January was a new beginning of sorts for my short fiction roundup(s). I’m really excited about my new column over at B&N Scifi & Fantasy Blog where I will be picking 8-10 stories for a roundup of short, speculative fiction every month. Check out my debut, with 10 stories I read in January!
I will also be doing a roundup here on my blog, and it will probably be arriving about a week after the B&N roundup. There’s just so much awesome short fiction published every month, and I want to cover as much of it as I can.
Anyway, here are 9 (extra) awesome stories I read in January, 2018:
The Eyes of the Flood by Susan Jane Bigelow in Lightspeed
A gorgeous post-apocalyptic story? Is that a thing? Because that’s what this is. Bigelow’s story, like the world it is set in, is both harrowing and haunting, but also beautiful. It is a world that has been fundamentally altered by a terrible disaster and its aftermath. The same is true for the protagonist, who is strong and resilient, but also very, very lonely. As we travel through the changed landscape of this new world, the story drifts between science fiction and something that feels almost like a fairy tale. A powerful and profound story of survival.
A Cigarette Burn In Your Memory, by Bo Balder in Clarkesworld
This is an eerie story set in what feels like a near-future version of our own world. Balder creates a sense of a changeable, unreliable reality that made me feel a bit disoriented and unmoored while reading it, rather similar to how the characters in the story feel as they go about their lives. People’s memories appear, recede and vanish again while they try to remember that very important something that has occurred, changing their lives and their world forever.
The Best Friend We Never Had, by Nisi Shawl in Apex
This action- and emotion-packed story is both a rollicking science fiction-adventure and a tale that skilfully explores deeper themes like friendship and love, betrayal, redemption, and sacrifice. I was pulled into Shawl’s world from the first line of the story, and immersed in a world that is lavish and rich, full of life, and full of fantastic, complex characters with depth and personality. An excellent read.
A Wispy Chastening, by D.A. Xiaolin Spires in Reckoning
Told with gorgeous prose and infused with dreams and magic, this is a story about how our lives affect the natural world we’re a part of. The protagonist meets a Shepherd, a mysterious character with strange powers: “She said he herded all of Earth’s creatures, even humans, to his vision of a perfect, but dystopic future.” A magic slice of prose that weaves a spell of its own.
Touch Tank, by Jan Stinchcomb in Lost Balloon
A poignant and deeply moving mermaid-tale (of sorts), Stinchcomb’s story follows a pregnant woman through the harsh streets of a derelict city, as she looks for rest and solace in an old Aquarium. Everything here feels as if it’s broken and cracked, soiled and decaying, and yet, in the end, there’s a glimmer of magic even in that despair.
Post-Truth, by Robert Repino in Grotesque Magazine
I’ve been a fan of Repino ever since I read his novel Mort(e) (book 1 in the excellent The War With No Name-series), and this story shares the raw, visceral vibe of his books, a sense of threatening violence and the potential of sudden revolutionary change lurking beneath the deceptively normal surface of society as we know it. “Post-Truth” is an excellent and deeply unsettling take on…well, without giving too much away, let’s just say it gives a new perspective on the dangers of parenthood.
El is a Spaceship Melody, by Maurice Broaddus in Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Part of Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ fabulous science-fantasy issue, this is a fantastical space…opera?, where a crew plays music togehter in order to fuel the living crystals power a spaceship. And that’s just one piece of the gloriously inventive world-building in this story. Broaddus’s prose is a marvel, and he masterfully builds a unique world that is vibrant and strange and full of life. To me, there’s a bit of a Star Trek feel to it all, but in the end, this story is like nothing else I’ve ever read.
Sandals Full of Rainwater, by A.E. Prevost in Capricious #9
The theme for this excellent issue of Capricious is “gender diverse pronouns”, and Prevost explores that subject, as well as immigration and love, relationships and language, in a gentle and beautifully told story. It takes place in a city full of migrants where many languages and cultures meet and intersect, and it follows Piscrandiol, a new arrival to the city of Orpanthyre, who is trying to find their way in this new, strange place. Not only do they have to learn new languages, find a new job, and make new friends, they also have to adjust to a society that thinks about gender, and uses pronouns in a very different way than they are used to. This might sound like a rather intellectual exercise, but the story is warm and tender, even as it deals with complex issues like migration, loneliness, and disappointment. The whole issue is well worth checking out, and this is one of my favourite stories in it.
Memory is a Rumour, by Yaroslav Barsukov in Metaphorosis Magazine
This is a quietly devastating science fiction story with a dark horror unfolding at its centre. A child is about to undergo an irreversible medical procedure that will forever alter who they are. The child’s parents are eager to go ahead, while the doctor they’re seeing seems intent on trying to change their minds. Barsukov tells the story without any big flashy gestures, using carefully crafted prose that made this story sink deep into my heart.