February was another month rich in amazing short fiction. Here on my blog I’m picking eight extra fabulous stories I read in February, and you can also check out my February roundup for Barnes & Noble’s SciFi & Fantasy Blog with ten other fabulous stories of fantasy, scifi, and horror.
I also want to encourage you to support the zines publishing these stories. Pick up a subscription, buy a single issue, or support them on Patreon. For just a few dollars (or even just one dollar) a month you can help support some fabulous fiction.
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington, by Phenderson Djèlí Clark in Fireside Fiction.
This is a phenomenal story about George Washington’s false teeth, telling the (literally) haunting story about the people each tooth came from. It’s a brilliant piece of storytelling, weaving together history, alternate history, fantasy, horror, and a wicked-dark sense of humour into a compelling and incisive tale. Clark’s story notes for this story are well worth a read, too. (Clark is one of my favourite writers working today, and if you haven’t read his “A Dead Djinn in Cairo” you should read it right now!)
The Scarecrows’ Daughter, by Hamilton Perez in Arsenika.
A powerful and unsettling story about blood-magic and the steep price asked of one girl in order to pay for life and a good harvest. I love flash fiction with a passion, and this is an excellent piece of flash with a lot of dept that pulled me in from the first line. Perez’s terrific prose creates a strong sense of place and mood with very few words. Arsenika is a newer zine for flash fiction and poetry (this is issue #2) but it’s already establishing itself as a place for strong flash and unique voices.
The Nature of Bees, by Priya Sharma in Weird Fiction Review.
This short story is taken from Sharma’s forthcoming collection “All the Fabulous Beasts” (available in May – look for it at Undertow Publications). It is a lush and mesmerizing story of a woman who moves in to a house next to an old estate, famous for its wondrous honey. The owners of the estate are…peculiar (to say the least), and what follows is a dark and intoxicating fairy-tale about lust, bees, and hives. There are shades of Angela Carter and old fairytales in the luxuriously rich prose. A must-read.
Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice, by Emily B. Cataneo in Nightmare.
This story by Cataneo is so good it drives me a little crazy. I read it once, then read it immediately again, just to savour every delicious line of prose. There is magic and horror here, there is longing and loneliness, there is craving and lust, and there is a girl with a fierce fire in her soul trying make the world give her what she craves (or thinks she craves): beauty, love, riches. A beautiful and subversive take on fairytales and magic, this is grade A dark fantasy.
A Thing With Feathers, by Jennifer R. Donohue in Mythic Delirium.
Oh, what a gorgeous story this is, full of both cruelty and a flutter of hope! A little girl who doesn’t look like anyone else is being used by her parents as a means to make money from gullible villagers. As the caravan they are part of travels the countryside, she is put on display and her tears are bottled and sold, while her parents tell stories of her supposedly heavenly origins. Beautiful prose, wonderful story.
Work, and Ye Shall Eat, by Walker McKnight in Apex.
This is an original and unsettling twist on the post-apocalyptic scifi, set in “a professional make-believe colonial town”, complete with farming, cows, various tradespeople, and a manager trying to keep everything running smoothly (even after the apocalypse). Something has happened in the world outside (or has it?), and now the small make-believe town is fenced in and isolated from the rest of the world. Something very dangerous lurks out there (or does it?), but nobody knows what it is. I love the way the protagonist tries to maintain order in a most meticulous fashion (down to the chocolate bars), even when things start to crumble, and I especially love how everything is left open to interpretation at the end.
Me, Waiting For Me, Hoping For Something More, by Dee Warrick in Shimmer.
Oooof. This is a story that hit me right in the solar plexus. Warrick’s story is a haunting and masterfully told tale about identity and change and becoming who you really are. It is told sort of as a ghost story, without actually being a ghost story, and it is at turns moving, chilling, piercing, hopeful, and painful as it deals with the struggle to find yourself and shed what you’re not. There’s a brilliant and haunting scene here, set in a basement, that is some of the strongest and most moving prose I’ve read this year.
The Emotionless, in Love, by Jason Sanford in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
Wow. WOW. This novella by Jason Sanford is part of Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ science fantasy month, and it is an absolute stunner of a tale: dramatic, even brutal at times, but also an unlikely and unusual love story that showcases Sanford’s talent for world-building. It is set in the same world as Sanford’s 2016 story “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” (a finalist for the 2016 Nebula Awards in the novelette category), but you can read the new story as a stand-alone (then go back and read the first story, just because it’s so darn excellent). Sanford weaves an epic tale with fierce and memorable characters fighting to stay alive in a hostile world.
For more short fiction picks: