The voting deadline for the Hugos is 6 days away, so I am taking a look at the five finalists on the ballot for Best Short Story.
First is John Scalzi’s “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” (whew).
This story is a lot of fun. It is somewhat in the vein of Terry Pratchett nonsense, and the setting may put some readers in mind of Gormenghast. Mostly, though, it reminds me of a Lord Dunsany tale. That is, like a Dunsany story, it veers from gothic to silly to sharp wit in a drunken, unpredictable, and wholly entertaining way.
It is refreshing to see a comic story on the ballot. “Shadow War” was published as an April Fool’s post on Tor.com, as a parody of too-much-used fantasy elements. (If you didn’t know that, of course, you’d be puzzling over why the prologue to a novel is on the short story ballot.)
So: read it. You can find it here.
It strikes me that this story, if it actually were continued (Scalzi does not intend to write the novel, because this is “April Fool!”), would ally itself with Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! and Scalzi’s Redshirts. I mean, look at the cover. Three guards, the disposable redshirts of medieval fantasies. I am beginning to think I’d like to read The Dead City.
Last, I have to share my laugh-out-loud moment of delight from this story:
The current Emperor of Skalandarharia was Sukesun IV, and as Skalandarharian emperors go he was…not as wantonly cruel as Gorsig the Pitiless, whose official cause of death [was] “sudden perforated bowel”…
Feel free to add your thoughts, all ye who stumble upon this.