Like every month, March was full of awesome speculative fiction. You can read my other short fiction roundup of 10 fabulous stories at B&N’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog:
I also reviewed some new books – a novel and several anthologies for B&N.
I Am Fire, I Am Tears, by Wendy Nikel in Podcastle
I love re-imagined fairy-tales and this is an excellent re-imagining. Ulykke and Dania are sisters. But while Dania is a princess, about to marry a prince she barely knows, Ulykke was cursed before birth and turned into a monster, and she is now bent on revenge. Nikel takes the familiar fairy-tale tropes of curses and monsters and princesses, and puts a very original twist on the tale. Ulykke realizes that revenge isn’t as straightforward as she might have thought, and Dania finds out that not all princes are what they seem to be. It’s a wonderful fantasy tale sisterhood and trust, about who is seen as good and evil, and about the possibility of change. This story, and “The Angel” mentioned below, are two of the many awesome stories included in the special Artemis Rising event at Escape Podcasts this year.
The Angel, by Kate Cobey in Cast of Wonders
This action- and emotion-packed science fiction tale just pops off the page. It’s about mecha-fighting, family, life and death decisions, but most of all, it’s about two girls, two cousins, Gabi and Haley. Haley is in hospital undergoing treatment for cancer, but she is not exactly a quiet patient: she has found a way to sneak out of the hospital and has carved out a career as a daring, skilled mecha-fighter. It’s a fantastic story that tugged at my heartstrings while the action made it riveting from start to finish. Fantastic narration by Julia Rios.
Princess, by Maya Prasad in Foreshadow
This is a fascinating science fiction story, set in a vividly imagined far future where humans live on various planets across the galaxy. Leela is a young girl visiting the planet her mother comes from for the first time. The planet is called Dwaraka and compared to the outer galaxy, and the hardscrabble Beltway world Leela has grown up in, it seems like a paradise of sorts. Life in Dwaraka is organized by Deva, “the lead algorithm of the Grid, the network that connects the citizens of the Inner Galaxy“. As it turns out, Deva is the real reason Leela and her mother are coming to Dwaraka, and Deva was also the reason why her mother once left the planet. A rich and compelling story about family and destiny, and about how we all have difficult choices to make in how we live our lives, and how we shape the world around us.
These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God, by Rose Lemberg in Glittership
Oh my goodness, what a wonderful story by Rose Lemberg (narrated by Bogi Takács). Humanity is in contact with an alien race called Ruvans, and the Ruvans hold the human philosopher Spinoza in the highest regard: “Reason and matter—these are the cornerstones of Spinoza’s philosophy that the Ruvans admire so much. Reason and matter: an architect’s mind and building materials. These are the attributes through which we can know God.” Lemberg weaves a beautiful, profound, and dazzling story about language and architectural forms, advanced geometry, Leviathans, philosophy and religion, and about how one human comes to a deeper understanding of the aliens and space itself.
The Bones and Their Girl, by Sylvia Heike in Syntax & Salt
“...the bones in her shoulder bloom like coral, growing with a plan of their own. They want her to die.” Heike’s story is a lyrical and evocative piece that is both gentle and piercing. It’s a love story between Camille, who is sick, and Simon who collects bones and paints what he sees and what the bones tell him. It’s an exquisite flash story, so beautifully written that I wanted to keep reading it over and over again. It’s part of an outstanding issue of Syntax & Salt, and I highly recommend reading the whole issue!
Treading Water, by Tapanga Koe in Capricious
“Peter Ganglidge knows he is starting to lose control.” He sure is, because beneath the surface of Peter’s skin, secret tentacles squirm and writhe, and it requires every ounce of his energy and strength to keep them hidden. Koe’s story follows Peter on his way to work in the factory where he almost slips up, and almost reveals what’s really inside him. On the way home, he ends up near the water, and here, something very unexpected happens. This is a moving and hopeful story about loneliness and belonging and transformation, and part of a new, fabulous issue of Capricious.
Where Gods Dance, by Ben Serna-Grey in Apex
Exquisite and harrowing, full of memories and sorrow, this is a flash story that pierced me through and through. A father tries to recreate the son he’s lost from the pieces of life and memory that are left to him. The poetic prose beautifully captures the raw and brittle emotions of a parent, falling apart. Painful and powerful.
A Plea For A Haunting, by Ray Yanek in Flash Fiction Online
Yanek’s story is about two brothers. One of them is dying, but from his hospital bed, he sends the other brother out to film in dilapidated buildings, searching for signs of ghosts, of hauntings, of proof that there is something on the other side, something that can come back. Yanek’s flash story is devastating in its starkness and brokenness. The sense of love and grief and desperation, intertwined, is profoundly moving.
Through the Doorways, Whiskey Chile, by S.H. Mansouri in Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Mansouri’s story is told by Jeremiah, a bullfrog with the ability to breathe fire, and it’s a tale that is aglow with magic, both terrifying and wondrous. Brady Noakes’s father is thought to be dead (they even held a funeral for him though no body was found). But Brady knows his father wasn’t the kind of man who would ever let go of life so easily, so off he goes, looking for him, with Jeremiah tucked into his pocket. In Brady’s memories lurks the death of his mother; ahead of him looms the specter of his father, the one who taught him the magic. To find him, Brady has to travel through a series of mysterious doorways, and Mansouri’s vivid prose makes this a lush and compelling tale.