December was rich in wonderful stories. Heck, 2018 was rich in wonderful stories. To get a taste of that richness, you can check out:
- My December roundup at B&N’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog
- My Recommended Reading List for 2018
- All my monthly roundups from the past year
Pigeon, Goodnight, by Angie Ellis in Flash Fiction Online
This flash fiction story by Angie Ellis gripped my heart and tore it apart a little bit. It’s an wonderfully crafted piece that works its way underneath your skin with subtlety and precision. It’s about the bond between siblings, the difficult stuff we deal with in families, and the kind love that stays with you even when the other person leaves. A must-read.
Darkness That Swallows, M.C. Williams in Lamplight Vol. 7 Issue 2
This is a deep, dark, and devastating slow-burn of a story, about a haunted house, about life and memories folding in upon you and threatening to swallow you whole. To be sure, this isn’t the usual haunted house story, with monsters or demons or killers lurking in every corner, rather it’s set in a house that haunts its inhabitants with a feeling of unsettling absences and equally unsettling presences. Williams builds the dread and tension with precision and skill, until the last moments when the reveal comes. Excellent literary horror, and a great example of the kinds of beautiful and memorable stories you’ll find in Lamplight.
Matchstick Reveries, by Rajiv Moté in Truancy Magazine
An inventive take on The Little Match Girl, this story brings together dangerous magic and devastating poverty, and the lure and fear of ghosts. Jeanne, the girl selling matches, has a power inside her that guides her and that also buys her some amount of comfort and safety in the harsh world she inhabits. But she does not realize the full extent of her powers until one night, when she follows the ghost of her dead mother… Moté’s story is part of the brand new and wonderfully rich issue of Truancy Magazine.
Butterflies, by Elizabeth Hinckley in Luna Station Quarterly
This is post-apocalyptic scifi with a difference. It isn’t exactly positive, since there is an apocalypse of sorts taking place, but Hinckley’s vision of how people and society attempt to shore things up and re-organize for the common good in the face of change and upheaval, is both refreshing and (imo) realistic. The story is told with care and purpose, and I loved the way it allows us to get a real, up-close feel for the life of the protagonist and the world she inhabits.
Grounded Women Never Fly, by Stefani Cox in Podcastle
A powerful story about two sisters and the magic you can find inside yourself. Magic in this story isn’t something ethereal or something external that is created by the words of a spell. Instead, it seems to be something that is present inside you, something you can grasp if you allow yourself to learn how to find it. This is a thrilling story about siblings and it’s the kind of fantasy that feels both real and true.
Walking off the Doeskin, by Wenmimareba Klobah Collins in The Dark
Jane wakes up on the last day of summer and claws her way out of the red dirt where she’s been buried. She starts walking, even though she can’t quite remember who she was or who she is or what happened to her. As she walks, others Janes join her, and they keep walking, together. Eventually, the first Jane starts to remember what happened to her, and realizes they might have a purpose. A powerful and evocative story about justice and revenge, real-life horrors and righteous retribution.
Tablecloth, by Kathryn Kania in Fireside Fiction
This is a story that is warm and sharp, comforting and magical, all at the same time. A cat appears on a kitchen table, even though the owner of the apartment doesn’t own a cat. There have been encounters with cats in the past, but surely, those encounters are unrelated to this particular cat? Kania spins a lovely and piercing story about the magic we might find in everyday life, and it’s a story that made me feel better as soon as I read it.
There Are Ghosts Here, by Dominique Dickey in Anathema
When Lucas’s and Louisa’s older brother Leo dies, it devastates their whole family. Another disaster soon follows, as their parents are killed in a car-crash. After that, the orphaned siblings grow up with their distant cousin Maisie and her family, but they never really come to terms with Leo’s disappearance. There is strange and unsettling magic at work right from the beginning of this story, and the way Dickey weaves together childhood, grief, death is masterfully done. And as we delve ever deeper into Maisie’s interest in, and power over, dead and buried things, the story twists and turns in ways that makes it both deeply disturbing and profoundly haunting.