“The Mountains of Mourning” by Lois McMaster Bujold

Second paragraph of third section:

The interior of the pavilion was shady and cool after the glare outside. It was furnished with comfortable old chairs and tables, one of which bore the remains of a noble breakfast—Miles mentally marked two lonely-looking oil cakes on a crumb-scattered tray as his own. Miles’s mother, lingering over her cup, smiled across the table at him.

Next in my sequence of joint Hugo and Nebula winners, this is an old favourite of mine. If you don’t know Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, I urge you to give it a try. Most of the stories are about Miles, a nobleman from a conservative planetary empire which is only just re-engaging with the rest of the galaxy and with modernisation, who suffers from restricted growth and brittle bones in a society where disability is abhorred.

In “The Mountains of Mourning”, one of the earlier stories in the sequence, Miles investigates and judges a case of infanticide in the impoverished back-country of his ancestral fiefdom. It’s about change to an ancient way of living, and poisonous family dynamics, and about disability in society. Every character is credibly, in some cases agonisingly, drawn. I think I first read it when I was getting to grips with my own family’s situation, and it has a special place in my heart for that reason. I think also it would be a very good place to start your journey into the Vorkosigan saga. You can get it here and here as a standalone, and here as part of a larger collection.

I’d also note that apart from the “truth drug” which Miles and his henchmen use to discover the identity of the murderer, the story could be perfectly well set in other times and places, with no sfnal elements at all.

It is interesting that the cover by Alan Gutierrez for the original publication in the May 1989 Analog, and for the later Arc Manor publication (artist not known to me), both concentrate on Miles as the focal point; whereas Ron Miller’s cover for Bujold’s own version concentrates on the empty cradle.

Also on both Hugo and Nebula ballots for Best Novella were “Tiny Tango”, by Judith Moffett, and “A Touch of Lavender”, by Megan Lindholm. The other Hugo finalists were The Father of Stones, by Lucius Shepard, and “Time-Out”, by Connie Willis. The other Nebula finalists were A Dozen Tough Jobs, by Howard Waldrop; “Great Work of Time”, by John Crowley; and “Marîd Changes His Mind”, by George Alec Effinger. I can’t recall having read any of them.

The Hugo for Best Novel that year went to Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, and the Nebula to The Healer’s War, by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. The Hugo for Best Novelette went to “Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another”, by Robert Silverberg, and the Nebula to “At the Rialto”, by Connie Willis. The Hugo for Best Short Story went to “Boobs”, by the late Suzy McKee Charnas, and the Nebula to “Ripples in the Dirac Sea”, by Geoffrey A. Landis. And the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation went to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The following year there were two joint winners of both Hugo and Nebula, “Bears Discover Fire” by Terry Bisson and “The Hemingway Hoax” by Joe Haldeman, so I’ll get to them next.