Short Fiction Recs!
I keep meaning to blog about the stories I like, and while I put it off the list grows ever longer. So before the list gets away from me entirely, here’s a round-up of some recent things I’ve read . . .
From Various Magazines
Jeanette Ng, Three hundred Years in Mythic Delirium, Winter 2016 issue.
One of the things that I really admire about Mythic Delirium magazine has been the way that monthly selections are built around certain themes, story and poems echoing one another. The March 2016 offerings were gifts from the sea. “Three Hundred Years” by new writer Jeannette Ng is an aching, yearning take on The Little Mermaid tale which I’ve never seen before. And sea-poems by Alexandra Seidel and Jennifer Crow complement this story, and each other, beautifully.
The Family Ghost in The Sockdolager.
The Pillar of Shiva in Triptych Tales
I read “The Pillar of Shiva” a year ago when it first came out, but I wanted to pair these stories together because of what they share. In “The Family Ghost,” a ghost helps a young woman defend herself against abuse by her in-laws. In the second story, a journalist rescues an abused girl and investigates a mystery. There are undercurrents of darkness in both these stories, yet neither story is dark: they both brim with gentle humor and warmth. Above all, these stories have heart. It’s a welcome change from the relentlessly dark tone that seem to dominate so much of science fiction and fantasy these days.
Rachel K. Jones
Indigo Blue in Shimmer Magazine
Oh, hold my heart. This is a beautiful, beautiful story of longing, survival, and long-distance friendships. In this Internet age, when many of us become close friends online with people we may never meet (or meet only rarely) in person, I suspect that Jones’ story has resonance for many.
"The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me" in Clockwork Phoenix 5
This story isn’t available online, which is just one more reason you should buy a copy of Mike Allen’s anthology, Clockwork Phoenix 5. This is an unusual, gorgeous story of an angel, a saint, falling, and love.
The Right Sort of Monsters in Strange Horizons
Such a strange, gripping world Sandoval gives us here. Heartache, brutal beauty, and a stinging (yet satisfying) end. I loved this.
The Stories She Tells Herself in Daily Science Fiction
How does Sandoval so skillfully twist pain with beauty? I’m still trying to figure it out. This is a powerful story of how we tell ourselves stories to make sense of trauma, to cope with pain. The ending is uncompromising and perfectly, unflinchingly honest.
Gwendolyn Kiste, All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray in Shimmer Magazine
A fierce, haunting, feminist take on the story of Snow White. This one stays with you.
Selections from Uncanny Magazine Issue Ten.
I confess that I haven’t finished reading all the way through this tenth issue. But so far, these are my favorites.
Kat Howard, The Sound of Salt and Sea
I already raved about this one on Twitter. The colors of this world are cinematic—gray fog, drowned ghosts, and white bone horses tamed with red ribbons. Gorgeous, eerie magic.
J.Y. Yang, The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One
I raved about this one on Twitter, too. Warning: it’s not for the squeamish. It starts off horrifically, with a scene of torment and vivisection, and pretty much stays horrific. But it’s also amazing, mind-bending, ultimately moving, and somehow wonderful despite cannibalism and horror. Don’t ask me how Yang does it; just go read it.
Alyssa Wong You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay (available for free on June 7, 2016)
Hmm, perhaps you’ve heard of Alyssa Wong? The writer who just picked up a Nebula award for her short story, Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers? Her latest story in Uncanny Magazine is classic Alyssa Wong: intense, visceral writing; searing imagery; building horror. An orphan in this alternate Wild West can bring dead things back to life—and perhaps put them to rest as well. Skeletons rise, dead things dance, and there’s an unforgettable scene involving a chicken. In the end, it’s also a beautiful story of loss and love.
All of Liminal Stories Magazine, Spring/Summer 2016 debut issue
It’s actually rare for me to read a magazine straight through. But I did so for this one. And I recommend every single story in the debut issue.
Helmed by Shannon Peavey and Kelly Sandoval, the first issue of Liminal Stories lives up to its name with six strange, unsettling tales that blur genre boundaries. A commenter (“linalee”) on io9 remarked that the tone of this magazine is “Shimmer-meets-McSweeney’s” and I would say that is spot-on. (It’s worth noting that one of this issue’s writers, Trevor Shikaze, has actually published stories in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.) These stories are all strange in a very particular way: they seem to start off in worlds close to our own, but then these worlds begin tilting—sometimes slowly, and sometimes very fast. There’s a variety of tones and approaches, yet together the stories illustrate a unity of vision that I think is striking for a new magazine.
A.C. Wise, The Men from Narrow Houses
The men from narrow houses come up the stairs when Gabby is sleeping. They sit on her bed, place their long fingers on her coverlet, and say, Tell us, love, tell us everything. We've been gone for so long.
A very creepy tale of foxes, magicians, and identity, about what we owe others and what we owe ourselves. Something about this skewed world, the oblique manner of telling, reminds me of Kelly Link—and yet it’s also distinctly the author’s own.
David Tallerman, Team Invasion
And oh, the horror builds in this one. The protagonist is a member of a mysterious team which captures or kills alien invaders. But why do the aliens keep coming? What’s really going on? The horror monster imagery is strong and explicit . . . and yet quiet unease is part of this story, too.
Trevor Shikaze, A Windowless Kitchen
This was an unexpected delight. As I said on Twitter, it’s weird and wonderful. A teen girl travels through the world alone, staying just a few days ahead of her mysterious sister. For a few days, this girl rents a room at a boarding house from a strange man, and she and he forge an unexpected relationship. There’s a vividly disquieting scene . . but this story twists in ways I didn’t expect, and I’m hesitant to say more. But it’s wonderful, and full of heart—perhaps my favorite of this issue.
Joseph Allen Hill, You Can’t See It ‘Till It’s Finished
After finishing this one, I Googled the author and realized that I’ve read him before; his story, We’ll Be Together Forever, appeared in Lightspeed last year Like his Lightspeed story, this story is distinguished by its marvelous narrative voice.
I can’t even begin to describe the brilliant gonzo humor of this voice, so I’ll let it speak for itself. In this excerpt, the narrator has just asked his ex-girlfriend for a cigarette.
She is offended. Her expression turns angry-bored, resting bitchface x20. There is a slight pout on her lip, and she makes eye contact with me for the first time, just long enough for her to make a show of breaking eye contact with me. I guess our time apart has allowed her to achieve her dreams of being a full-on hard-hipster asshole. It is fine to not give a cigarette to another smoker when one is possessed only of a lean, hungry pack, but to scorn the very question speaks to, at the very least, low-level psychopathy, in both its primary and secondary subtypes.
Hill’s story is a tour de force of weirdness that also becomes a poignant story about relationships and how they change with time.
Nazifa Islam, The Clock Misread
This is a very brief story that pack a strong emotional impact. It depicts a single scene that unfolds over the course of several minutes—but what strong, vivid minutes they are.
Octavia Cade, The Signal Birds
A beautifully written, poignant story of war and sacrifice. A group of young British women work to intercept enemy radio signals during World War II. These are no ordinary women, for they grow wings of metal that help them intercept radio signals. Although the wings are considered by many a miracle, not all the young women feel that way. This story speaks of the many different ways bodies are sacrificed for war: from the metal-winged British girls to the German women on the other side who are exhorted to bear children for the Fatherland, to the male pilots and soldiers who die in the fighting on all sides. But there are glimpses of freedom, too, in this story. Powerful and lovely.