Every month is a great month for speculative short fiction, but if we as readers and writers want to enjoy these stories we really should try to support the publications that bring these stories into the world.
If you read a story you like, even if it’s free to read online, and you have a few extra bucks kicking around, it’s a great idea to buy an issue, pick up a subscription, support them on Patreon, or throw some coins in their tip-jar if they have one.
Ava Paints the Horses, by Ville Meriläinen in Cast of Wonders (narrated by Katrin Kania)
Some stories just grab you by the heart and soul and sink deep inside you because they feel so painfully true and piercingly, devastatingly beautiful. Meriläinen’s story about a young girl is quiet and subtle, and it brilliantly captures the darkness and isolation that grief, depression, and sadness can bring. With carefully crafted prose, Meriläinen also captures the way you see the world, the way the world feels, when you’re in a dark place and you don’t quite know how to get out of it. It is an exceptional piece of fiction, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Impostor/Impostor, by Ian Muneshwar in Black Static #65
A loving couple lives in what seems like domestic bliss, until one partner’s mother comes to visit. As soon as she arrives (or maybe it starts before?), the old woman’s presence eats away at their peaceful existence (or was it perhaps already deteriorating beneath the surface?), and soon, seemingly impossible things start to happen. Muneshwar’s story is a deliciously disturbing slice of horror, twisting reality in small but strikingly effective ways throughout the story, creating the kind of nightmare that feels like everyday reality until it clearly is something else – something much, much darker. Quiet and deadly sharp horror.
STET, by Sarah Gailey in Fireside Fiction
This story is written as comments and footnotes to an academic paper. Visually, that makes it rather different than most short stories I read. Using this slightly unsettling form, Gailey tells a perceptive, powerful, and thought-provoking story that explores grief and anger, human and artificial intelligence (and the limits of both). It also explores the inability and unwillingness of corporations, scientists, and governments to consider the way their own prejudices might influence their work, and the risks and human costs of business, and technological “progress”. I don’t have words to properly explain how powerful and striking this unusual (and unusually brilliant) story is, but I highly recommend it.
Dead Things, by Becca De La Rosa in Shimmer
A lovely and singularly gorgeous story about death, and about how love finds its way into the world of the dead, changing the people it touches. I love how De La Rosa creates a vivid and evocative version of the afterlife that is rooted in old myths and legends, yet manages to be strikingly original. This story is from the penultimate issue of Shimmer, and if you want to know what a “shimmery” story is, then this is a prime example. A brilliant piece of deep, dark fantasy.
The Analogue of Empathy by Joanna Berry in Interzone #277
A fascinating and gripping story about a future where a great war has taken place. In the post-war world, still obsessed with defeating the other side, one scientist is working on a project that involves artificial intelligence. He receives his research-funding as part of a military project, but is secretly trying to achieve a different kind of solution to the conflict. The story is told from the point of view of the AI, and Berry vividly captures the fragmented, adapting, and developing mind of the AI as it tries to make sense of its purpose in the world. Riveting from start to finish.
Saudade, by Nelson Rolon in Fiyah #8
Action-packed and as immersive as a really good movie, this is a rollicking, multi-layered, and entertaining blast of science fiction that grabs you by the gills from the first paragraph and does not. let. go. It follows the trials and tribulations (and fights!) of Menino and Vida as they fight and drink, duck and weave through a future that is shaped by powerful technology, greedy corporations, and the struggle to survive no matter where in the solar system you’ve ended up. Rolon’s story is full of fantastic world-building, great dialogue, and the characters just pop off the page. A must-read from Fiyah’s Pilgrimage issue.
This Will Not Happen To You, by Marissa Lingen in Uncanny Magazine
“I got sick.
This will not happen to you.”
Lingen’s story from Uncanny’s special issue Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction is a shatteringly powerful story about a devastating disease caused by fungal spores, and the things we tell ourselves to keep ourselves feeling safe and protected from what happens to “other people”. We won’t get sick, we won’t be in pain or need medical treatment we can’t afford, we will be protected, we are safe in our lives and our bodies. Except, of course, we’re not. Lingen’s prose gets under your skin, stripping away the comforting lies we tell ourselves: “…everyone knows that if someone says that it‘s 95% odds, that means no one you know will get it. Because surely you don‘t know twenty people. You are not one in twenty people. Surely.” Every word of this story carries so much weight and power.
The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest published by Annorlunda Enterprises
A richly layered and quietly subversive tale about what happens when a community tries to get rid of a god who isn’t ready to be relieved of his duties. That’s sort of the surface of the story – beneath that, this is also a story that deals with questions of power and memory, language and history. I love this story manages to go so deep without ever feeling heavy or ponderous, and it made me think about things like how we choose to live our lives, what we choose to fight for, and what we decide to dedicate our lives to. A wonderful read.