November brought a whole lot of awesome speculative short fiction. In addition to this roundup here on my blog, you can also read my November short fiction roundup for B&N’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, featuring 10 stories:
In addition to that, you can check out my recommended reading list for 2018. It’s still somewhat of a work in progress until the end of December, but it is already brimming with fantastic stories from this past year.
One If By Sea, by Eden Royce in Augur
“You want your little girl back or not?
I’ma tell you how to do it. Get your life back the way it was. No more of that cold, empty hole lyin’ in your belly.” Royce’s evocative story about what you need to do in order to reach your child when that child is lost on the other side is both riveting and harrowing. It’s a tale of faint hope, of magic, and, maybe, a sliver of light. The prose is powerful and wonderfully crafted, every word sharp and honed to pierce you.
Ivy, by Melissa Goodrich in Flash Fiction Online
A dark and lustrous story about a house and a family, a dead child, and a living child who is not like everyone else. It’s about things that grow fiercely – ivy and memories and feelings – so fiercely that they can cover everything, a house and a garden, and a little girl, sometimes weakening, sometimes strengthening. I love how Goodrich embraces the story’s glorious weirdness, while at the same time, telling a more familiar tale of a child who tries to fit in to, and survive in, a world that does not quite understand her.
How To Swallow the Moon, by Isabel Yap in Uncanny Magazine
Oh, this story… What a gem it is, a sharp and sweet fairytale about friendship and love, fate and duty, and the freedom that might be there for the taking (if you dare to grab hold of it). Yap tells the story of Anyag and Amira. Anyag is a binukot, a girl hidden away from the world until she has to marry one of the suitors who come to vie for her hand once she turns 16. Amira has been her protector and only friend since they were both young children. And in the background lurks the threat of the serpent, the bakunawa, who might claim the binukot, or might devour the world’s one remaining moon. Gorgeous and mesmerizing prose.
Toothsome Things, by Chimedum Ohaegbu in Strange Horizons
“May we tell you a story? Here goes: in the happily ever aftermath of many fairy tales comes a hunt, for wolf flesh and justice (these are, in many fairy tales, synonyms).” Little Red Riding Hood is my favourite fairytale, and this re-telling of that classic is both brilliant and haunting: the wolf is not what you might think, and neither is the girl or the grandmother or the woodsman. It’s a fairytale that speaks of other fairytales, of other stories, of lore and memories, and Ohaegbu skillfully weaves together all these threads into a luminous new pattern. A must-read.
The Hollow Tree by Jordan Kurella in Beneath Ceaseless Skies
“Remember, Pira. The fairy doesn’t give you what you ask for, she gives you what you want. So try to make them the same thing.” A girl grows up with a father who frightens her and hurts her mother. She grows up knowing exactly why the two other girls her mother gave birth to ended up dying. Desperate for things to change, she goes to the hollow tree to make a bargain, well aware that there will be a price to pay for any salvation . Kurella’s prose is honed to perfection with a dark, jagged edge. This is a subtle and rich fantasy tale with so much depth beneath the surface.
The Last Stand, by Christoph Weber in Terraform at Motherboard
After a year in which we all saw raging fires tear through California and other places (Sweden, for example); after a year in which we saw a glimpse of the kind of devastation climate change might really bring, Weber’s story feels almost as if it’s ripped from the headlines rather than science fiction. In a not too distant future version of our world, a stand of ancient, majestic trees is threatened by a monstrous fire. A force of firefighters tries to defend them. Will they succeed? Will we?
Streuobstwiese, by Steve Toase in Shimmer
Toase’s story is an exquisitely crafted and deeply unsettling tale about love and loyalty and family. It’s also a story about magic and the costs of using it, and about creativity and the searing pain of loving someone who also terrifies you. It is a profound and profoundly strange tale that really got under my skin. (Pro tip: If you haven’t picked up your copy of Shimmer #46, the very last issue of Shimmer, you should do so right now.)
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Try Again by Zen Cho at B&N’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
“A hapless imugi is determined to attain the form of a full-fledged dragon and gain entry to the gates of heaven.” I confess I’d never heard of imugis before reading this story, but while reading it, I certainly developed deep and fond feelings for this particular imugi. Zen Cho’s tale weaves together strands of myth and fairytale, past and present, reality and fantasy into a fabulous, funny, sweet, bitter, and bitter-sweet, story. It’s about life and love, about striving to achieve a goal with such determination that you risk losing sight of everything else, and it’s about what happens when you find magic in a life you didn’t even know you wanted.