December 11, 2018

8 (extra) spectacular stories I read in November


November brought a whole lot of awesome speculative short fiction. In addition to this roundup here on my blog, you can also read my November short fiction roundup for B&N’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, featuring 10 stories:

In addition to that, you can check out my recommended reading list for 2018. It’s still somewhat of a work in progress until the end of December, but it is already brimming with fantastic stories from this past year.

One If By Sea, by Eden Royce in Augur
“You want your little girl back or not?
I’ma tell you how to do it. Get your life back the way it was. No more of that cold, empty hole lyin’ in your belly.” 
Royce’s evocative story about what you need to do in order to reach your child when that child is lost on the other side is both riveting and harrowing. It’s a tale of faint hope, of magic, and, maybe, a sliver of light. The prose is powerful and wonderfully crafted, every word sharp and honed to pierce you.

Ivy, by Melissa Goodrich in Flash Fiction Online
A dark and lustrous story about a house and a family, a dead child, and a living child  who is not like everyone else. It’s about things that grow fiercely – ivy and memories and feelings – so fiercely that they can cover everything, a house and a garden, and a little girl, sometimes weakening, sometimes strengthening. I love how Goodrich embraces the story’s glorious weirdness, while at the same time, telling a more familiar tale of a child who tries to fit in to, and survive in, a world that does not quite understand her.

How To Swallow the Moon, by Isabel Yap in Uncanny Magazine
Oh, this story… What a gem it is, a sharp and sweet fairytale about friendship and love, fate and duty, and the freedom that might be there for the taking (if you dare to grab hold of it).  Yap tells the story of Anyag and Amira. Anyag is a binukot, a girl hidden away from the world until she has to marry one of the suitors who come to vie for her hand once she turns 16. Amira has been her protector and only friend since they were both young children. And in the background lurks the threat of the serpent, the bakunawa, who might claim the binukot, or might devour the world’s one remaining moon. Gorgeous and mesmerizing prose.

Toothsome Things, by Chimedum Ohaegbu in Strange Horizons
May we tell you a story? Here goes: in the happily ever aftermath of many fairy tales comes a hunt, for wolf flesh and justice (these are, in many fairy tales, synonyms).” Little Red Riding Hood is my favourite fairytale, and this re-telling of that classic is both brilliant and haunting: the wolf is not what you might think, and neither is the girl or the grandmother or the woodsman. It’s a fairytale that speaks of other fairytales, of other stories, of lore and memories, and Ohaegbu skillfully weaves together all these threads into a luminous new pattern. A must-read.

The Hollow Tree by Jordan Kurella in Beneath Ceaseless Skies
“Remember, Pira. The fairy doesn’t give you what you ask for, she gives you what you want. So try to make them the same thing.” A girl grows up with a father who frightens her and hurts her mother. She grows up knowing exactly why the two other girls her mother gave birth to ended up dying. Desperate for things to change, she goes to the hollow tree to make a bargain, well aware that there will be a price to pay for any salvation . Kurella’s prose is honed to perfection with a dark, jagged edge. This is a subtle and rich fantasy tale with so much depth beneath the surface.

The Last Stand, by Christoph Weber in Terraform at Motherboard 
After a year in which we all saw raging fires tear through California and other places (Sweden, for example); after a year in which we saw a glimpse of the kind of devastation climate change might really bring, Weber’s story feels almost as if it’s ripped from the headlines rather than science fiction. In a not too distant future version of our world, a stand of ancient, majestic trees is threatened by a monstrous fire. A force of firefighters tries to defend them. Will they succeed? Will we?

Streuobstwiese, by Steve Toase in Shimmer
Toase’s story is an exquisitely crafted and deeply unsettling tale about love and loyalty and family. It’s also a story about magic and the costs of using it, and about creativity and the searing pain of loving someone who also terrifies you. It is a profound and profoundly strange tale that really got under my skin. (Pro tip: If you haven’t picked up your copy of Shimmer #46, the very last issue of Shimmer, you should do so right now.)

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Try Again by Zen Cho at B&N’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog 
A hapless imugi is determined to attain the form of a full-fledged dragon and gain entry to the gates of heaven.” I confess I’d never heard of imugis before reading this story, but while reading it, I certainly developed deep and fond feelings for this particular imugi. Zen Cho’s tale weaves together strands of myth and fairytale, past and present, reality and fantasy into a fabulous, funny, sweet, bitter, and bitter-sweet, story. It’s about life and love, about striving to achieve a goal with such determination that you risk losing sight of everything else, and it’s about what happens when you find magic in a life you didn’t even know you wanted.

(Originally published at

December 7, 2018

At B&N - Sci-Fi and Fantasy Short Fiction Roundup: November 2018

 Stories included in this roundup:


Read it.

November 9, 2018

8 (extra) fabulous speculative short fiction stories I read in October 2018


Every month is a great month for speculative short fiction, but if we as readers and writers want to enjoy these stories we really should try to support the publications that bring these stories into the world.

If you read a story you like, even if it’s free to read online, and you have a few extra bucks kicking around, it’s a great idea to buy an issue, pick up a subscription, support them on Patreon, or throw some coins in their tip-jar if they have one.

Ava Paints the Horses, by Ville Meriläinen in Cast of Wonders (narrated by Katrin Kania)
Some stories just grab you by the heart and soul and sink deep inside you because they feel so painfully true and piercingly, devastatingly beautiful. Meriläinen’s story about a young girl is quiet and subtle, and it brilliantly captures the darkness and isolation that grief, depression, and sadness can bring. With carefully crafted prose, Meriläinen also captures the way you see the world, the way the world feels, when you’re in a dark place and you don’t quite know how to get out of it. It is an exceptional piece of fiction, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Impostor/Impostor, by Ian Muneshwar in Black Static #65 
A loving couple lives in what seems like domestic bliss, until one partner’s mother comes to visit. As soon as she arrives (or maybe it starts before?), the old woman’s presence eats away at their peaceful existence (or was it perhaps already deteriorating beneath the surface?), and soon, seemingly impossible things start to happen. Muneshwar’s story is a deliciously disturbing slice of horror, twisting reality in small but strikingly effective ways throughout the story, creating the kind of nightmare that feels like everyday reality until it clearly is something else – something much, much darker. Quiet and deadly sharp horror.

STET, by Sarah Gailey in Fireside Fiction
This story is written as comments and footnotes to an academic paper. Visually, that makes it rather different than most short stories I read. Using this slightly unsettling form, Gailey tells a perceptive, powerful, and thought-provoking story that explores grief and anger, human and artificial intelligence (and the limits of both). It also explores the inability and unwillingness of corporations, scientists, and governments to consider the way their own prejudices might influence their work, and the risks and human costs of business, and technological “progress”. I don’t have words to properly explain how powerful and striking this unusual (and unusually brilliant) story is, but I highly recommend it.

Dead Things, by Becca De La Rosa in Shimmer 
A lovely and singularly gorgeous story about death, and about how love finds its way into the world of the dead, changing the people it touches. I love how De La Rosa creates a vivid and evocative version of the afterlife that is rooted in old myths and legends, yet manages to be strikingly original. This story is from the penultimate issue of Shimmer, and if you want to know what a “shimmery” story is, then this is a prime example. A brilliant piece of deep, dark fantasy.

The Analogue of Empathy by Joanna Berry in Interzone #277 
A fascinating and gripping story about a future where a great war has taken place. In the post-war world, still obsessed with defeating the other side, one scientist is working on a project that involves artificial intelligence. He receives his research-funding as part of a military project, but is secretly trying to achieve a different kind of solution to the conflict. The story is told from the point of view of the AI, and Berry vividly captures the fragmented, adapting, and developing mind of the AI as it tries to make sense of its purpose in the world. Riveting from start to finish.

Saudade, by Nelson Rolon in Fiyah #8
Action-packed and as immersive as a really good movie, this is a rollicking, multi-layered, and entertaining blast of science fiction that grabs you by the gills from the first paragraph and does not. let. go. It follows the trials and tribulations (and fights!) of Menino and Vida as they fight and drink, duck and weave through a future that is shaped by powerful technology, greedy corporations, and the struggle to survive no matter where in the solar system you’ve ended up. Rolon’s story is full of fantastic world-building, great dialogue, and the characters just pop off the page. A must-read from Fiyah’s Pilgrimage issue.

This Will Not Happen To You, by Marissa Lingen in Uncanny Magazine
“I got sick.

This will not happen to you.”
Lingen’s story from Uncanny’s special issue Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction is a shatteringly powerful story about a devastating disease caused by fungal spores, and the things we tell ourselves to keep ourselves feeling safe and protected from what happens to “other people”. We won’t get sick, we won’t be in pain or need medical treatment we can’t afford, we will be protected, we are safe in our lives and our bodies. Except, of course, we’re not. Lingen’s prose gets under your skin, stripping away the comforting lies we tell ourselves: “…everyone knows that if someone says that it‘s 95% odds, that means no one you know will get itBecause surely you don‘t know twenty people. You are not one in twenty people. Surely.” Every word of this story carries so much weight and power.

The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest published by Annorlunda Enterprises 
A richly layered and quietly subversive tale about what happens when a community tries to get rid of a god who isn’t ready to be relieved of his duties. That’s sort of the surface of the story – beneath that, this is also a story that deals with questions of power and memory, language and history. I love this story manages to go so deep without ever feeling heavy or ponderous, and it made me think about things like how we choose to live our lives, what we choose to fight for, and what we decide to dedicate our lives to. A wonderful read.

  (Originally published at