Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Short Fiction - April 2015

Although I'm still reading genre stories the vast majority of the time, a few mainstream stories are finding their way into the mix, such as "The Old Beauty" by Willa Cather and "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I also "read" a podcast story this month, which isn't something I do often but would like to do more in the future.

In any case, here are my favorite stories from April.

Favorite Short Stories read in April 2015

(alphabetical by author)

"Gray Wings" by Karl Bunker

In this story, a woman named Amy is taking part in a human flight race, powered by nanotechnology that has not only given her wings, but also allows her to live off whatever plants she finds and regenerate via sunlight. When she crash lands into a barn in a remote part of the (still) developing world, she's reminded in a very personal way of the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

That description might lead you to believe the story is too simplistic, but it really isn't. It has lovely writing, a solid and original science fiction premise, and characters I cared about. In addition, I think the story spoke to me because that gap is something I think about a lot and incorporate into my own fiction.

"Gray Wings" originally appeared in the April/May 2013 issue of Asimov's, but I read it in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois.

"Lures, Hooks and Tails" by Alan Colston

Did you know that Daily Science Fiction has a button that says "Take me to a random story"? And if you want to stack the deck a little bit, you can check the box that says "top-rated stories only." That's how I came across this story, which was published in 2011.

For me, "Lures, Hooks and Tails" turned out to be a tidy, mild horror story -- well, mild for the reader, but maybe not so much for the main character. A teenage boy encounters an attractive woman on a train, and is intrigued when she tells him that she see things in glass windows. I don't want to give anything else away; why not go read it since it will only take a few minutes? It's well worth it. Just don't get lured (yes, that was on purpose) into repeatedly clicking that random story button, or you could be there for a while!

"Taste the Whip" by Andy Dudak

This story was the first to be published in Diabolical Plots, the webzine created by David Steffen, who also provides the invaluable writing resource called the Submission Grinder.

(SPOILERS AHEAD) In this story, vast sentient spaceships roam the universe, and come to pod gatherings every few millennia. They allow human "systems" to grow inside them, populations that do not know they are living inside spaceships. One such ship, Parvati, has a "revelator" among her human population, or a person who has discovered the nature of its "universe." Parvati is therefore supposed to destroy the population, or at least abandon the humans on a planet somewhere, but instead she longs to submit to their will. This tendency is part of her very identity, and as such I found this to be a unique examination of that inclination, encompassed in an interesting, original premise. Read here.

"Loud as a Murder" by Sarah L. Johnson

Crossed Genres Magazine has taken the art of themed issues to a new level. Each month, they publish three stories based on a theme announced months before, so that writers have time to come up with new and unique ways to interpret the theme.

For the April 2015 issue, that theme was "Silent Communications", and author Sarah L. Johnson blew me away with her creative, moving interpretation of that idea. A gay, high-functioning autistic man who works as a proofreader at home lives for each Tuesday, when Dev, the UPS driver to whom he's strongly attracted, delivers and picks up manuscripts. I don't want to say more and risk ruining the story, which you can read here.

"Listening to It Rain" by Sandra Odell

(SPOILERS AHEAD) This was the free story on QuarterReads this week and I thought it was just lovely. A boy named Ben waits at his favorite fishing spot for his more-than-a-friend Alan to join him, but not all is as it first seems. It turns out that Ben has once again left his grave, discontent to stay buried in the ground while Alan lives on.

This isn't a ghost story, since Ben is moving his physical corpse. It's not a zombie story either. It's a sad love story, and quite powerful for one that's just over 1,000 words. I also like that the title takes on significance as you reach the end of the story. Available here (although after this week you'll have to drop a quarter in the "slot" to read it).

"The Serial Killer's Astronaut Daughter" by Damien Angelica Walters

I really enjoyed this story about a female astronaut on a commercial space station, who is unwillingly thrust into the spotlight when her birth father, whom she has never met, turns out to be a notorious serial killer. The astronaut just wants to do her job, but suddenly her next contract is in jeopardy because of this negative attention -- in a way that would not happen if she were male.

The ending of this story felt just right to me, and that's often the hardest part for an author to get right. I also smiled at the many pop cultural references to the movie Aliens. This story can be found in Strange Horizons here.

Other stories read in April 2015:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Exit Strategies" by Amy Blakemore
- "Before Breakfast" by Willa Cather
- "The Best Years" by Willa Cather
- "The Old Beauty" by Willa Cather
- "She Just Looks That Way" by Eric Choi
- "Options" by Jack Cooper
- "Things that Matter" by Amanda C. Davis
- "Robo-rotica" by Sarina Dorie
- "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- "The Man Who Murdered Himself" by Nancy Fulda
- "Don't Answer" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
- "Out Shopping in Hyperspace" by Michelle Ann King
- "Veil of Ignorance" by David Barr Kirtley
- "A Midnight Carnival at Sunset" by Terra LeMay
- "The Last Summer" by Ken Liu
- "The Plague" by Ken Liu
- "Grinpa" by Brian K. Lowe
- "Earl Billings and the Angels of the Lord" by James Maxey
- "Fleet" by Sandra McDonald
- "A Heap of Broken Images" by Sunny Moraine
- "Clean Space" by Stephen Myers
- "Cat Got Your Tongue?" by Jason J. Nugent
- "Report on the Testing of PK563217M" by Martin Owton
- "N is for Nevermore Nevermore Land" by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, and Greg van Eekhout
- "Just Behind the Ear" by Owen Rapine
- "Boneshadow" by Jessica Reisman (podcast)
- "Far" by Dean E.S. Richard
- "Nine Thousand Hours" by Iona Sharma
- "The Velveteen Golem" by David Sklar
- "The Best We Can" by Carrie Vaughn
- "Blue Sand" by Caroline M. Yoachim
- "Bread Babies" by Caroline M. Yoachim
- "Wolfchild" by Steve Zipp

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