August was a fragmented month for me in terms of reading. I spent most of the month recovering from having all of my wisdom teeth extracted; the healing process was slowed a bit by trips to Las Vegas for a wedding (yay, SCOTUS!) and Spokane, Washington, for the World Science Fiction convention. For that reason, my short fiction reading this month was weighted heavily towards flash, and I had to play catch-up several times to get back on track.
And I'm happy to say that I'm there now; I read 37 stories in August and am up to 311 for the year to date. The best part is that I'm still having a lot of fun with it. Here are my four favorite stories that I read this month.
(alphabetical by author)
In this short story, time travel exists, and is applied to fix medical errors that were made in the past -- not with better technology (it's forbidden to use new cures in the past, due to timeline issues), but simply in those cases in which preventable mistakes were made. The main character, Loren, gets permission to prevent an insulin injection being given to a non-diabetic patient, but she has an ulterior motive for requesting this particular assignment.
I love time travel stories when they offer me something new to think about, and this story has several angles that I found intriguing: using time travel for this particular purpose, the effects the process has on the time travelers themselves, and the way in which society has accepted the risks of the technology because they can universally agree that people shouldn't lose loved ones when they don't have to. It's a lovely story.
[Published on Strange Horizons, August 17, 2015. Read or listen to the podcast here.]
[Story illustration by Chris Buzelli.]
Sometimes humor is just the thing you're looking for in a story. The best humor, though, is wrapped around a kernel of emotion, as is the case with this charming story set in the world of Tina Connolly's YA fantasy novel Seriously Wicked. This short piece is about Camellia, a mundane girl who chafes at her guardian's wicked witch lifestyle. Camellia always feels out of place among the kids who are all learning hexes, but it turns out she has her own arsenal of weapons that she can fall back upon when needed. The story's illustration, by artist Chris Buzelli, is perfect.
Amazon notes that Seriously Wicked is appropriate for grades 6 and up. Since I'm the cool (weird?) aunt who buys books for my nieces and nephews, I'm doubly glad to have read this short story, because now I know that the novel Seriously Wicked will be a good gift choice. And if I happen to read it before sending it on to its intended recipient ... well, I can't be held responsible for that.
[Published on Tor.com, August 26, 2015. Read here.]
At only 800 words or so, this flash piece packs a lot of punch. It's narrated by a male college student, who like many others is fascinated by an object that is discovered "half buried at the bottom of an ocean trench." I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I thought the author built suspense and conveyed emotion incredibly well for such a short piece.
[Published in Every Day Fiction, August 12, 2015. Read here.]
This month's issue of Crossed Genres contains three stories around the theme of "Portals." (I've not yet read the other two.) I was intrigued by this piece's title, and enjoyed its premise of U.S. post offices being open on Sundays -- staffed by only two employees apiece -- so that customers can come in person to see if they have any letters from the dead. I enjoy stories in which people matter-of-factly accept what to us would be extraordinary circumstances, and I liked the apparently random nature of many of the letters and packages. I also thought the story, without being too heavy-handed, commented thoughtfully on what we do and need for comfort when we've lost loved ones.
The only thing that didn't work for me was the pseudo-"manual" structure of the story. Lots of great stories these days adopt forms such as lists, encyclopedia entries, and so on. In this case, the story has subsections titled "Appendix D - Uniforms", "Appendix E - Purpose", and so on, and the prose that follows does touch upon the named subject. But for the most part, there's no excerpt of an actual sentence or two from the manual; the sections go straight from the heading to the narrator relating events and occasionally directly addressing the reader. In a few cases, it seems as though the sentence is directly from the manual ("In case of inclement weather, the Copperlin U.S. Post Office closes when other government agencies close. Please check your local radio or television station for news of closings or delays."), but there are no quote marks or italics and the text moves without a paragraph break into the narrator's voice once more, which made me stop and wonder whether the narrator wrote the manual.
For those reasons, I would have preferred for the "manual" aspect to be either more or less pronounced. I still definitely recommend the story, however.
[Published in Crossed Genres Magazine, August 2015. Read here.]
Other stories read in August 2015:
(alphabetical by author)
- "Sexual Liberation for Married Ladies" by April Aasheim (2015)
- "Sproing!" by Joan Abelove (2000)
- "Nightly Sin. Morning Penance." by Maria Clark (2015)
- "Anika's Fall" by Jennifer Cokeley (2015)
- "Valley of the Black Pig" by Scott Crowder (2015)
- "Métier" by John Deal (2015)
- "How I Saved the Galaxy (on a Limited Budget)" by Aidan Doyle (2015)
- "Queenkiller" by Adam Thomas Gottfried (2015)
- "A Safe Space" by Joyce Hansen (2000)
- "Conspiracy Theory" by William Hertling (2015)
- "Reverse Logic" by Sierra July (2015)
- "Road Test" by KJ Kabza (2015)
- "Ballerina" by Jess Kapp (2015)
- "(Not) for Sale" by Barry Koplen (2015)
- "The Job" by Joe R. Lansdale (2015)
- "Ruby on the 67" by Ursula K. Le Guin (1996)
- "Blow" by Gerri Leen (2015)
- "The Ladies' Aquatic Gardening Society" by Henry Lien (2015)
- "Duel Identities" by David Lubar (2000)
- "Greyback in Blue" by A. Lee Martinez (2013)
- "The World of Darkness" by Lois Metzger (2000)
- "Crimson Cotton" by Macy Mixdorf (2015)
- "Class Clown" by Jim Pahz (2015)
- "The Cubicle Witch" by James Luther Reinebold (2015)
- "They Call Me Wizard" by Robert Lowell Russell (2015)
- "Thirteen Diddles" by Jon Scieszka (2000)
- "He Who Watches" by Alex Shvartsman (2015)
- "Aliens at the Flea Market" by M. Earl Smith (2015)
- "Dinosaur-Man" by Rhys Thomas (2015)
- "Final Cut" by Rich Wallace (2000)
- "Ask Not for Whom" by Jason D. Whitman (2005)
- "The Millennium Party" by Walter Jon Williams (orig. 2002; reprint 2015)
- "Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind" by Caroline M. Yoachim (2015)
List of the sources from which these stories came:
(alphabetical by anthology title, magazine title, website name, etc.)
- Asimov's, June 2015
- Baby Shoes (anthology), edited by Dani J. Caile and Jason Brick, 2015
- Crossed Genres Magazine, August 2015
- Daily Science Fiction, various dates
- Every Day Fiction, various dates
- F&SF, May/June 2015
- Fireside, July 2015
- Lost & Found (anthology), edited by M. Jerry Weiss and Helen S. Weiss, 2000
- Perihelion SF, August 2015
- Robots versus Slime Monsters (collection) by A. Lee Martinez, 2013
- Strange Horizons, August 2015
- Talebones 30, Summer 2015
- Tor.com, August 2015
- Unlocking the Air and Other Stories (collection) by Ursula K. Le Guin, 1996