First Annual Rongo Award #2 goes to …

I have on occasion been known to say that science fiction is the most human of literatures. On nearly as many occasions, this comment is received with weird expressions and an “oh, really” kind of response. But it is. Science fiction is about what it means to be human. That’s really it, at its core.

I can hear you now, though. Ron, you say. What does all this flock-flack have to do with the Rongos?

Yes, yes, the First Annual Rongo Awards. Nearly lost track there.

For the uninitiated, in response to the whole Hugo Award fiasco, I recently kicked off a new award process. You can read about it (and its first recipient) here.

And, yes, today I will announce another such recipient (I can feel you stretching to the edge of your seats now).

I admit I love gizmos and whiz-bang and techy science as much as the next guy, but for me the roots of science fiction are its characters and what they have to say about people as a whole. I like stories, you know? Setting is great, and prose is beautiful. But give me story and I’m a happy camper.

This view of story that I have is why I started as I did. It is important, because the piece I want to talk about now has bucketloads of this—or should I say it wallows in it like a fly in garbage … okay, perhaps that’s a bit too far, even given the story I’ll now name:

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The second ever Rongo Award goes to …

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Rongo Category: Short Story
Story: “The Region of Jennifer” (Analog June 2014)
Author: Tony Ballantyne

You can grab this story in audio version at Starship Sofa.

“The Regions of Jennifer” is an out-there, far future piece of science fiction that finds us humans—or at least what we have made of ourselves—having entered into a relationship with an alien culture known as Slavemakers (this may give you an idea of how this pact may eventually wind up…but we’ve not gotten to that point by the time of this telling, so perhaps there is time, eh?). It’s full of re-built people and strange, genetically altered humanity. It’s got real-life alchemy, or at least it has Jennifer, for whom so much of what she touches turns to gold.

In other words, it’s full-force SF at its deepest.

For those unaware of who Tony Ballantyne is (a problem you should quickly go rectify), let me say that he’s a British writer, and that this story is set in a world he developed in three earlier novels. It feels like it. The setting is deep and the people are well developed for a story this size. And make no mistake, it’s the people who carry the story here—not the technology, not the science of the moment, not even the mechanics of its plot. Instead it’s the heart of Randy, the leading male as he commits himself to success of the human spirit (even if the human race itself is lost somewhere in the mix of modern-day DNA hacking), and it’s calculating and comfort-loving nature of Jennifer who weighs her options.

The relationship of these two people come to its head here, and by the end of their time together we understand exactly what they are fighting for and perhaps even how that fight may end—though my guess is that what you think will happen and how you think of that message may well rely wholly on who you are rather than how the author expressly designed anything.

“Regions of Jennifer” is a sharp, biting tale with a kick. For that reason, I’m excited to award it a highly coveted “Rongo” as one of the best short stories of 2014.



Rongo Category: Novella
Story: “Unlocked”
Author: John Scalzi

Rongo Category: Short Story
Story:“The Region of Jennifer”
Author: Tony Ballantyne

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