June is my birthday month, and I am so delighted by the amazing stories I read these last few weeks. ❤
A note about my selections: on my blog I usually choose to review fiction that is available online and not behind a paywall. I subscribe to ebook/print markets and I’ve bought a few individual issues so I can read things I’m interested in. But when I want to link to things, I would rather have them accessible for as many readers as possible. ^_^
In addition to this, I do not read everything in every publication every month. I bounce around a lot; some months I may read more from one publication than others. There is no method: I have several dozen tabs and always add more, so who knows what I will end up reading each month.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this month’s recommendations!
A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Lighthouse of Quvenle the Seer by Lina Rather (Lightspeed)
Rather has created a quietly powerful story here, one with a strong emotional core, and the premise is a nice take on oracles. This is a story about grief and hope; about new beginnings without silencing the griefs of the past, which are in many ways always present. It hits hard in a short amount of words, but leaves you with a breath of hope in the end.
Artful Intelligence by G. H. Finn (Diabolical Plot)
If you like puns, you will likely enjoy this a lot. 😉 This is a highly amusing tale about a steampunk engineer who creates an AI! It’s full of fun word play, great over the top concepts, and enjoyable characters. I laughed aloud often while reading, and the ending made me grin. What a great romp!
Destiny by Melissa Mead (Daily Science Fiction)
Mead has written a charming, meta-based story about an author who wanders into the story, and the kindness of characters who can make good changes. I really liked how sweet this was: working within the rules of the story-world, the protagonists can act and they choose to do so with compassion. ❤
Fascism and Facsimiles by John Wiswell (Fireside)
H*cking hilarious, hopeful, and heroic! Wiswell has a wonderfully keen wit and on-point commentary about social and political climate of our current times. This story pokes deliberate fun and criticism over the Marvel fiasco of making Captain America a Nazi (Hydra). When the protagonists in “Fascism and Facsimiles” realize that in their world, the so-called national hero is not the person he’s been portrayed as for forty years. Henchmen getting agency and upholding their beliefs is, for me, more powerful than a traditional hero/villain smackdown. This is great and I highly recommend it!
Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate by Anya Johanna DeNiro (Shimmer)
With stunning prose, a fantastic and gorgeous mythology woven into shiny shapes, DeNiro has created an ethereal tale about gods and monsters. It’s also a story about two women who find a connection neither of them expected, and how it changes their lives. It’s bittersweet but ultimately triumphant in the end, and so brutally arresting on an emotional level it left me breathless for days after reading. Highly recommended!
TW: transphobia and misgendering & threats against trans women.
Fault Lines by A.J. Fitzwater (3Lobe Burning Eye)
With haunting imagery and metaphor, exquisite writing, and a vicious edge so biting and aching that it builds tension so intense you are almost holding your breath, waiting for a release, this one is short and visceral and will stay with you long after the last words are glowing on the screen.
Gone to Earth by Octavia Cade (Shimmer)
Poetically horrifying and full of powerful emotion and fantastic atmosphere and prose; it’s creepy and sad and gorgeous! Cade has created an astounding sense of claustrophobia and earth-sickness (missing being on Earth, while living on Mars), and it’s so vivid I had to take repeated breaks to catch my breath. This story has such weight, such horrible beauty, that it will linger with you for time to come.
Heron of Earth by Varja Chandrasekera (Clarkesworld)
This story is built around a really cool far-future setting; it has a great voice and concept, and a riveting narrative that fully utilizes its conceit of a narrator whose name constantly changes. Chandrasekera’s skill ensures that it’s clear who the protagonist is all the time. Plus, there are so many BIRBS. 😀
In the Belly of the Wolf by Gwendolyne Kiste (Kaleidotrope)
This one is gorgeous, haunting, dark and so satisfying. Very bitey and hungry, with a delicious finale. It’s a take on the Red Riding Hood tale that is fresh (and awesomely genderswaped from the more traditional mode), and is full of wolves. I enjoyed this story so much that I bought a copy of Kiste’s short story collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe.
In the Bottom of the Tower Where All Beasts Roam by Michelle Muenzler (Daily Science Fiction)
What a creepy and gorgeous and weird little story—full of bones and blood and teeth. It’s a fairy tale in the mode of the gruesome originals, and I love it!
In the End, It Always Turns Out the Same by A. C. Wise (The Dark)
This is heartbreaking, dark, and viscerally real: about the pressures and abuses put upon kids and how narratives are made and enforced, even when they are wrong. a vicious riff on teen detective tropes (Scooby Do, etc) that works brilliantly and will haunt you long after you finish reading.
Jiak liu lian by Yap Xiong (Arsenika)
This is a sensual, awesome story about vampires and durians—it made me hungry, even though I could almost taste the delicious fruit! Sumptuous and sublime. Definitely recommended!
Leviathan Sings to Me in the Deep by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare)
This is a luxuriously dark, creepy, horrifying story about whaling, whales, monsters and the terror of the void. It builds slowly, inevitably, layers of nuance and disturbing implications that resolve into a deep and unsettling realization. It will linger in your bones, the memory of whale song that you hear beneath the waves.
(Check out Sen’s awesome author interview as well—she points out the inspiration for this story is rooted in Dishonored games.)
More Tomorrow by Premee Mohamad (Autmota Review)
A brilliant, voicey, endearing, fun, bittersweet story about time travel and survival and the endurance of human ingenuity and spirit. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. It’s funny as hell, too: I nearly spit out my coffee so many times while reading this. And then SUDDENLY MY HEART IS MELTING AGAIN. A fabulous epistolary format, a great take on how time travel affects past and future, and it highlights the versatility and strength of humans. Also trilobites.
Mothers, Watch Over Me by Maria Haskins (Mythic Delirium)
Do you like feels? Far-future science fantasy? Then this story is for you: a gorgeous anthropomorphic fantasy, with the familiar yet alien tone reminiscent of Watership Down. It’s about family and legacy, it has awesome robots, magic, and ALL THE GOOD DOGS.
Tank! by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots)
If anyone can pull off a story about a literal non-binary tank going to a convention, it’s John Wiswell. The result? SO CUTE. MUCH LOVE. ADORBS. Tank wants to be your friend! They’re such a good tank.
The Cook by C. L. Clark (Uncanny)
Aww, this is lovely, a sweet story with gorgeous writing, one that will cleanse your palate, fill your heart, and leave you feeling energized. Read and enjoy!
The Day After the Red Warlock of Skull Top Mountain Turned Everyone in Beane County into Pigs by Susan Jane Bigelow (Fireside)
A long title that works beautifully to set up the premise. It’s one of those stories that examines the aftermath of a climatic event and how it has impacted the lives of the people who lived through it. This one has an edge, and in ways the end feels abrupt, but it haunts you long after you finish.
The Guitar Hero by Maria Haskins (Kaleidotrope)
Wow, this is GREAT. 😀 It’s visceral and rocking and such fun, with heart and a nasty streak. Haskins’ writing evokes all the senses in a perfect blend, transporting you into the story. You can almost hear the music, smell the air, feel the thump of bass under your feet. I also love the Ghostbusters-esque vibe of using SCIENCE!!1! to perform exorcisms. The story itself is like a great guitar riff: showy, entrancing, and makes you want to mimic the music in the air yourself. Definitely a win all around!
The Scarecrow’s Daughter by Hamilton Perez (Aresnika)
What I loved about this gorgeous, weird little story is Perez’s marvelous use of negative space. So much is said in what is not said. We get hints about what happened, and what will happen, with the absences within the narrative. It’s so incredibly well done! Haunting imagery and a mythic feel, this one is definitely I recommend.
The Steady State by Shannon Fay (Daily Science Fiction)
Usually you might not expect “cute and charming” to be applied to a dystopia story, but this one fits the bill: it has a dark undertone but the atmosphere is upbeat and it has happy lesbians! With a happy ending! If you need a little pick-me-up, this one should help brighten your day.
The Stories Of Your Name by J. M. Melican (Arsenika)
This tiny story is beautiful and a brilliant use of meta and second person: a story of stories told from one person to another. What a lovely ending; it gave me such feels in such a short period of time! ❤
Things We Will Never Say by Vanessa Fogg (Daily Science Fiction)
Awww. A poignant, moving story about family and silences and possible futures, some that are hopeful and true.
What Monsters Prowl Above the Waves by Jo Miles (Diabolical Plots)
This is an adorable story about an octopus who meets and befriends a lonely cat—there is a perfect blend of an alien mindset that is at the same time very relatable, and the point of view of the octopus is charming and engaging. I hope the new buddies have great adventures together!
BETWEEN THE COATS: A SENSITIVITY READ CHANGED MY LIFE – AN ESSAY by Sarah Gailey (The Book Smugglers)
This is a powerful, beautiful, important personal essay that everyone should read. Gailey’s words resonated with me, and their story is so vital. Please do read.
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!