASS
• ((1597 – 86) / 2100) * 100 = 72% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – “Amaryllis”
3rd Place – “The Things”
4th Place – “Ponies”


This was not a particularly strong year for short stories. Only four nominees were able to pass the 5% requirement. “The Things” was the strong favorite among the nominators, but faded in the final voting. Nebula Award winner “Ponies” didn’t resonate much at all with the Hugo voters. Three of the four nominees came from online publishers, proving that semi-professional publications can successfully compete with large circulation professional magazines. This is a trend that will undoubtedly continue.


“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed, June 2010)
In a near-future Earth of scarce resources, a female fishing captain wrestles with the prejudices towards her for her mother’s decision to get pregnant with her all those years ago, and one of her crew’s desire to get pregnant now.

                                                        “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010)
A broken maintenance robot in a self-contained space colony is discovered to have been covering up its handler’s dementia, a condition that would normally lead to his execution, and the crew must decide what to do.

“Ponies” by Kij Johnson (, November 17, 2010)
A disturbing short-short about the coming of age of a young girl and her pet “pony,” a sentient, flying unicorn that must undergo a maiming ritual in order for the girl to be accepted by her friends.

                                                                                                                “The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010)
A retelling of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) from the viewpoint of the shape-shifting alien. The story masterfully captures the confusion and desperation of the alien, although it takes a few paragraphs to understand what’s going on.


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