Another month gone by, and so many awesome speculative short fiction to read and enjoy. I know I’ve said it before, but I want to encourage everyone to try to support the zines and publications out there that are paying authors and publishing fantastic stories. Subscribe, support on Patreon, or throw some money in their tip-jar (many zines offer several different ways for readers to support them).
Right now, one of my favourite zines, Anathema, is running a subscription drive. Anathema publishes Check out all the details.
For more reading recommendations:
An Accidental Coven, by Laura Blackwell in Syntax & Salt
What happens when three women turn up at the same party, wearing the same dress? Instead of instant shame and mortification, something much more powerful and unforeseeably strange occurs in this story. Blackwell’s story is darkly funny, very entertaining, and has just the right kind of edge beneath the whimsy and humour to give it the perfect bite. This is the best kind witchcraft.
Find On Your Body the Bruise, by Maricat Stratford in Shimmer
“You are a fading chemical reaction, you are a feeling, you are a collection of memories. You are dead. You are not surprised.” A woman is dead, but she lingers. She lingers at the site of her murder, she lingers in her own memories, and she lingers in order to find the man who killed her. Stratford’s carefully crafted, beautifully turned prose makes this ghost story a shattering and devastatingly intimate tale about life and death, violence and finding peace.
Abandonware, by Genevieve Valentine in Lightspeed
Valentine’s taut and tense scifi/horror story is haunting on every level. Twisting through past and present, reality and imagination (and the shadowy area that exists in-between the two), “Abandonware” explores how we imbue the world and objects around us, with meaning and life and importance: “Some kids do that—they imprint on empty objects, they give them stories and opinions and a will, until they feel half-inhabited even to grownups…” Throughout, Valentine weaves together memories and visions with the real world and a computer game that seems to have a life of its own. Deeply unsettling and profoundly moving.
Across the Border, by Sahil Lavingia in Motherboard
There’s a wall between Mexico and the US, and in Lavingia’s near-future scifi story (much like in our present reality), some people are allowed to cross that border while others are not. Technology helps maintain the wall, and it also helps people keep in touch, but technology can’t solve all the human problems… It’s a story about families, about connections, about ways of communication that go deeper than a text message, and about how a border-wall can cut right through human lives. Poignant and timely.
Mountaineering, by Leah Bobet in Strange Horizons
In Bobet’s harrowing tale, Eli is making his way through a forbidding landscape and up a mountain, but this is no ordinary hiking trip. It is an ordeal, a journey, that has taken / will take / is taking years, and at very step, Eli is haunted by his dead brother Jamey. It is hard to describe this story, as it twines together the ordeal of hiking the mountain with the ordeal of surviving grief. Death lurks behind and ahead, and nothing, nothing, comes easy here. “And the dead can’t hear the living: not truly, even though you can follow them through the wilderness into scarcity, can use their scratched-out maps.” A heartbreaking must-read.
Ghost of the Pepper, by M.K. Hutchins in Flash Fiction Online
In a very special garden grow very special peppers that are cultivated to absorb the anguish of the deceased. Once someone has eaten and digested these sorrows, the dead can rest in peace. Except, one day, there’s a black ghost pepper in the garden that cannot be so easily consumed… A beautiful and moving story about grief and how to overcome it.
The Secret History of the Clockwork King, by Heather Morris in Capricious #10
Annie goes into a bookstore that promises a very special 2 for 1 deal: buy one book you want, and you get one book for free that you didn’t know you needed yet. When the bookseller gives her the free book, Annie is astonished, because it’s a book that should not exist at all, one written only in the imagination of her brother before he died. Stunned, Annie takes the book home, but when she goes looking for the bookseller again, she ends up somewhere she definitely did not expect to go… This is a lovely, mind-bending and ultimately hopeful story about the power of books and stories and the imagination.