Sunday, September 2, 2018

Short Fiction - August 2018


Short Fiction - August 2018

I've finally managed to re-start my short fiction reading project, in which I read at least one short work every day and then blog about my favorites each month. In August, I read a total of 39 stories. Without further ado, here are my three favorites of the month.

"Who Will Greet You At Home?" by Leslie Nneka Arimah

Length: 5,602 words
Category: Short story - Fantasy
Where Published: The New Yorker
When Published: 2015-10-26
Illustration by Jeffrey Fisher
Link

This author is new to me. In this story, women fashion babies from materials at hand -- yarn, mud, twigs -- and have their own mothers bless the child into life. Women without mothers, or who do not get along with their mothers, can buy or barter for a blessing in backroom transactions that may literally cost them some of their own joy or empthy. Ogechi has tried again and again to make a baby that can withstand the physical dangers of a hard world, until finally in frustration she does the forbidden, creating a baby made of the hair of many women.

It's a little hard for me to put my finger on why I enjoyed this story so much, especially as it's a bit grim. But I definitely liked the inventiveness of this concept, and the emotions that it evoked. There's a literary element to this piece that makes it right at home in The New Yorker, yet it's more accessible than I find many of that publication's stories to be.


"Your Great Journey" by Ash Harrington

Length: 1,010 words
Category: Short story - Fantasy
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2018-08-17
Link

Second-person POV is becoming more widespread these days, and that's fine as long as it works within the given story. Here it most certainly does, at least as far as I'm concerned. In this piece, which is just a smidge over a thousand words, "you" have died on your fifteenth birthday, and you feel a little lost as you hang around your house and your grave. Your family and friends can see you, as is the norm in this world, but you're surprised at how uncomfortable they seem to be around you. This is a nicely told story in a small, tight package.

"The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections" by Tina Connolly

Length: 7,845 words
Category: Novelette - Fantasy
Where Published: Tor.com
When Published: 2018-07-11
Illustrated by Anna & Elena Balbusso
Link

In this beautifully written novelette, Saffron and her husband Danny were reasonably happy as the village bakers, but Danny's talents for infusing his sweet and savory confections with a little something extra make him known to the Regent, who imprisons the couple and forces them to work for him. Not trusting the pair, the Regent prevents them from communicating with one another, and makes Saffron act as his pastry taster lest Danny try to poison him. The sadistic ruler holds lavish dinners for members of his court, alternating courses of normal food with a tasting menu of Danny's creations, each of which evokes specific types of memories, such as the "Rose-Pepper Shortbread of Sweetness Lost."

The story builds at an appropriately slow and thoughtful pace, course by course, as Saffron relives memories and wonders whether Danny is trying to communicate something to her. It's a lovely story, and there are only two things I would change, one small and one not. [Major spoilers ahead] First, the name Danny doesn't fit my idea of this story world. More importantly, I didn't like that Saffron outright said to the Regent that he might enjoy reliving his memories of torturing her sister before having her executed. I felt the Regent would have immediately grown suspicious at Saffron's suggestion. Nonetheless, I found the story imaginative, satisfying, and, as mentioned, beautifully written.


Additional stories read in August 2018:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Hello Again" by K. Barrett (2018)
- "We Do Not Know What Happened to the Children" by Claire Bartlett (2018)
- "A Suitable Level of Reward" by Lee Battersby (orig. year unknown)
- "The App" by Dustin J. Davis (2018)
- "Timeskip" by Charles de Lint (1989)
- "Dispell" by Preston E. Dennett (2018)
- "The Nearest" by Greg Egan (2018)
- "A Midsummer Night's Abduction" by J.M. Evenson (2018)
- "Your Great Journey" by Ash Harrington (2018)
- "The Privilege of the Happy Ending" by Kij Johnson (2018)
- "The Friendly Beasts" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (2018)
- "A Matter of Perception" by KJ Kabza (2014)
- "One-Sided" by KJ Kabza (2010)
- "Anaphylaxis" by Stephen Kyo Kaczmarek (2018)
- "Final Inspection" by Afalstein JD Kloosterman (2013)
- "The Christening" by D.H. Lawrence (1911)
- "Second Best" by D.H. Lawrence (1914)
- "The Quartermaster's Charge" by Jessica McAdams (2018)
- "Glass Stiletto" by Meagan K. McKinley (2018)
- "Fleeing Gods" by Mary Anne Mohanraj (1997)
- "Time Travel Is a Voodoo Rite" by Grayson Bray Morris (2013)
- "The Sky Blue Ball" by Joyce Carol Oates (1997?)
- "The Nine Bajillion and One Names of God" by Aimee Ogden (2018)
- "The Day the World Broke" by Autumn Owens (2018)
- "Comment Below" by Ciaran Parkes (2018)
- "Quantum Entanglement" by Corie Ralston (2004)
- "Writing for the End of the World" by Karlo Yeager RodrĂ­guez (2018)
- "Our Lady of Sorrows" by Austin Ross (2018)
- "In Our Country" by Jessie Seigel (2018)
- "The Fallen Girl" by Marge Simon (2018)
- "Customer Review: Life of Jesamie Blake 0-39" by Marie Vibbert (2018)
- "The Time Mechanic" by Marie Vibbert (2014)
- "After the First Comes the Last" by Holly Lyn Walrath (2018)
- "Strung" by Xinyi Wang (2017)
- "Final Girl Theory" by A.C. Wise (2011?)
- "Confessions of a Con Girl" by Nick Wolven (2017)
- "Tea for Two" by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (orig. date unknown)


List of the sources from which these stories came:

(alphabetical by anthology title, magazine title, website name, etc.)

- Asimov's
- Clarkesworld
- Curious Fictions
- Daily Science Fiction
- Diabolical Plots
- Every Day Fiction
- Nature Futures
- New Yorker
- Selected Short Stories (collection by D.H. Lawrence)
- Small Avalanches and Other Stories (collection by Joyce Carol Oates)
- Tor.com


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