Here are nine of the many great short stories I read in April. You can add them to the ten great stories I also read in April, featured at B&N SciFi & Fantasy Blog.
Logistics, by A.J. Fitzwater in Clarkesworld
How do you deal with having your period, with finding tampons and sanitary pads, when you’re caught up in all the drama of the post-apocalypse? That is one of the burning questions at the heart of this sharp, dark, and (yes) funny tale. I love how Fitzwater takes on the oft-used idea of a disease-ravaged future world, and infuses it with a sense of the gritty, grim reality, delving right into the nitty-gritty of survival. Enfys, the story’s narrator, is a brilliant guide in this post-apocalyptic landscape.
One For Sorrow, Two For Joy, by LaShawn M. Wanak in Fireside Fiction
A woman helps the living deal with their grief by giving the bodies of the dead to the crows that gather outside her house. There is something awesomely dark and deeply evocative about the imagery in this story, and about the strange magic at work here – the way the dead are carried away, and the living find themselves better able to go on with their lives. One question lurking within the story is, what happens if you don’t want, or aren’t ready, to let go? A beautifully written and deeply moving story.
Emperor All, by Evan Marcroft in Pseudopod
This is a deeply unsettling, bone-chilling horror story, and it’s told with an unflinching, steely eye for what might happen when a human being wields enormous power over others. The story burrows deep into the rather unpleasant psyche of someone who is granted great (yet limited) supernatural powers over the community he lives in and the people in it. Marcroft pushes the characters and the plot beyond the point where you think it might have ended, and because of that, this story goes to a much darker and more disturbing place than I expected at the outset.
Snake Season, by Erin Roberts in The Dark
A fantastic horror story that plays out in a place where strange powers seem to be turning children into monsters before claiming their lives. The story’s narrator, Marie, is a mother who has lost several children this way, and she is doing everything she can to keep her home and her new baby safe. However, danger lurks everywhere. An evocative and harrowing story, Roberts perfectly captures the fear, grief, and desperation of a new mother. The end left me gasping, just like a good horror story should.
All And Nothing, by Chadwick Ginther in Abyss & Apex
What price would you be willing to pay to wield power over life and death? In Ginther’s riveting fantasy story, the price to become a Revener, serving the Lord of the Grave, is extremely high indeed and the road to that power is fraught with great danger. This is a dark tale about death and bones, magic and family, betrayal and sacrifice. Set in a harsh and bleak world, “All And Nothing” gripped me from the first sentence and never let go. I especially love Aught, the story’s fierce and strong-willed protagonist, who uses her own cunning and endurance to fight for what she wants: power, respect, and revenge.
Fireskin, by Joanne Rixon in Beneath Ceaseless Skies
This exquisitely crafted story feels like a fairytale entwined with a love story, adding beasts and battles and magic to the mix. It’s a rich and enchanting tale, full of both beauty and sorrow. When the skin of the powerful warrior Aun-ki starts to burn at the slightest touch, she remains a powerful and gifted fighter, but she also experiences great pain. For me, the interplay between strength and weakness, pain and love gave the tale a terrific depth and richness. Rixon’s prose is fluid and gorgeous, making this a joy to read.
A Most Elegant Solution, by M. Darusha Wehm at Motherboard
This excellent science fiction story takes place on Mars where a group of scientists are trying to establish a settlement. One of their inventions has gone off-kilter in rather spectacular fashion, and right from the start, the story gives you that foreboding feeling of technological innovations coming back to haunt us. I love how this story plays with our perception of what is going on, and gives us an ending that is truly satisfying.
The River Doll, Tariro Ndoro in Omenana
I really loved this tale about magic and power and standing up to those who try to push you down, and I especially loved Fara, the fierce and strong-willed girl at the center of the story. Fara is definitely a good kid, but she is also filled with a both childish and righteous anger at the way she, and her mother, are treated by other people in the village. Her mother has been accused of witchcraft, and when Fara sculpts a doll out of clay and it comes alive, well, things begin to change… for better and for worse. One of several great stories in the new issue of Omenana.
Garda, by Kameron Hurley in B&N SciFi & Fantasy Blog
This is a hard-hitting, grimy-noir scifi / murder mystery taking place in a future where some people are most definitely more equal than others, and where both government and the police force are riddled with corruption. I was pulled in from the get-go and the plot kept me guessing right until the end. Hurley has a great knack for creating characters you care about, even though (or probably because) they are such complex, flawed creatures. The main character of this story, inspector Abijah Olivia, is the kind of character you want to read more about, as soon as the story is over.
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