May was full of stories. Great stories, wonderful stories, frightening stories, EXCELLENT stories. So. many. stories. I share ten of them here, and there’s another ten for your reading pleasure at B&N:
Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate, by Johanna DeNiro in Shimmer
This rich, devastating tale is so good it sort of gives me vertigo to read it. DeNiro vividly reimagines Freia and Odin, the world tree, life and death (silk worms!), AND gives you Freia living in Vienna, blood magic, and a shattering love story. This Freia is such a fantastic character – awesome and hot-blooded, vulnerable and powerful. It’s a story that took me completely by surprise from beginning to end, and I love that.
What You Pass For, by Melanie West in F&SF
With an old fence-painting brush, white fence paint bought from the hardware store, and a strange magic power, the narrator of this story is able to literally paint the blackness out of people. “It hurts, but yes, I’ve painted lotta folks in my time.” That’s the setup for a tale that is sharp like a razor-blade and masterfully written. West’s gutting exploration of racism is raw and fierce and devastating.
Fishkin, by Jaime Mayer in Cicada Magazine
“Fishkin” is set in a world where two-legs and fishkin grow up and live together in a village called Silken Shore, near the Silver Wash. It’s a fierce, entertaining, and moving coming-of-age story that explores adoption and conflicted sibling- and family relationships. Mayer perfectly illustrates the struggle of finding your own identity when it might be different from what you, or others, expect. Excellent from start to finish, with a lot of terrific world-building effortlessly threaded through the tale.
“A World Without” or “From a Brief History of the Sjöberg Portal”, by Tomiko Breland in Flash Fiction Online
It’s a science fiction tale and a love story, and also a story about family and longing and loss. Strange portals open in the fabric of our reality, and some people choose to go through, others choose to stay behind, and some of them regret the choice they made for the rest of their life. A wistful, touching, and beautiful story. (Bonus points for featuring the Swedish village Djäkneböle!)
Lava Cake for the Apocalypse, by Wendy Nikel in Nature Futures
In a far-off future, when Earth is about to be destroyed, how do you go about finding the ingredients to bake a lava cake? How far and wide do you have to travel to find what you need? Nikel’s story is a bittersweet tale about our world, its richness and complexity, and about the things we stand to lose in an apocalypse (whether it’s of our own making or someone else’s). Funny and poignant all at once.
On the Scales of Dragons, by Kathryn Yelinek in Metaphorosis
A dragon and a dragon rider. A mystery that needs to be solved. A strange village where no one speaks. Missing scholars who might have lost their lives. This story is a hugely entertaining slice of fantasy, delivering a rich world, engaging characters, and a suspenseful plot all in the space of a few thousand words. It’s a short story with a wonderfully epic feel. If you’ve got a yearning for dragons and magic, then this is definitely a story for you.
The Things That We Will Never Say, by Vanessa Fogg in Daily SF
Oh, my heart. This story about the relationship between a mother and daughter, about the frayed and fraught bonds of love and obligation between them, is a brilliant piece of fiction. In the space of less than 2,000 words, Fogg fits in some amazing scifi world-building, creates characters that live and breathe and tug at your soul, but it’s what goes on beneath the surface, everything left unspoken, that will pierce you through and through.
Our Side of the Door, by Kodiak Julian in Lightspeed
If you want your heart squeezed and broken and gently healed again, then read this beautiful, wistful story brimming with longing and love. Julian captures the fantasy-reader’s longing for that portal you dreamed of as a child, the one that would take you to another world. He blends that longing with a grownup’s love for the life you have made for yourself, even though you can’t stop yourself from wondering if you missed your chance at real magic. A gorgeous, subtle story.
What Gentle Women Dare, by Kelly Robson in Uncanny Magazine
Raunchy? Yes. Bawdy? YES. Explicit? That too. This story-romp about when Satan comes to Liverpool in 1763, features a dead woman who turns out to be (maybe) not so dead, a lady who is an expert at providing certain sexual favours, and some brilliant and hilarious dialogue. I don’t want to spoil this tale for anyone before they read it, but suffice it to say that this tale takes a TURN.
Learning to Drown, my Kristi DeMeester in Three-Lobed Burning Eye
Dark and unsettling, this is a story about two sisters, their mother, and the mysterious being that lives in the water near their home. There is magic in this story, and I mean old-school magic that is both fierce and dangerous. DeMeester perfectly captures the fear and jealousy, love and desire that flows between the three female characters and the water that frightens, lures, and seduces them. Exquisite prose and a story that got under my skin.
For more short fiction picks: