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This is a Sad Puppy recommendation for Best Short Story in the Hugo nominations. It’s published on the Baen website.

King Bertrand is bored, so he plans a grand festival where his favorite poet Garrick will perform. His chancellor Hubert Reece is dismayed by the costs, but knows the results of telling truth to power. Garrick arrives and performs in the new stadium built for the event. His forte is war epics, and he is loudly applauded by the troops. No ladies are seen to swoon. The king is satisfied for a while, but soon he wants to commission a new work, of the imagination this time, where foes from the future attack and have to be repelled. Garrick accepts the commission with the stipulation he will outline the epic and have a lesser bard do the work of actual composition and performance. Newcomer Fulchard is chosen for the execution, with conflicted results.

Although the Sad Puppies have announced they’re not into literary fiction, they do seem to be deep into philosophy this year. There’s a philosophical thread that runs through this story, along with allusions to the past and future. I’m not sure if the title is a grammatical error or not. The story was listed as “The Flat Effect,” but when I got the website, it definitely says “Affect” which would change the meaning. I’m thinking this is about the traditional vs. literary SF conflict in the SFF community, but there’s nothing I can pin down to verify this. Still, I’m sure it’s message fiction. I’m going to give it a few extra points for the subtlety.

Four stars.

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