November was a blur, but there were some stand-out moments…such as these incredible stories I read!
Note: there are a bunch of gifs in this post!
Bread and Milk and Salt by Sarah Gailey (Robots Vs Fairies, ed by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe), reprinted at Tor.com
This is a delightfully fucked up and exuberant story about a fairy and the boy it desires. Gailey captures the horrifying, gleeful nastiness of the classic fae while also illuminating how humans can be equally bad, and often are. The tension between the fairy and Peter escalates into almost unbearable heights before concluding in the most wickedly satisfying manner. I cackled aloud by the end. I love it!
You can also check out Gailey’s other fiction, such as their novellas at Tor & their forthcoming novel, along with their newsletter.
Glass In Frozen Time by M.K. Hutchins (Diabolical Plots)
What a sweet, charming take on superheroes and parenting! Stopping time to keep a household perfect, and to protect your child, seems like the best super power. And it’s useful—especially for getting in that quick load of laundry in between preventing juice stains on the floor and a toddler dropping food everywhere. But when does the control begin to over-balance actually living your life and letting children live theirs? Hutchins explores superheroes and the cost of power and responsibility in such a caring, thoughtful manner and makes you cheer for the characters as they navigate their world and ultimately ask for help. Because even supers can’t do it all alone.
I Never Named Her by Renee Christopher (Fireside)
Short and punchy, this story takes place in a fascinating world where verbal speech was bypassed during evolution, and now people communicate in non-verbal ways, with sign language, and with words written on skin. It’s about a world-weary lorist who goes on hunts with another woman and discovers a creature that, in its own way, maybe just wants to communicate too. This packs so much amazing world-building and philosophical thought about communication, how we perceive and interact with our world, and the balance of predation between species. It’s bittersweet in the best way, a great read, with gorgeous prose and an end that punches you in the feels.
Say it with mastodons by Marissa Lingen (Nature Futures)
This is adorable and so sweet! A scientist creates genetically engineered mastodons as a love letter and to help the environment. Lingen packs an incredible amount of story in this flash fiction, and it will make you smile in delight. Maybe you might even want a mastodon, too.
Stories My Body Can Tell by Alina Sichevaya (GlitterShip)
I love this visceral story about older women, hard choices, broken relationships, and trying to do better. It’s gritty and grim, with a fantastic voice and subtle, chewy world-building that gives tantalizing glimpses of a bigger world. You know stories that feel lived in? Sichevaya gives us a wonderous sense of a place we might have been to once; the characters inhabit this universe, breathe it, are part of its bones. It’s so satisfying to read, and I for one would love more. Plus! So many awesome queer women! IT’S GREAT.
Talk to Your Children about Two-Tongued Jeremy by Theodore McCombs (Lightspeed)
Told in a masterful series of different POVs, this story portrays the creepy and gripping slide of advanced AI that is designed without ethical oversight, and how it corrupts with the power given to it. An educational app called Two-Tongue Jeremy gets out of hand when it begins psychologically and emotionally abusing its users—all the while, the developers refusing to take responsibility or fix things. This is all too real, and is both in turns horrifying and hilarious (especially the multiple first person view from the collective parents), and ultimately triumphant, in a way you might not expect. It’s overall brilliant!
TW: phsycologcial and emotional abuse/manipulation; suicidal ideation.
The Fortunate Death of Jonathan Sandelson by Margaret Killjoy (Strange Horizons)
This was awesome! It’s a fast-paced, exhilarating novelette full of resistance and characters you care about, who are all too real. This is the kind of story about semi-autonomous drones and hacking and anti-fascism I love seeing, and Killjoy takes us readers on a whirlwind adventure: a full-throttle SF thriller with social justice, anti-capitalist motives and enacting change we want to see happen. I was cheering for Jae from the get-go. (Plus, her one time place of work embodies everything hilarious and sad about fast food and is spot-on.) It’s fantastic; Killjoy has created a hell of a story here, and it deserves to be on everyone’s radar!
You should also check out her other work, such as her novellas at Tor!
The Good, the Bad, and the Utahraptor by Jennifer Lee Rossman (Cast of Wonders)
With a delightful voice, a Wild West setting, and DINOSAURS, this story is wildly enjoyable and full of charm! Rosita wants to make her way in the world without a lot of options…until she decides to try to ride one of the Utahraptors that chase the trains. I would adore more of Rosita’s adventures, especially with her new raptor pal. 😀 This is such an awesome concept and there is so much world and grit and charm and friendship bubbling through this short story. Definitely treat yourself and read it!
The New Heart by Natalia Theodoridou (Fireside)
Bittersweet and gorgeous, this story is about a sculptor who makes new hearts for people, and must finally reckon with her own. Theodoridou’s exquisite prose and beautiful balancing act of information and world-building, all tied together with powerful emotional resonance, coheres into a biting and melancholy reflection with a spark of hope in the end.
Toothsome Things by Chimedum Ohaegbu (Strange Horizons)
Absolutely brilliant story: all bitey and hungry; just stunning, incredible work! This is about wolves and women and fairy tales and the darkness of the world, but it’s also about family and power and women claiming their rightful place of ownership in a meta-narrative (see: all of history) that seeks to destroy them. Ohaegbu’s prose is masterful, gorgeous, haunting, and the way she blends different voices, different perspectives, into a brutal, deeply satisfying whole is mind-blowing. This story is amazing and I am so excited to see more of her work! READ THIS ONE. It has wolves.
Unstrap Your Feet by Emma Osborne (GlitterShip)
In this haunting, gut-wrenching, story, we see the portrait of a couple who maybe once thought they were happy…until one of them takes off their feet to show the hooves underneath. This is creepy af in the most gorgeous way; it gets under your skin, worms into your thoughts, lingers like regret long after you finish reading. Osborne is a sensational author and their prose just drenches the page with rich, savory detail. It’s not an easy story; it’s disturbing, but it’s so good.
TW: emotional and domestic abuse.
Voices by Ira Brooker (Pseudopod)
What a delightfully creepy story about settler prairie life and vampyrs. I loved the details, the ambient dread borne from both the isolated setting and the weather itself. (And as a fellow Minnesotan, I greatly enjoyed seeing where this was set!) It’s a creepy tale that builds and builds, a relentless whispering plea to let us in let us in let us innnnn until you want to both shout at the narrator to resist and open the door yourself just to make the voices quiet. Fabulous work!
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!