There is a wealth of amazing speculative fiction out there in the ether: so many great writers, so many great stories, so many great zines and websites. One of my quests this year, apart from “write more”, is “read intensely” – specifically to read newer science fiction and fantasy. Turns out, this is one of the most enjoyable quests I’ve ever been on, and I am reading so many awesome anthologies, novels, novellas, and short stories.
Touring With The Alien, by Carolyn Ives Gilman at Clarkesworld. Gilman’s scifi novel ‘Dark Orbit’ was one of the best books I read last year (read my review), and this short story is another example of her fantastic prose and storytelling skills. As with ‘Dark Orbit’, she takes a well-worn premise (alien invasion, in the case of this short story), and then finds a completely original (and darkly funny) take on it that makes it feel fresh and original. Strong, and somewhat odd-ball characters add to the originality and appeal of the tale. (I’m now on a quest to read everything Gilman has ever written.)
Songbird, by Shveta Thakrar at Flash Fiction Online. This is an exquisite flash fiction story that cut me to the bone: beautiful language and a sharp, piercing eye for the dark and light sides of human nature and the pressure to conform and fit in. Poetry, song, and prose, all woven together into one.
The Corn Grows Back Every Year, by Riley Vainionpaa at Luna Station Quarterly. I was totally surprised and moved by this story. It’s about a deep friendship, summer, and what you do when something absolutely impossible happens to you. It’s a tale permeated with feelings of wonder and loss, and it mixes a sense of humour (plus a helping of the scientific method) with a wistful vibe that really got to me.
Flightcraft, by Iona Sharma at Luna Station Quarterly. The setting for this story is a time and place that seems very familiar on the surface (Britain after the second world war), yet it is also utterly strange, because this is a world where written words and symbols have real power in a way I’ve never seen explored quite this way in a story before. I love the complete and unapologetic strangeness and originality of this story, and I also love the main characters: post-war women, haunted in different ways by the past, finding their footing in a world at peace.
Godfall, by Sandra Odell at GigaNotoSaurus. Speaking of completely original stories… wow. This one kept me hooked and guessing from start to finish. The premise: all over the world deities from different religions are falling to earth, dead. And in their wake comes…well, something else. An amazing blend of science fiction, fantasy, and a dash of horror. The finale of this story left me breathless.
The Right Sort of Monsters, By Kelly Sandoval at Strange Horizons. This dark and evocative story, about what we’re willing to pay and what we’re willing to sacrifice to get what we think we want (and what we think we need), broke my heart in many little pieces: “But it’s worth it,” I said. “To have a child. It’s worth anything.” Maybe. But it’s not until the end of the quest that you really understand the price that has to be paid.
The Teratologist’s Brother, by Brandon H. Bell at Apex Magazine. Faith, family, sibling loyalty, and a search that descends ever deeper into madness (or is it?) and horror… this story goes very deep and dark, and by the end, it had my head spinning. I love the way the prose changes and becomes ever more fluid and strange the deeper down the rabbit hole the main character goes, searching for his lost brother.
All The World When It Is Thin, by Kristi Demeester at The Dark Magazine. You can feel that there is something terribly dark and twisted at the heart of this story right from the start, and that feeling only deepens as the story goes on. Three sisters, then two sisters, a missing father (of sorts), a strange new brother, and something keeps drawing them back to the forest. A terrifically chilling fantasy-horror.
A Trade at the Fox Wedding, by Roshani Chokshi at Mythic Delirium. “I tilt my head because I think this is what one does when you want to show pity. I also do this when I am hungry.” Told in gorgeously fluid prose, this story has the feel of an old fairy-tale told anew, and seen from the other side: from the side of the beast you meet in the woods. I loved the story, but the language is what really got to me: fractured, mesmerizing writing.
Bonus round: check out the excerpt of Fran Wilde’s upcoming novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary at The Book Smugglers. A whole awesome world packed into a few pages.
(Originally published at mariahaskins.com)