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Hugo Award 2019 Shorts discuss > “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark

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This is our discussion of the 2019 Hugo Award "best short story" finalist...

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark
It can be read on-line at Fireside Magazine.


This is part of our discussion of the 2019 Hugo Award short story & novelette finalists.


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There's an old story that George Washington had wooden teeth. That is apparently not true, the dentures of the time were made of metal holding human and animal teeth. GW's dentures are actually on display in a glass case at Mt. Vernon. Which means they buried him without his teeth?

Anyway, this story isn't about teeth; it's a collection of nine stories.


message 3: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments This one was disturbing and fascinating at the same time. I had no idea what to expect from just the title.

Remember how we kind of complained that we couldn't figure out the magic system in the Riddle Master of Hed? Although this story is short, and the magic system is really just a side aspect, I thought it was amazingly done. Just dropping a few hints here and there allowed me to imagine this alternate history world (including "orthodontomancy" or however it was spelled, I mean an author would have to be creative to come up with "tooth magic"!)

And yeah, kind of hard not to have a cynical laugh at the slavers not taking advantage of a portal from which you could pull slaves whenever you felt like it because the prices would drop (sounded like she might have even been pulled from our world?)


message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 520 comments So..I live in Fairfax County so that added a funny sheen on it for me that wasn't really there. But I needed the added levity. Neat alternate history, sad that the important parts of the history stayed the same.
Does what a good alternate SFF history should - brings new awareness of a true part of our history (the negro teeth thing!)

I feel like this world was well imagined even in such brief strokes - more good tales could come from it.


message 5: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 520 comments and yeah - tooth magic...id be interested to hear more of that!


message 6: by Caitlin (new)

Caitlin | 68 comments Andrea wrote: "This one was disturbing and fascinating at the same time. I had no idea what to expect from just the title.

Remember how we kind of complained that we couldn't figure out the magic system in the R..."


The little hints of different kinds of magic were fantastic, especially for having little space to expand on anything. Between this and Black God's Drums, I've been impressed at how well Clark can introduce different magic systems without getting into either info dump or so sparse it's confusing.


message 7: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments There were enough tidbits dropped in the worldbuilding I could imagine a whole novel set in this world. I'd like to see more about this tooth trade, are some teeth more expensive because they give different experiences, could be like the Temporal Confections where depending on what you feel like you can insert a tooth to make you happy, make you nostalgic, make you brave, etc. I wouldn't want a whole novel about teeth of course, but it could expand on the concept as part of the background of the overall narrative.


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