Friday, February 27, 2015

Short Fiction - February 2015

In February I read 35 short stories, and I'm still having a blast with it. (I'm up to 76 for the year so far.) Here are my six favorites from the month, the ones I thought really stood out.

Favorite Short Stories read in February 2015:

[Illustration by Victor Mosquera]

"Damage" by David D. Levine

This story was published in January on, and I'll be keeping it in mind once next year's award season rolls around (definitely one of the benefits of keeping a list like this). "Damage" is told from the point of view of an AI-infused military spacecraft in the asteroid belt, fighting against the Earth Alliance. Only this ship is not in its original form; it's been cobbled together from the remains of two other ships, and remembers both of their deaths. It has to balance the programmed love it feels for its pilot with its own feelings of fear, grief, and guilt. Lovely story, very well told. In tone, this reminded me of the author's The Tale of the Golden Eagle, but it's also distinct.

"The Great Goodbye" by Robert Charles Wilson

Originally published in Nature in 2000 and reprinted in the anthology New Skies (Tor, editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden) in 2003, this quite short story is about a grandfather and grandson preparing to say goodbye, since enhanced "New People" are leaving Earth behind to the unenhanced "Stock People." To me, this story represents the best of Nature's fiction; it's a fully realized story rather than just a clever vignette.

"When It Ends, He Catches Her" by Eugie Foster

Currently on the Nebula ballot, this short piece was published in September 2014 by Daily Science Fiction. It's about a ballerina in a plague-ravaged world who sneaks into a falling-down theater to dance her favorite piece over and over, trying to recapture what she has lost. I don't want to give away any more details, but it really is that good. Eugie passed away last autumn, and we lost her much too early. I regret how many of her beautiful stories we won't get to see.

"Alan Bean Plus Four" by Tom Hanks

This was the surprise story of the month! I would have missed this completely is not for the SFWA recommended reading list. Who knew Tom Hanks had published a short story in the New Yorker? It appeared in October 2014, and it's a charming little story, ostensibly with Hanks himself as the main character. I certainly heard his voice while I was reading it. It's about a group of friends who decide to take a little trip to the moon....

[Illustration by Daniel Hertzberg]

The experience of reading this reminded me how much I enjoy actor and comedian Steve Martin's fiction -- his The Pleasure of My Company, which I think comes in at novella length, is extremely well-written.

"Starfish and Apples" by Henry Szabranski

I don't think I've mentioned QuarterReads on here before; it's an experiment in short fiction publishing in which a reader pays $5 for a virtual stack of quarters, then at his or her leisure browses the short stories (none over 2,000 words), reads a little preview, then drops a quarter in to continue reading any given story. That story then remains in the user's permanent library, to be accessed any time. The author gets 22 out of that 25 cents, plus the reader can tip additional quarters if so motivated, and the author gets 100% of any tips. Every week, QuarterReads features a free story, and that's how I came to read this one. I urge you to check out the site; it's great for both readers and writers.

This particular story is narrated by an adult addressing schoolchildren in a world where plant life has become aggressive and taken over almost all of the planet, in part by colonizing humans. The POV is first person, with the narrator occasionally interrupting herself (I think it's a her) to address the children directly. It's exactly the right length for the story, and (minor spoiler ahead) has a clever play on the "apple for the teacher" cliché. Originally published in Nine: A Journal Of Imaginative Fiction, this has been one of my two favorite stories I've read on QuarterReads so far. And the other one is.....

"Seasons of Friendship" by Jamie Lackey

Also a free QuarterReads offering at the time I read it, this is a beautiful little story about a fairy who needs flowers to survive. I loved its sweetness and simplicity. Plus it's set in Pittsburgh. I like that city. This was previously published in Silver Blade. I plan to go back and buy this one so it will be in my permanent account.

Other stories read in February 2015:

- "The Ascension of Thin Skin" by Amy Albany
- "Reality Check" by David Brin
- "Marking Time" by Stephanie Burgis
- "Variations" by Cristina Iuliana Burlacu
- "A Necessary Being" by Octavia Butler
- "Coin Flips" by Tina Connolly and Caroline M. Yoachim
- "A Moon for the Unborn" by Indrapramit Das
- "Stella at the Winter Palace" by Amber Dermont
- "It Takes Two" by Nicola Griffith
- "Four Movie Reviews from after the Zombie Apocalypse" by Michael Haynes
- "Limestone, Lye, and the Buzzing of Flies" by Kate Heartfield
- "The Alien Invasion as Seen in the Twitter Stream of @dweebless" by Jake Kerr
- "The Sky Didn't Load Today" by Rich Larson
- "A Letter from an Unhappy Customer" by Jennifer Mitchell
- "About Fairies" by Pat Murphy
- "A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide" - Sarah Pinsker
- "Tick Tock Girl" by Cat Rambo
- "When a Bunch of People, Including Raymond, Got Superpowers" by Luc Reid
- "Icarus Falls" by Alex Shvartsman
- "You Bet" by Alex Shvartsman
- "Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Apocalypse" by Claire Spaulding
- "'Pride and Prejudice' in the Club" by Colin Stokes
- "The Mandelbrot Bet" by Dirk Strasser
- "Repairs" by Maureen Tanafon
- "The Heart of a Tree" by Pam L. Wallace
- "The Bennie and the Bonobo" by Neil Williamson
- "Third-Degree Burns" by Andrew J. Wilson
- "Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points" by J.Y. Yang
- "Meat that Grows on Trees" by Caroline M. Yoachim

Many of these stories are also terrific reads, but you'd get pretty tired of me if I wrote about all of them!

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