An Election

by John Scalzi

Cover image

Publisher: Subterranean
Copyright: 2010
Printing: 2012
ISBN: 1-59606-496-X
Format: Kindle
Pages: 24

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This is another story from the Subterranean Scalzi Super Bundle that probably doesn't justify a full review, particularly since this time it's a short story and not even a novelette, but as with the others it's been independently published on the Kindle (and is still available that way for 99 cents). So by my obsessive internal consistency that matters only to me, it gets a full review anyway.

I was mildly surprised to find that this was actually my second reading, and now vaguely remember that Subterranean had actually sponsored the story's appearance on Scalzi's blog as an advertising experiment. So I originally read the story from Scalzi's blog, and if you don't really want to pay money for it, you still can as well. Along with a couple of ads that appear to have bit-rotted.

The chief feature of An Election is the background: a world in which aliens and humans are intermingled in a political district, going about their lives against a background of rather extreme multispecies diversity. The protagonist, David, decides to run for the upcoming city council special election, despite living in a district that's minority-human and that hasn't seen a human councilor in forty-four years. (David also happens to be a gay man, which goes entirely unremarked in the story and is, in fact, entirely unremarkable given the excitingly diverse characteristics of his alien neighbors. I thought that was a nice touch.) He of course appears to stand no chance, particularly when one of the city bosses decides to run as well, but ends up with a campaign advisor almost by accident and determinedly attempts to connect with his neighbors and earn their votes.

This felt quite typical to me of Scalzi's humor writing. The protagonist is a good-hearted person who gets in rather over his head but is still determined to do the right thing, while not taking anything too seriously. The background humor is never particularly threatening and tends towards slapstick and banter. I found it similar in tone to most of Agent to the Stars, although of course much shorter. As usual, Scalzi's grasp of conversational banter is probably the strongest part of the story; the dynamic between David, his husband James, and his campaign advisor brought several chuckles for me.

This is slight but enjoyable. I wouldn't go out of my way to read it, but it's a good story to toss into a bundle of other work, and I remember it holding my interest when reading it on-line. (Which is rare; usually I fail to finish any fiction I try to read in a browser unless it's extremely short.)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2013-04-01

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21