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

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