Monday, February 29, 2016

Short Fiction - February 2016

[Creative commons artwork from]

Short Fiction - February 2016

I have to admit, it's a little discouraging to realize that for all the short fiction I've been reading, I still felt woefully unprepared to nominate for the Nebulas. But I did the best I could, and I continue to read a lot of 2015 fiction with the goal of being better prepared for the Hugo and World Fantasy nomination processes. Trouble is, now I also want to read the Nebula finalists in the novel category, and those votes are due March 31.

I guess it's better to have too much good fiction to read than not enough!

In any case, here are my four favorite short stories that I read in February.

"43 Responses to 'In Memory of Dr. Alexandra Nako'" by Barbara A. Barnett

Length: 1,372 words
Category: Short story (science fiction/fantasy)
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2016-02-05
Link (free)

Lest you think this is another list story, which are quite the rage in spec fic these days, this isn't so much a list as simply the comments section of (almost) every blog post you've ever seen. There's the troll, the self-appointed grammar police, and the polite-but-increasingly-annoyed O.P. trying to keep the conversation civilized. And from all this, the author coaxes a real story, with characterization and an interesting plot. This is extremely well done and lots of fun.

"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson

Length: 4,000 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Asimov's
When Published: July 2008
Reprinted: The Secret History of Fantasy (anthology, Tachyon Publications, 2010)
Link (free)

I'm embarrassed that I'm so late to the party on this 2008 story, but so glad I finally read it. Like the Barnett story listed above, the title and structure of "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" may call to mind a list story, but that isn't what this is. Instead, it's a wistful story about a young woman who runs a traveling show in which a group of performing monkeys literally disappears for the finale every night. It's one of those stories that seems like it may have originated in a dream. But instead of having the annoying arbitrariness that usually make dreams interesting only to the person who has them, this story kept the dreamlike quality while brewing something rich and meaningful. This story is not to be missed!

"The Opening of the Bayou Saint John" by Shawn Scarber

[Image: "Bayou" © 2016 Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein. Used with permission.]

Length: 3,885 words
Category: Short story (fantasy)
Where Published: Strange Horizons
When Published: 2016-02-08
Link (free)

This is a lovely atmospheric piece about a bayou woman who transports stillborn children to another place, when requested to do so by grieving mothers willing to defy convention. There's just the right mix of magic and sense of place in this haunting story. Highly recommended.

"Trickier with Each Translation" by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Length: 5,600 words (approx.)
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Queers Destroy Science Fiction/Lightspeed
When Published: 2015-06
Link: N/A

This story is about time travel and superheroes and what it might be like to have loved both men and women. It's full of lovely, evocative details. I'll admit, I'm a sucker for time travel stories, and it amazes me how a well-written one can still bring something new to the table.

Other stories read in February 2016:

(alphabetical by author)

- "They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain" by Rachael Acks (original 2014; reprint 2015)
- "The Missing Finger of Jerry Garcia" by Jon Allison (year unknown)
- "Android One" by Richard Ankers (2016)
- "Fruit and Words" by Aimee Bender (original 2001; reprint 2010)
- "A Room for Lost Things" by Chloe N. Clark (2015)
- "Chatter Monkey" by Caroline Couderc (2016)
- "The Magician’s Assistant" by Paul Crenshaw (2016)
- "The Weight of a Blessing" by Aliette de Bodard (original 2013; reprint 2015)
- "Ants on a Trestle" by Elliotte Rusty Harold (2015)
- "Boy Seeds" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (2011)
- "Mythago Wood" [novelette] by Robert Holdstock (original 1981; reprint 2010)
- "The Shapes Of Us, Translucent To Your Eye" by Rose Lemberg (2015)
- "In the Loop" by Ken Liu (original 2014; reprint 2015)
- "Dying with Her Cheer Pants On" by Seanan McGuire (original 2010; reprint 2015)
- "Calved" by Sam J. Miller (2015)
- "Mold" by Richard Mirabella (2016)
- "Town of Cats" by Haruki Murakami
- "May Dreams Shelter Us" by Kate O’Connor (2016)
- "Tomorrow's World" by Aimee Ogden (2016)
- "A Cure Over Coffee" by Pontius Paiva (2016)
- "Boy Twelve" by Jessica Reisman (original 2005; reprint 2015)
- "Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World" by Caroline M. Yoachim (2015)
- "The Urashima Effect" by E. Lily Yu (original 2013; reprint 2015)
- "Music" by Anna Zumbro (year unknown)

List of the sources from which these stories came:

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

- Asimov's, Sept 2015
- Clarkesworld Year Seven (anthology), edited by Neil Clarke & Sean Wallace, Wyrm, 2015
- Crossed Genres, Sept 2015
- Daily Science Fiction, Feb 2011; Feb 2016; Mar 2016
- Diabolical Plots, Sept 2015; Feb 2016
- Flash Fiction Online, Feb 2016
- Freeze Frame Fiction, date unknown
- Lightspeed, Sept 2015
- New Yorker, Sept 2011
- One Teen Story, Jan 2016
- Queers Destroy Science Fiction!/Lightspeed, June 2015
- The Secret History of Fantasy (anthology), edited by Peter S. Beagle, Tachyon, 2010
- Strange Horizons, Feb 2016
- Unlikely Story: The Journal of Unlikely Academia, Oct 2015
- Warrior Women (anthology), edited by Paula Guran, Prime Books, 2015

Read more!

Top Chef Season 13 - Wok This Way

I'm pretty sure this is the first episode this season that actually made me tear up. I completely agree with the judges' decisions on both the winner and the loser this episode, but still....

Before I get into specifics, though, I do have an aside. Most episodes, they show a chef calling home, and this time it was Jeremy. He spoke on the phone to his daughter, who had just made honor roll, according to Jeremy because of all those books he made her read. He then said "I teach my daughter to be a winner always. If you're second, you're the first loser."


Now, while I am a fan of the kids' sports leagues where the coaches and parents don't unduly pressure the kids, I'm not a big fans of the ones where every kid on every team gets a trophy every season. In addition to learning the value of doing your best, it's important to learn how to lose gracefully. So when Jeremy said his daughter had to read 125 books for some school challenge, that's great<. But what if she read 125 books and some other kid read 126 -- is Jeremy then telling his daughter that she's a loser? I dislike how he expressed that sentiment, and I truly hope that's not how he's raising his kid.

And back to the show....

For this episode's QuickFire, the chefs used woks in guest judge Martin Yan's kitchen. I wasn't familiar with Chef Yan but the contestants obviously were; he was apparently one of the early celebrity chefs with a show called "Yan Can Cook." The contestants were given 30 minutes to create a chop suey dish. Chef Yan explained that "chop" means mixture and "suey" means bite-sized morsel, and the two together make the famous Chinese-American dish. He also noted that the wok stations the chefs would be cooking at are five to eight times stronger than normal restaurant kitchen burners.

Long story short, our top three contenders were Marjorie, Jeremy, and Amar. To me, Marjorie's lobster dish looked the most refined -- the most "fine dining" of the chop sueys. Jeremy also did well with his Dungeness crab with a kick, and Chef Yan also liked Amar's pork, vegetable, and fried rice dish. While Carl's lobster dish looked good, both Padma and Chef Yan found it had too few veggies to be a proper chop suey. Isaac's chicken was a little starchy, and Kwame's oil-blanching technique backfired a bit when his eggplant soaked up all the oil. In the end, Marjorie won the QuickFire, earning as as-yet-unknown advantage in the Elimination Challenge.

This was a neat challenge. Padma explained that San Francisco is full of venture capitalists, or people looking to invest in, well, pretty much anything. The six chefs were challenged to create a concept for a fast casual restaurant that would work anywhere in the United States. They would have to describe the concept, name their restaurant, make a single dish for 150 diners, and indicate what the rest of their menu would look like.

Now this is what I call the right balance. It requires the chefs to envision more than a single dish, to think through the things that will make or break a restaurant, but still be required to cook at a level that's actually somewhat reasonable and achievable.

Instead of immunity, the advantage that Marjorie won in the QuickFire was that she not only got to pick her own sous chef from among six eliminated contestants, she got to pair everyone else too. I was definitely surprised that Marjorie didn't pick Karen, but I realized she actually made a wise choice in picking Angelina as her sous chef. While it's obvious that Marjorie and Karen have the utmost respect for each other, Karen did have some time management issues during restaurant wars, and Angelina's lesser experience actually makes her more likely to simply do what Marjorie needs without trying to insert her own editorial view into the challenge. Alas, poor Kwame got stuck with Phillip. Well, Marjorie had to stick him with someone, and since she didn't have immunity herself, it made sense that she try to make sure somebody would have a disadvantage.

Some of the concepts were fun, some were well thought out, and some were less so. The judges made a point of comparing Carl's "Savory Med" concept with the Chipotle chain, but actually I thought most of the chefs' concepts were along those lines. Maybe Carl's menu sign just made it more obvious. In any case, here's what we had: Carl's "Savory Med," for which he served lamb stew over couscous; Marjorie's "Pasta Mama," serving olive oil poached tuna over fresh-made spaghetti; Isaac's "Gumbo for Y’all," with bowls of gumbo that he envisioned as takeaway for the whole family; Jeremy's "Taco Dudes," where he served pork belly tacos and had plans for octopus and other unusual proteins; Kwame's "Waffle Me," with mini chicken and waffles; and Amar’s "Pio Pio," serving Dominican-influenced rotisserie chicken.

In retrospect, while I liked this episode, I can't say that I found any of the concepts all that exciting. I'd love to try quick fresh pasta, but the idea of eating if with tuna didn't really appeal to me. I agreed with the judges that Carl's "Savory Med" seemed to be the best concept. And just going by food trends right now, I have to imagine that Carl's healthier menu would have a better chance of succeeding than Marjorie's carb-heavy idea. Don't get me wrong; I love pasta, but I'm also not looking for reasons to eat it more often than I already do. On the other hand, I was surprised that Carl's prospective menu offered lamb, chicken, and fish without offering a vegetarian option, which would go hand in hand with the "healthier" image.

In any case, Carl did win, which I thought was the right choice. Once again, I was happy to see that his fellow contestants seemed genuinely happy for him.

On the bottom: Jeremy for what Tom thought was a muddled taco concept, and Kwame for his chicken and waffles, which were messy to eat and, more importantly, made with frozen waffles from Whole Foods. I think that if this concept were ever turned into reality, of course they would use frozen waffles. But anybody who watches Top Chef knows that unless you want to go home, you don't use pre-packaged pasta, cake mix for wedding cakes, or anything canned or frozen if you can help it. The minute Kwame chose to use frozen mini-waffles, I knew he would be going home unless someone else majorly screwed up.

But Kwame is also the reason I teared up. He's only been cooking for about five years, and he stopped to graciously thank Tom for inspiring him during his first job as a waiter at one of Tom's restaurants. You could tell Tom was moved too. And even though Kwame seems to have struggled a bit the last few episodes, he's done amazing things for his age, and remained one of the nicest contestants. There he was, stuck with Phillip, and he still managed to put the most positive spin on it that he could. I am really sorry to see him go.

Read more!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Top Chef Season 13 - Hammer Time

The chefs hop up to Oakland to make rap-inspired dishes for MC Hammer! I thought this was a cute and quirky basis for a Quickfire, and I was really impressed that while the chefs were cooking outside under strict time constraints in an unfamiliar environment, they were obviously having fun with the challenge. It made me happy to see how much these people love to cook. And did you notice that when MC Hammer praised his three favorite dishes, the other chefs absolutely grinned -- they are genuinely happy when their friends do well.

(And it made me really happy that I didn't have to endure Phillip in this particular challenge.)

And then... the Elimination Challenge, with shout-outs to libraries and librarians! I became a librarian in my 30s, and I can tell you, if I had any idea how to do research when I was an undergrad, I would have been a freakin' Rhodes scholar. Information is everything.

The specific challenge, introduced by guest judge Jonathan Waxman, was for each chef to pick (in order of drawn knives) a specific historical time period that they would have to represent with their dish. Kudos to Isaac for choosing the Viking era. Granted, he had immunity, but he also chose it, without knowing anything about specifics, because it sounded like fun to him. That said, these poor chefs needed more than two hours to research, because the time periods chosen for the challenge were not all that simple.

Carl and Marjorie served first, he with a Greek and she with an Indian era dish -- and in her case, it wasn't necessarily what we would expect from our Americanized version of Indian food. I was definitely worried for her based on the judges' reaction. I think they were spot on with their criticism of her paratha bread, but I'm not so sure it was fair to call her out on serving medium-rare lamb when it would have probably been charred (i.e. had all the life sucked out of it) during the actual historical time period. To me, the best thing about challenges like this is to take the inspiration from the time period and improve upon what they actually would have produced during the time. Since lamb is almost always served medium-rare in the good restaurants today, I felt that was the right way to serve it now. In other words, if the flavors and ingredients recalled the time period, that should be enough. Carl, at this point, was clearly safe, as the judges loved his seafood medley that presented as simple but was quite sophisticated.

It was clear from service that the three chefs in danger were Marjorie, Karen, and Jeremy. For me, Karen and Marjorie's failings were more obvious in some ways, but Jeremy's dish was the one that least inspired recall to a specific era. On the plus side, the judges loved Kwame's duck (it was nice to see him do so well again) and Amar's squab, and also enjoyed Isaac's venison and Carl's seafood. I actually think Isaac's venison deserved even a few more points for the creative plating -- not that we want gimmicky, but he really did embrace the time period. At this point in the episode, though, I expect Amar to win, and I would not be at all unhappy about that.

And win he did. (And once again notice that his friends were happy for him!) Then we get to the expected bottom three, and may I just say that Karen's humility is a thousand times preferable to Phillip's boneheadedness. She knows what she did wrong, and she can accept what the judges are telling her. I really thought, and in a way hoped (but not really, because I like him) that Jeremy would be the one going home, but in the end it was Karen. I'll miss her beautiful smile and sense of fun. And did you notice how much Marjorie did not want to see her go? Women are often accused of being bitchy rivals, but not these two. I don't think anybody, judge or contestant, was happy to see Karen go home.

Solid episode. And if I could taste anything from this challenge, I think I would have Amar's squab, if only because I've never really eaten that kind of decadent French cooking.

Read more!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Top Chef Quickie - Restaurant Wars (Parts 1 & 2)

Hmm, I'm getting a little worried that Top Chef is making me a snarkier person than I used to be, because here's the first thought that came to mind after watching this season's "Restaurant Wars" two-parter:

C'mon, Top Chef! We want this to be challenging! It's not enough that you're making them do two services, and they have to choose furniture and artwork and even figure out where the bloody kitchen equipment should go! Next time, let's make them wire the building electricity and maybe hook up the gas lines! After all, they can't cook without those things, so every chef should also be an electrician. Better yet, make them build the freakin' building first!

/end snark

That said, I do like the fact that each chef had to be either front-of-the-house or executive chef for a service, because otherwise it's too easy to hide as a line cook and huddle back there in survival mode. But if the show continues with this two-service format, I hope they will allow the services to be on two different days (unlikely) or at least go back to putting the chefs in existing kitchen/restaurant spaces and letting them concentrate on food.

All of my complaining aside, this is probably one of the few Restaurant Wars in which I think they absolutely chose the right winners and the right losers, both in terms of teams and individual competitors. The orange team, with its restaurant called "District LA," was the clear loser, and Phillip was asked to pack his knives and go. Not surprisingly, Phillip once again proved that he is absolutely incapable of taking criticism. He may hear the words being spoken, but in his mind anything except high praise cannot possibly be true or valid if applied to his perfect food. One of the complaints was about his strawberry champagne salad, which even to me looked like a huge amount of strawberry syrup poured over some greens and strawberries. What's bothersome is that Phillip complained that the judges told him to "do his own food" yet sent him home anyway, like they were deliberately deceiving him. What does he think they tell the other chefs? He also whined about taste being subjective, so he feels they sent him home because they didn't "happen" to like his sickly sweet salad. If only one judge made the criticism, that would be subjective taste, but when they're in complete agreement, maybe he needs to pay attention to what they're saying.

It was also typical Phillip that he thought he aced the front of the house. I wasn't sure the judges needed to be that harsh about the free cocktail upon entering the restaurant, but little touches like that don't make up for otherwise inadequate -- which can also mean overly solicitous -- service. And how telling that the judges were able to predict that Phillip spent most of his table-side time with his diners talking about his own restaurants.

As for the rest of the orange team, I felt that Jeremy was fortunate that the judges didn't realize just how badly lunch service had actually gone once they themselves were done eating. From the judges' conversation, I don't think they were aware that many of the diners were ignored for ages while Jeremy instructed everyone to drop everything and serve the judges. I'm glad Amar didn't go home for his dish, as unappetizing as it sounded. I do agree with the judges that Amar didn't act like an executive chef, but I truly did feel Phillip's mistakes were worse. Even Kwame didn't serve anything close to what he is capable of (although to be fair, he had the unenviable job of executing Phillip's strawberry salad, knowing all the while that it was a disaster -- and he did try to tell Phillip so).

While I didn't find any of the food in this Restaurant Wars to be super memorable, I really think the gray team, with its "Palette" restaurant, did quite well. Marjorie struggled a tiny bit in the front of the house at the beginning of service, but pulled it together. Much more importantly, when Karen fell so far behind that she couldn't prep the servers for dinner service, Marjorie took time away from her own dishes to go back out front and pick up the slack. In addition, Isaac stepped in to help Karen finishing prepping one of her dishes. This, people, is teamwork. And while it's unfortunate that Karen fell so far behind, it wasn't due to ego -- and she did eventually manage the front pretty well, plus contributed that tortellini that was quite successful. Meanwhile, Isaac and Carl both nailed the executive chef roles for their respective services. They just got it done.

In the end, I was glad to see Isaac win, especially because we all relate to that "last kid picked for the team" fear. But the rest of the team's contributions, especially Carl's calm competence, should not be overlooked. I feel like Marjorie might have won overall for her front-of-house (especially if the judges had known how much she contributed to dinner front-of-house too, which I don't think they did) if her second dessert, with its champagne fizz, hadn't turned the judges off a little. But she certainly would have been safe no matter what, with her delicious bread, delicious cheese course, and front-of-the-house work.

Was it my imagination, or was Phillip the first chef to leave this season without going over to hug the other chefs goodbye? Overall, and I hope I'm not jinxing things here, this has been a nice group of chefs, who seem happy for each other's successes for the most part. But I don't think anyone was unhappy to see Phillip go.

And now we are seven: Carl, Karen, Marjorie, Kwame, Isaac, Jeremy, and Amar. Earlier on, I thought Kwame was the one to watch, but I have to admit he doesn't seem confident lately. I think he's a nice guy and extremely talented, so I hope things improve for him. Actually, there is nobody here I don't like. I think at this point I'd be happiest to see Marjorie win, but unless things change radically, I have trouble envisioning a final outcome I won't be okay with.

Read more!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Go Groovy, HGO: A Figaro Follow-Up

[Members of The Marriage of Figaro cast; photo by Lynn Lane]

Last night we saw the second-to-last performance of Houston Grand Opera's new The Marriage of Figaro. We'd seen the full dress rehearsal, upon which I based my review, but I had so much fun seeing it again last night that I wanted to follow up with a few comments.

First, in my opinion there is not a single weak link anywhere in this production. As I'd mentioned, baritone Joshua Hopkins was ill during the dress rehearsal, so studio artist Ben Edquist sang the role of Count Almaviva from the side stage while stage director Ian Rutherford walked the role on stage. This worked perfectly fine for rehearsal purposes, but it was a real treat to see Mr. Hopkins, whose voice and comedic acting skills matched that of the rest of the cast, meld the acting and singing back together.

[Joshua Hopkins as Count Almaviva; photo by Robert Workman]

Speaking of the acting, this time I took opera glasses with me, and therefore got to enjoy the cast's theatrical skills even more. In particular, soprano Ailyn Pérez, who sang the role of the Countess, has the most beautifully expressive face you can imagine. And seen close-up, tenor Keith Jameson looked and acted even more like a younger, handsomer Danny Bonaduce from The Partridge Family than I remembered, which was perfect for his role as the slimy troublemaker and music teacher Don Basilio.

I took in more overall details this time around too. For instance, at the wedding reception, chorus member Dennis Arrowsmith, wearing some mighty fine 70s duds, goes around taking photographs with a flash camera. Only this time I realized it was a Poloroid, and the guests were mugging for the shots and then shaking the pictures to develop them. Did that ever take me back! I also noticed this time that Barbarina (Purem Jo) and Lauren Snouffer (Cherubino) were clearly meant to be stoned for most of the third and fourth acts. It was obvious, but somehow the first time around I just attributed it to general silliness based on their youth.

The best part, though, was seeing the production with a full house. It's like going to a Star Wars or Harry Potter movie on opening night; half the reason you're there is to enjoy the shared experience with fellow enthusiasts. The audience laughed like crazy, applauded not just the arias but also the Austin Healey, and clearly adored the dance scenes. This time I saw not only the Twist and the Monkey, but also the Macarena.

And the music! I'm still pretty new to the opera, all things considered. I still find a lot of operas just a little too long, and even in Tosca, one of my favorites, there is a particular musical sequence at the beginning that I hate. But The Marriage of Figaro represents the first opera I've seen where I want to go buy a recording and listen to it all the way through multiple times, as opposed to hopping from one favorite part to another. There's not a moment in this opera that isn't musically beautiful. And even though this is a "happy" opera, I completely got shivers during the letter duet this time.

Understandably, HGO was anxious about how this unconventional staging would be received. At the opera talks leading up to the performances, staff members encouraged subscribers to "keep an open mind," and we received e-mails of a similar ilk. Clearly, they did not want the audience going in expecting the usual and being disappointed if they didn't get it.

No more. In the e-mail I just got, reminding me that there's one more performance (Sunday February 7, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.), HGO proudly says "Don’t miss HGO’s groovy production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro!" You go, HGO!

[Purem Jo (far left) as Barbarina, Adam Plachetka (far right) as Figaro, and members of the HGO Chorus; photo by Lynn Lane]
Read more!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Short Fiction - January 2016

Short Fiction - January 2016

How is it possible that January is over already? Here are my favorite stories read this month.

"Mycelium" by Fábio Fernandes

Length: 3,277 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Perihelion
When Published: 2015-12-12
Link (free; link good for approximately four months)

Ariana travels in a "nulltime bubble," a dangerous mode of transport but the only way to navigate the distances between the mining asteroids without attracting unwanted attention. Ariana is a kinocchio, or living recorder, and has been sent to this particular colony in response to a mysterious accident. She quickly realizes that whatever lies behind the accident may be the key to saving what little is left of humanity.

There's a lot going on in this story. It seems to be part of a much larger picture, which is fine -- authors have been publishing excerpts of their novels as short works since the beginning of science fiction. I'm okay with not (yet) knowing more about the enemy that wiped out most humans, and I liked the bit of Arian's backstory that we got. That said, I would enjoy seeing this fleshed out as a longer work.

"By Degrees and Dilatory Time" by S.L. Huang

[Illustration "By Degrees" © 2015 Milan Jaram. Used with permission.]

Length: 4,088 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Strange Horizons
When Published: 2015-05-18
Link (free)

This is a quiet and thoughtful story about a young man who has to get artificial eyes due to cancer, at a time when some people choose to get them for occupational or even just aesthetic reasons. In my mind, the story gently makes two main points: we are surprising in our capacity to adapt, and people need to decide for themselves whether they're willing to be the "face" of a political ideology, especially when their participation in that movement is assumed based on something they can't control. Highly recommended.

"Engelbert" by Gareth D. Jones

Length: 1,464 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2015-08-07
Link (free)

Although I found the premise of this story a little bit of a stretch, the narrative takes some chances that pay off. At a research compound, a nanotech-enhanced sentient camel has only one friend, an analyst at the facility. Something bad has happened, and the story moves through a bit of back-and-forth chronology to bring the reader to a point of understanding. A very minor quibble is that I experienced one point of confusion that I think could have been cleared up without spoiling anything else in the story. But overall, I found this to be moving and very well-written.

"Telling the Bees" by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon)

Length: 723 words
Category: Short story (flash fiction)
Where Published: Strange Horizons
When Published: 2015-12-21
Link (free)

This story was stunning in its loveliness. And a funny thing: a month or so ago I'd seen someone post that they'd read a lovely story and then found out it was written by Ursula Vernon under a pseudonym. I immediately made a mental note to go find this story -- and, naturally, I immediately forgot.

But then a few weeks later, I found it by chance, by looking to see what had been published recently in Strange Horizons. I read it, thought it was perfect (length, tone, subject), and then saw in the author bio notes that T. Kingfisher is Ursula Vernon. It was the very story I'd meant to look up. This author has become one of those whose work I'll go looking for.

"The Pixie Game" by Anna Zumbro

Length: 992 words
Category: Short story (flash fiction)
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2015-06-15
Link (free)

And one more from Daily Science Fiction. I felt this short piece was most effective, and I liked that pixies were simply a given in this world. In an effort to fit in at his new school, Gage takes part in a cruel game, with unexpected consequences. Slightly chilling, in the best possible way.

Other stories read in January 2016:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Lords A-Leaping" by Sarah Crysl Akhtar (2016)
- "Reading Beauty" by Abigail Ashing (2016)
- "Bones" by Francesca Lia Block (original 2001; reprint 2010)
- "The Book of Martha" by Octavia Butler (original 2003; reprint 2010)
- "Unearthly Landscape by a Lady" by Rebecca Campbell (2015)
- "Bonsaiships of Venus" by Kate Heartfield (2014)
- "In the Cold" by Kelly Jennings (2012)
- "Vacui Magia" by L.S. Johnson (2015)
- "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" by Stephen King (original 1984; reprint 2010)
- "Two to Leave" by Yoon Ha Lee (2015)
- "Super Goat Man" by Jonathan Lethem (original 2004; reprint 2010)
- "Bilingual" by Henry Lien (2015)
- "Ancestor Money" by Maureen McHugh (original 2003; reprint 2010)
- "Insert Line: Goodbye Mom, Goodbye Dad" by Joshua P'ng (2016)
- "Stripped to Zero" by Stephen S. Power (2015)
- "Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs" by Leonard Richardson (2009)
- "Tin and Mercury, Gilt and Glass" by Lane Robins (2016)
- "Live Forever" by Anton Rose (2016)
- "The Retelling of Jeremiah" by Kelly Sandoval (2016)
- "The Sharing Series" by Janet Savage (2016)
- "A Note to Parents Regarding the Beginning and End of Time Diorama Presentations for Ms. Miller’s Third Grade Class" by Rebecca Schwarz (original 2014; reprint 2015)
- "Snow Crab Knife" by Christopher Shultz (year unknown)
- "The Shutdown" by Marge Simon (2016)
- "Expensive" by Jessica Snell (2016)
- "The Osteomancer’s Husband" by Henry Szabranski (2016)
- "Ghosts of the Ashwydds" by Filip Wiltgren (2016)

List of the sources from which these stories came:

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

- Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2015; Oct 2015
- Daily Science Fiction, June 2015; Aug 2015; Jan 2016
- Diabolical Plots, Jan 2016
- Every Day Fiction, Jan 2016
- F&SF, Mar/Apr 2015
- Flash Fiction Online, Aug 2015; Jan 2016
- Freeze Frame Fiction, year unknown
- Lackington's, Fall 2014
- Nature, Aug 2015
- Perihelion, Dec 2015
- The Secret History of Fantasy (anthology), edited by Peter S. Beagle, Tachyon, 2010
- Strange Horizons, July 2009; Jan 2012; Jan 2015; May 2015; Dec 2015

Read more!