August 29, 2016

10 must-read fantasy & science fiction stories


I read some awesome speculative short fiction this month. As always, I don’t pretend I’ve read everything out there, but here are some of my favourite things that I read in August.

I Remember Your Face, by E.K. Wagner in Apex Magazine. I do love having my heart broken by great fiction, and this short story shattered me. It’s the kind of story where you know from the start that somehow, somewhere along the line it will run you through, but the way the story twists and turns through the character’s past and present still delivered a surprising and devastating killing blow. A haunting post-apocalyptic vision and a very well-written protagonist.

My Grandmother’s Bones, by S.L. Huang at Daily Science Fiction. This is one of the most beautifully written stories I read this month. Ruminations on death, love, tradition, and family, illustrated in a finely observed, poignant, and totally unexpected way. A story that reaches into your chest and grabs you by the feels.

In Our Rags of Lightby Shira Lipkin in Strange Horizons. Teenage girls practicing witchcraft: now there’s a trope that needs to be slashed open and turned inside out, and that is exactly what Shira Lipkin does in this story. I love how the story plays around with what’s “expected”, and makes into something new and different, and I especially love how complex (strong and f0olish and clever, brittle and daring) the main character Jess is. A beautiful read that feels alive and real.

A Deeper Green, by Samantha Murray at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Murray’s thoughtful story about Juvianna, a girl who has the ability to alter people’s memories, is both deeply moving, troubling, and suspenseful. There’s a whole lot going on with world-building in this story: how would a society try to control and harness people with this power? How would they be used? How would that affect them and their community? Also, the descriptions of how Juvianna manipulates minds and memories are gripping.

Salt and Sorcery, by Raphael Ordoñez at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. “The two glassy knobs that protruded from her pale pink hair flashed with inner fire, resonating with the storm that was tossing the airship like a drifting spore.” That’s how the story starts, and from that point on, Ordoñez creates a vivid, strange, and mesmerizing world that is unlike anything I’ve read or imagined before. Add a cast of terrific characters, and a dizzying adventure that explores bravery, sacrifice, friendship, fear, and love, and you’ve got a knockout tale.

Floodwater, by Kristi DeMeester at The Dark. This tale is so very creepy, getting the goosebumps going up and down my arms before anything really “happens”. Though, of course, it’s actually “happening” the whole time, quietly and cleverly, beneath the surface of the prose. Lots of rain, lots of grey, and a full measure of delicious spookiness.

Wheatfield with Crows, by Steve Rasnic Tem at The Dark. Another wonderfully unsettling tale of sneaking, creeping horror from The Dark. Tem creates mood, atmosphere, and a sense of place so skillfully in this deceptively simple story about a lost child, and then proceeds to twist and turn the tale until it gets right in underneath your skin.

Mamihlapinatapei, by Rachael K. Jones at Flash Fiction Online. This is a brilliant flash fiction piece dealing with resurrected dinosaurs (shades of Jurassic Park, except…well…not), the weight and importance of words, translation, and how our minds and thoughts (and maybe souls) are affected by the languages we know and speak. Exquisite through and through.

“This Is the Thing”, by Chloie Piveral at Kaleidotrope. “The longer they have you, the harder it is to find the door.” A hissing respirator, a body trapped in an institution, and a mind looking for a way out… Piveral goes deep into the dreamlike, slip-sliding world of someone who isn’t all there and isn’t all gone either, and spins a chilling and suspenseful tale full.

An Ocean the Color of Bruises, by Isabel Yap in Uncanny Magazine. I love this haunting and wistful tale of a group of friends spending a few days together by the ocean. The story intertwines their loves, their lust, their friendship, their regrets and hopes, with the story of the place they are visiting – a place that is haunted by secrets and ghosts. The menacing presence of those ghosts hovers just on the edge of reality through the whole story, before finally becoming fully visible.

(Originally published at