I seem to have settled into a rhythm of posting short fiction reviews bimonthly. So hey, let’s go with that, shall we?
Okay, some wonderful things I’ve read lately. . .
I’m finally almost caught up with Uncanny Issue 10. It’s a truly stunning issue, and this story is one reason why. Visceral, intense, harrowing—it’s the tale of a terrible family curse and the narrator’s struggle to free himself and his descendants of it. The intensity of imagery and feeling remind me of Alyssa Wong’s desert tale, “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” from the same issue (recommended in my last short fiction roundup). It’s an interesting pairing of stories—water and desert, constrictive families ties, a common struggle to escape. And Markov’s story is a fine bookend to a truly strong issue.
I’ve only just started Issue 11 of Uncanny Magazine, but this issue also promises to be very strong. Vourvoulias’s tale is nothing short of stunning. In the author’s own words, "El Cantar of Rising Sun" is a “code-switching, genre-hopping” epic ode to the life of one young Latino man in Philadelphia. In a remarkably compressed space, Vourvoulias vividly brings you into the life (and heartbreak) of Alonso and his friends and family. Vourvoulias was an author unknown to me, but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for her work now.
A mind-ship waits out a terrible storm, knowing that she can’t endure much more. This is an intense, harrowing story of danger, duty, and family; of the obligations we choose and those we can’t escape. It’s both terribly sad and utterly lovely.
Jose Pablo Iriarte
A story of the immigrant experience, set on Mars. It’s a short but aching and potent tale, exploring the gap between generations: the children who are at home in a new world, and the parents who still long for an old one. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t have personal resonance for me. Iriarte’s story is spare, sensitive, and beautiful.
And this was also wonderful. A man stumbles upon some unusual mosaics in the city. . . This is a story that reminds us that life is a mosaic of small moments. That it's full of suffering and loss, but also more. Iriarte is now on my list of writers to watch: he tells stories that are spare yet evocative, delicately restrained yet packed at the end with gut-punching emotion.
Hard science fiction, horror, and more
And oh, this is hard science fiction combined with pure poetry. This story follows a “swarm” of people headed on a one-way trip to Mars, all traveling in their tiny, individual ships. Both isolated and together. They’re all leaving for various reasons, leaving behind or escaping different things on Earth. They forge fragile connections among themselves via radio communication as they travel. This is a story shot through with loneliness and yearning. It’s lyrical, evocative, and beautiful.
Beautiful and breathtaking. This is all I love about hard sci-fi—mind-bending thought experiments, ideas that expand your notion of what the universe could be. What if, one day, we suddenly heard the broadcasts of an alien civilization hundreds of light years away? What if we got to know this alien civilization through overheard snippets of their everyday life—their shopping lists, their entertainment broadcasts, their music, and individual greetings between one another? What if we came to consider them friends, even though they were already in the distant past? This is a story that evokes great sweeps of distance and time. . . yet it’s also an intimate family drama. It’s an honest examination of terrible loss, loneliness, and hope. Perhaps the best science fiction short story I’ve read this year.
This is amazing, terrifying, propulsive, cinematic horror. The imagery is striking and unforgettable (and you will never look at fireflies the same way again). It’s a different twist on the horror trope of the Last Girls—the “lucky” ones who escape the monster, the serial killer--the last ones standing. It’s self-consciously meta and also dead-serious. The ending squeezed my heart and took my breath away.
"The Cartographer’s Price" by Suzanne J Willis in Mythic Delirium
And as a chaser to horror. . . Willis’ story is lovely, strange, and mysterious. A man comes to an unusual shop to guess at the origins of an unusual map. Beautiful world-building in a small space.
And my last recommendation isn’t fiction at all, but an essay I have been unable to forget. How Books Became the Language my Father and I Found Together by David Ulin at Buzzfeed