“For Want of a Nail”

This week’s published work is the 2011 Hugo Award winner for best short story, written by Mary Robinette Kowal.  In addition to being an award winning author, Kowal is also a professional puppeteer.  Her debut novel Shades of Milk and Honey (Tor 2010) was nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award for Best Novel. In 2008 she won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, while two of her short fiction works have been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story: “Evil Robot Monkey” in 2009 and “For Want of a Nail” in 2011.  Kowal is serving her second term as the Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

“For Want of a Nail” is about what happens when too much reliance is placed on the machinery that enhances our lives, and the consequences that occur when something goes wrong.

Questions to think about when reading this story:

  1. How does Kowal establish the setting?  What clues does she give about the world of the story that create it in your imagination, and how quickly (or slowly) is this done?
  2. There are several ways this story could be told, and from several points of view.  How effective would this story have been if told from Ludoviko’s point of view?  Cordelia’s?  How would that have changed the way the story is told?
  3. How well is the butterfly effect indicated by the title of the story presented?  Where does it reach its climactic conclusion?  Would you have done it differently, and if so – how?

See you soon.  Feel free to post comments here on the blog, too.

-Anthony

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