The Hugo finalists for Best Novella are an embarresment of riches: droll murderbots, hippo riding cowboys, some sequels to previous favourites and some exciting surprises. Pinsker’s quirky murder mystery (available here https://uncannymagazine.com/article/and-then-there-were-n-one/ ) starts off in a style that I’d call ‘philosophical fiction’ i.e. it feels like the set-up for exploring the philosophical implications of a topic by using a speculative fiction frame. Partly this is because Sarah Pinsker¹ is the main character. Indeed, as we rapidly discover, Sarah Pinsker° is ALL the characters…
“Playful” is the obvious word for the novella but maybe that does it a diservice. Rather than being an exploration of what it would mean to meet your other selves from different timelines, Pinsker uses the frame of a classic Agatha Christie style murder mystery. A hotel full of people attending an unusual convention on an island cut off from the mainland by a storm. Sarah Pinsker¹ is an insurance investigator who is coopted to investigate the murder of Sarah Pinskerº by presumably one or more Sarah Pinskers³. It’s another clever choice that allows Pinskerª discuss her own life and choices against a backdrop of infinity possibilities. (Pinskerª, as in the actual author, is apparently in attendance but doesn’t make an appearance – although the murder weapon is notable.)
The story is complete and satisfying and I think the author made a wise choice in letting the story follow its own path rather than exploring all the possibilities of the premise. Having said that, it is such a gloriously wonderful idea (an invitation to a convention full of alternate-realitiy versions of yourself) that this story only scratches the surface. I’d love to read an anthology in which other authors found themselves invited and the twists of genre that would create.
Great stuff and an excellent read. This whole category will be a hard one to rate.