October is my favorite month (spooky movies! candy! pumpkins! ghosts!), even if it is the busiest at work! But I did read thirteen fabulous stories that are a mix of creepy and cunning and charming, scary and sad, haunting and hopeful. Enjoy the fiction and Happy Halloween!
A Taxonomy of Hurts by Kate Dollarhyde (Fireside)
A luminous, lyrical, story about hurts and how we classify ourselves; Dollarhyde beautifully blends imagery and emotion together in this story about a person finding someone like herself, finding herself, finding hope.
Never Drown Alone by John Wiswell (self-published)
Do you ever wonder what would happen if Jason Voorhees went to summer camp with Sadako and the two fell in love as only horror icons can? WHAT? This story is a hilarious, heartwarming, absolutely fricking fabulous mash-up of horror tropes, iconic characters, and a thoroughly satisfying, undying friendship between two people who connect and communicate even if they never speak. Wiswell weaves jokes and emotion and plenty of sly horror into this story; it’s weird and lovely and so gosh darn satisfying, beginning to end. Do yourself a favor: if you like horror, read this. Then share it with a friend…I promise it works better than if you showed them a VHS tape.
One and Two by Emma Osborne (Kaleidotrope)
Two gods sit down to have dinner together, and what follows is a bittersweet, beautiful ache of a story that unfolds how the earth has changed, the cost the world has endured with inconsiderate human consumption, and the possibility of hope for the future. Gorgeously written and brimming with emotion, Emma Osborne has created a stunning work that will linger with you long after the final page.
One Thousand Cranes by Zora Mai Quỳnh (Terraform Magazine)
Sharp, haunting, and terrifying for the near-future predictions of climate change, this story is masterfully told in reverse chronology—a stunt I love, and here it is performed with perfection. It’s not an easy read, but it is a necessary one.
Screw Your Courage to the Sticky Place by Jenn Reese (DSF)
When the four horsepeople of the apocalypse show up at Ana’s door, it’s a relief—and a surprising opportunity, too! Charming, funny, sweet, with a lovely bit of queer flirting, Reese brings laughs as well as ‘aww!’s of delight in very few words.
STET by Sarah Gailey (Fireside)
Brilliant and taking full advantage of a digital format to tell a powerful story in an interactive way (although you can also simply read it top to bottom with the same effect), Gailey will yank your heartstrings ragged with this story about autonomous vehicles, ethical AI, and editorial privilege. An amazing, feels-punchy read that will haunt you long after you finish.
Subtle Ways Each Time by Y.M. Pang (Escape Pod)
Time travel and introspection! A man tries to change the past to make a relationship work, and fails each time…until he finally realizes what it is he’s doing wrong. This is a fantastic take on the ripple effect of choices made through time travel, and ends in such an unexpectedly positive way, I loved it!
Ten Deals With the Indigo Snake by Mel Kassel (Lightspeed)
A fantastic story with a rich, modernized mythology of bargains and the cost of doing business. There are so many good snakes!!! I love the relationship between the narrator and her indigo snake; the format of the story works perfectly to build on each deal and showcase the world and the character’s growth over the course of her life. It’s a fantastic story well worth your time! (And it doesn’t even ask for anything in return for reading.)
The Bodice, The Hem, The Woman, Death by Karen Osborne (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
In this breathtaking story, Karen Osborne crafts stunning, gorgeous prose while interweaving heartbreak and horror and hope into a backdrop of war and exploitation. Politics and fashion, weird engines and ghosts, tragedy and possibility are all sewn together in Osborne’s masterful control of pacing and emotive response. This is awesome on so many levels, showing off in a short but powerful way what resistance can look like.
The Fainting Game by Nino Cipri (Pseudopod)
This starts out deceptively innocent: a bunch of young girls learn to play a game that suggests autoerotic asphyxiation. But when Maya tries it, something goes badly wrong…and the horror builds from there. Cipri evokes the petty, casual cruelty of intimate family that adds to the sense of loneliness and otherness, and heightens the horror both supernatural and familial. It’s disturbing, riveting, and will keep a piece of your attention forever with itself in the static place.
The Longest Trial by Elizabeth Crane (Catapult)
Timely, satirical and yet brutally real and on point, the story of a 20-year-long trial showcases how many women are harmed by the societal acceptance of powerful men getting away with abuse…but not forever. It’s grueling at times, but the story never shies away from shining a floodlight in the face of systematic misogyny, and at the end of the tunnel, that answering light is this: in the future, we can do better, as a world, and we will.
This Will Not Happen To You by Marissa Lingen (Uncanny)
Biting, intimate, and unflinching, this story about disability and how we look at it with the lens of eradicating future problems. Lingen builds a dual-layered narrative, past and future, and at the end, it expertly skates around a pat cure narrative and dismantles the idea that we can ever truly master evolution, mutation, and nature.
Words I’ve Redefined Since Your Dinosaurs Invaded My Lunar Lair by Stewart C. Baker (Flash Fiction Online)
This is a hilarious and diabolically heartwarming story about supervillains, the cost of power, and dinosaurs! Baker packs a remarkable amount of story into a mere thousand words, along with a philosophical outlook on societal structures and the nature of good and evil. And it’s funny as h*ck. Ten out of ten death rays!
Big shout-out to these awesome authors and their excellent stories! Check back next month for another round-up, or feel free to follow me on Twitter @Merc_Rustad for instant recommendations as I have them. Cheers!