Spring has been flirting with us—snow falls in thick inches, melts, then falls again. But I think that this time Spring is here to say. All the birds arrived at once this week. I stepped outside to see my Littlest One off at the bus stop, and I stepped into a cacophony of birdsong. Robin, blue jay, red-winged blackbird—I saw them all during my walk. Snowmelt rushes along the edges of streets into the gutters. The neighbor kids are running around in short sleeves. And with the change of seasons there’s an odd, unsettled, restless energy. For me, there’s a feeling of, What's next?
I wrote what I thought was the best story I’ve ever written this past December. Since then, I’ve written nothing that I’ve really liked. I started and failed two stories. Wrote one that I think is only okay. I feel in transition myself. I want to write something new, but what?
I read a novel last week. Binged on short fiction. I keep hoping that reading enough good work will spark something in me, inspire something new. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m trying to keep a record of the good things I’ve read. And I’ve been reading stories so wonderful, so awe-inspiring, that I do want to share them here for whoever might stumble upon this blog:
The Bird by Edward Ashton in Fireside Magazine
A deceptively quiet, foreboding story of hard choices and what we are willing to give up for our lives. The next to last paragraph haunts me (and I agree with it). This is one of those ideas that I wish I’d written myself—and Ashton handles it beautifully.
A Fist of Permutations and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong in Tor
This story has perhaps the most throat-grabbing opening I’ve ever seen.
“There was nothing phoenix-like in my sister’s immolation. Just the scent of charred skin, unbearable heat, the inharmonious sound of her last, grief-raw scream as she evaporated, leaving glass footprints seared into the desert sand.”
Wong’s writing is intense, visceral, and shattering. Her prose is so powerfully visceral, in fact, that it wasn’t until a second read that I saw under the gut-punching prose to how subtly crafted this piece actually is; the story feels like a shriek of devastation, but it’s not undisciplined at all. In fact, it’s very carefully laid out, and certain clues to the plot carefully planted. And yes, you will want to reread this one. Absolutely stunning.
The Shadow Collector by Shveta Thakrar in Uncanny
Very strange, dream-like imagery: a girl born from a lotus, who speaks in enigmatic prophecies and aphorisms; a gardener who steals shadows when he’s not tending to a garden of girl-flowers. A gorgeous, dark and magical fairy tale of images rich and strange.
The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar by Rose Lemberg in Uncanny
And sometimes you want wonder that lifts your heart but doesn’t tear it to pieces. This story by Lemberg might just be that. Two artists—one a glassmaker in the desert, the other a jeweler in the snowy north—exchange letters of admiration for one another’s work. They begin sending samples of glasswork and jewels to one another. And over time, they fall in love. The prose is itself jeweled, dazzling with descriptions of the magical works that the two artists exchange.
Star Box by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks in Flash Fiction Online
One of the most perfect flash stories I’ve ever seen.
The Glad Hosts by Rebecca Campbell in Lackington's
This came out in 2015, but I only recently read it after seeing it on a “Best of” list. I’m glad I did. On a distant world, a colonist is infected by an alien parasite. The results of this infection are not what you might expect. This story unfolds with a foreboding, inexorable sense of doom… and yet, the foreknown doom is also beautiful and happy and full of love? In a twisted way. This is a thought-provoking, compelling story of family, identity, and autonomy.
And the Ends of the Earth for Thy Posession by Robert Finegold in GigaNotoSaurus
This came out in July of 2015 and I read it last summer. But since I’m making a list of great reads here, I wanted to add this, too. This is an absolutely beautiful, devastating, complex, intricately layered novelette that I think didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. It’s an alternate-history future-space story/steampunk tale of a Jewish diaspora to the stars; it’s a murder mystery; it’s a story of loss and trauma and horror and the weight of history; it’s a story that asks what it means to be human, to have a soul. You should read it.