June 6, 2019

10 outstanding stories I read in May


This month, I’m sharing ten great stories here on my website, in addition to the ten awesome stories I shared in my roundup at B&N:

I launched my Patreon page in May, and there, I share a weekly short fiction roundup called “My Weekly 5”. It includes new stories as well as older stories, and it’s available to all Patreon supporters. I also share photos, stories, reviews, and various writerly thoughts. Come hang out, and be a tree!

The Asking Price, by Christie Yant in Kaleidotrope 
Choose one thing you treasure, no larger than your fist. Stow it well in your pack, somewhere disguised and safe.”
A compelling and exquisitely crafted fairy tale about going on a quest to get the armor you need, and giving the required items, including your fear and shame, to the armorer. Yant’s story wraps its wisdom and lessons in prose that sings with a clear and striking voice.

That She Might Fly, by Mary Anne Mohanraj at Escape Pod 
There’s been a terrorist bombing in a space colony, followed by unrest and riots, and it’s Nuala O’Brien’s job to make sure everyone in the area is evacuated. The last holdout is a man called Arjun Sivaloganathanto and he, as it turns out, does not want to leave. I love so many things about this story. I love how it’s a science fiction story that isn’t really about tech or gadgets or space travel, even though it features colony ships, gene-modding, and more, but all of that tech is built into the plot and the telling of the story, skilfully and effortlessly. I love how it gives you the sense of what kind of world this is, of what kind of society this is, of what kind of people live here, without burying you in that information. And I love how Mohanraj carefully twists and turns the human and emotional conundrum facing O’Brien, and I love that the suspense here hinges on the choices made by two people in a fraught situation.

Road: A Fairy Tale by Shalini Srinivasan in Strange Horizons
Road was a shell of a person, and it was not happy about it. It began to wake at odd times, starving so that only the fear and crunch of a pedestrian would fill the aching hollow.” I adore this tale of Road and Sludge (a river, or remnant of a river, that runs beneath Road). Like the title says, this is a fairy tale, and yes, the main characters are a sentient road and a sentient river, struggling to deal with all the irritation and aggravation brought by traffic, people, and development. A powerful and uniquely imagined fantasy tale set in the real world.

The Fourth Trimester Is the Strangest, by Rebecca Campbell in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction May/June 2019
Such a tiny and desolate sound, it was hard to believe, sometimes, that he was human and not some other sort of creature, so enormous were his eyes, and his head, and his thin little arms and legs braided across his body as though he was still enwombed.
This is a devastating and harrowing post-partum horror tale that twists itself into the deepest, darkest crevices of those strange days after your child is born. I recognized so many of the feelings and terrors of this tale from when my own children were born, and the ending is both chilling and gutting. Rebecca Campbell’s story notes for this story are on her website, and give some great insights.

My Sister Is a House, by ZoĆ« Medeiros in Fireside Fiction
My sister did not stay with us. My sister could not stay with us.
There was a great sadness in her, and we spoke around it more than we spoke of it. Much of the time it was like I crouched at the top of a well, and she sat at the bottom, and we shouted at each other. Echoes will distort your words.”
A tender, aching, and beautifully written story about family, and war, and loss. It’s about coming home, and finding peace and solace where you might not have thought to find it at all. I have a thing for stories about siblings, and that’s one of the reasons this story  pierced me through and through.

Jasmine and Rosemary, by Eleanor Hawtin in Selene Quarterly
The first time I cast a love spell, I walked deep into the woods on the night of the spring equinox and built a bonfire as high as my waist.”
Hawtin’s story is a witch’s love story, or more accurately, a witch’s love stories, because there are more than one, each lover summoned (after a fashion) with a slightly different spell, and with jasmine and rosemary. Hawtin’s writing is both luminous and tender, as the witch recounts the magic and the passion, the loves and sadness, and the hope for the future.

The Eater of Dirt, by Marie Vibbert in Reckoning
She squats beside tiny worshipers…. They bend their knees and open their mouths to the Eater of Dirt. Together they savor histories digested, civilizations mulched.”
Marie Vibbert’s new flash story in Reckoning is a gorgeously wrought, darkly lyrical piece of fiction that has the vibe and feel of a poem. Reckoning’s theme is “environmental justice”, and while that might seem like a somewhat nebulous concept at first, they consistently publishes outstanding fiction and poetry that beautifully illustrates what that concept means. The range and depth of the zine’s fictions is really astounding, and it’s become one of my favourite publications.

Leaves, by Juliet Kemp in Vulture Bones
Ell slid, slowly and deliberately, off the sofa and onto the floor. She lay there, full length on her back, and stared at the pattern of damp at the top of the wall.
After a while, it began to look like a tree.”
Ell’s disability benefits have been cut and she isn’t sure how to make ends meet. Just for the heck of it, she starts drawing leaves on the wall around the pattern of damp, and soon, the wall, the apartment, and Ell’s life change in unexpected ways. This wonderful story finds an unexpected gleam of hope in darkness. 

What the Sea Reaps, We Must Provide, by Eleanor R. Wood in Diabolical Plots
“We don’t discuss it. That yearly sacrifice to keep the summer safe, to protect our town’s lifeblood. But winter’s rawness reveals the primal undertow, much as we pretend otherwise.”
A tense piece of flash fiction about a town on the edge of the sea where everyone knows that every year, a sacrifice is needed to placate the ocean. There’s a quiet darkness at the heart of this story, and I was on tenterhooks while reading it. Wood expertly wrings every bit of suspense out of this tale, giving us an ending that might make you think anew about the true nature of sacrifice.

Nice Things, by Ellen Klages in Uncanny Magazine
After the memorial service, Phoebe Morris returned to the beachfront townhouse where her mother had lived for the last twenty years, and prepared to cope. There was nothing of Mother’s that she particularly wanted, but there were papers to sort and clothing to donate, and it was her responsibility.”
This is a subtle and piercing story about a woman looking for a way to deal with her mother’s death, to deal with what she is feeling, but also what she is NOT feeling. Everything is alive with memories in her mother’s house and though this is a quiet story, it is powerful and haunting in more than one way. Also, the ending packs one heck of a punch.


June 4, 2019

At B&N - Sci-Fi & Fantasy Short Fiction Roundup: May 2019

 Stories included in this roundup:


Read it.