Short Fiction / Magazine Monday

On random Mondays, Terry Weyna discusses and reviews short stories and speculative fiction magazines. If you want to send Terry a magazine to review, please email her. She can’t promise to review it (she’s already buried under a stack of ’em), but she will certainly consider it.

SFM: Seth Dickinson, Aliette de Bodard, Ilona Andrews, Rose Lemberg, Elizabeth Bourne

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“Please Undo This Hurt” by Seth Dickinson (2015, free at 

Not speculative fiction, but a very insightful and poignant story of Dominga, an EMT on the verge of burnout after the man she loves breaks up with her. Her friend Nico is in a tough spot as well, after breaking up with his girlfriend because he thought she deserved better, and losing his cat to a coyote attack. Dominga and Nico feel so overwhelmed with the uncaring universe around them that they just want a way out of it: not suicide, that would be selfish, just a way to erase every speck of their exist... Read More

SFM: Kevin Hearne, Brandon Sanderson, H.P. Lovecraft

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

"Clan Rathskeller" by Kevin Hearne (2010, available at Kevin Hearne's blog, audio available)

“Clan Rathskeller” is one of Kevin Hearne’s short stories set in his IRON DRUID CHRONICLES world. This one takes place before the events of the first book, Hounded. Atticus, the last druid, and his Irish Wolfhound Oberon, are in Tempe Arizona, trying to lay low and avoid the attention of any ancient gods. But then they notice some gnomes disguised as Santa’s elves and they end up getting involved in their fight against an evil creature who stole something from them.

All of Hearne’s IRON DRUID storie... Read More

SFM: Ursula Vernon, Robin Sloan, K.J. Parker, Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Wood

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

"Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon (2014, free at Apex Magazine, podcast available)

Ursula Vernon's "Jackalope Wives" is a nominee for this year's Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award for short story and deservedly so. It certainly has my vote. It isn't clear where the story is set. All we know is that on the outskirts of town lies a desert, and in the desert the jackalope wives comes out at night to dance a wild dance. What are jackalope wives? This isn't immediately clear, we are drip fed tantalising details of their long ears and smooth coats which they shed in order to dance. They entrance the young men of the town and one in particular. But what happens when you catc... Read More

SFM: Hao Jingfang, Ruthanna Emrys, Phil Plait, Andre Norton

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

"Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu) (2015, free at Uncanny Magazine)

Hao Jingfang’s novella “Folding Beijing” stayed with me long after I finished reading it. It wasn’t just the images of her fantastic city, where buildings fold down into cubes and once a day the entire city revolves like a tossed coin. It wasn’t just the descriptions of the lives of people in Third Space, Second Space and First Space. At the core of this story is an “ordinary” man, risking his freedom and maybe his life for money, and as his motives become clearer, I grew to care more and more about him.

Lao Dao works lives in Third Space and wo... Read More

SFM: Isabel Yap, Hugh Howey, Michael Livingston, Michael J. Sullivan, Sherwood Smith, Judith Tarr

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. We'll put our favorites at the top.

The Oiran's Song" by Isabel Yap (2015, free at Uncanny Magazine)

"The Oiran's Song" is the tale of a young man who is sold into service with a traveling group of Japanese soldiers; this is a better fate than what befell his younger brother. It's also the tale of a young woman who entertains soldiers through various methods, traveling with them for as long as her services are required. It's also about human cruelty and kindness. It's about oni and snow and blood and vengeance and the fragility of hope. The brutality of war and human depravity are ever-present, but Yap never victimizes her characters: the terrible things which hap... Read More

Magazine Monday: Hugo-Nominated Novelettes, 2014

The Hugo-nominated novelettes are, as a general rule, better than the Hugo-nominated short stories. As was true of the short stories, however, none of the nominees is a story I would place among the best of the year.

“Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner is a fragment of something more, not a stand-alone novelette. It opens well, with a repairman traveling a billion klicks to see why a roboship broke down; he has no one for company except an artificial intelligence, which beats him at game after game of chess. Lerner uses his first chapter to explain that robots are not powered by artificial intelligences, which remain bodiless by design, suggesting that this story will be about artificial intelligences struggling for autonomy. But the repairman disappears after the first chapter, as does the suggested theme. Instead, this becomes the tale of Hunters (an intelligent species in the... Read More

Magazine Monday: Hugo-Nominated Short Stories, 2014

The short stories nominated for the Hugo Award this year are a disappointing lot. I read a great many stories in 2014 that were far better than at least four of these tales.

“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa is told in the first person by an artificial intelligence that is a warship in space. It compares the physical humans who inhabit it to “symbiotic bacteria” that do not trust it fully and therefore do not allow it to travel without their company. It takes its orders from “posthumans,” who have uploaded themselves to machines and become the Immortal Uploaded. The story is essentially about the narrator working out whether it is worthwhile to keep humans around. Although the theme has been worked and reworked over the last few decades, there is still a lot to explore.

But Rzasa is too focused on the glory of war to probe the provocative philosophical questions that should be th... Read More

Magazine Monday Special Edition: Nebula-Nominated Novellas, 2014

No, you have not jumped forward in time two days; it’s still Saturday. But the Nebula Awards will be handed out tonight, so this special edition of Magazine Monday discusses the nominated novellas.

The late, lamented Subterranean Magazine first published Rachel Swirsky’s “Grand Jeté.” The story is about Mara, a 12-year-old child who is dying of cancer, her father, who loves her very much, and the android Mara’s father has built that mimics Mara in every way, right down to her thoughts and feelings. It is an amazing technological accomplishment that Mara’s father sees as a gift to his daughter. Mara, however, sees it as a replacement for her, a confirmation of her fear that she is going to die. The story is about the comp... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Novelettes, 2014

Here are the novelettes nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award:

“We Are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller is narrated by Angel Quinones, nicknamed Sauro because he likes dinosaurs — though the other kids in his twelfth group home believe it’s because he’s as big as a dinosaur. Sauro is just about to age out of the system, and that’s even worse than the horror of being in the system. Sauro meets Case when one of the other boys is beating him up outside Sauro’s door. Sauro immediately desires Case, even though desire is dangerous, and he avoids it whenever he can; but this time, he knows he can’t. And Case, the only white boy Sauro has ever seen in a group home, desires Sauro right back. Both boys have cloud ports in their heads, which means that their brains serve as part of a huge data processing grid. C... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Short Stories, 2014

Here are the short stories nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award:

In “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard, the main character, Rechan, is pregnant. She must find her breath-sibling before she gives birth, or the baby will be stillborn. That, and the fact that they are carved by adolescent women from a special stone called lamsinh, are all we know about breath-siblings at first. Most women have their breath-siblings with them once they are created, but Rechan’s has remained in the mountains from which it was carved during a time of war on her planet. “The Breath of War” is a very alien story, setting up a world and a biology that are so different from ours that the wonder of the story comes from discovering the natu... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 171-173

The most recent issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, No. 173, dated May 14, 2015, opens with “Out of the Rose Hills” by Marissa Lingen. It starts promisingly, with a merchant’s daughter and her companion coming through the title hills on an unexplained but apparently urgent mission. The first person she sees when she comes out of the hills and into the city asks her if she is the princess, as prophesied for generations. She denies it, but a voice comes from behind her (where there should have been nothing but rose-covered hills). A shadow woman has followed her, who contradicts everything she says. It’s an interesting set-up, but the story doesn’t move forward much from that point, and seems to be just getting under way when it abruptly ends.

I’m not usually one for humorous science fiction, but I found “The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” by Bill Powell amusing. It’s a mash-up of G... Read More

Magazine Monday: Forever Magazine, Issues 1-3

Forever Magazine is a new venture by Neil Clarke, editor of the esteemed Clarkesworld. He explains in the introduction to the first issue of the magazine that it is a monthly publication focused on previously published works, mostly from this (still new) century. Clarke is the entire staff of the magazine. The Kindle subscription price is currently $1.99 per month.

The first issue opens extremely well, with a novelette by Ken Liu, “The Regular,” about a serial killer who targets high-end prostitutes. Ruth is a freelance detective who is hired by the mothe... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 169-170

Carrie Vaughn opens Issue 169 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with “Sun, Stone, Spear,” a story about as different from her KITTY NORVILLE series as it seems possible to get. Two young women, Elu and the narrator, Mahra, have decided to leave their home village; Mahra seeks adventure, while Elu wishes to be the chief astronomer of any village in which she lands — not a position she is likely to get in her home village, where there are four apprentice astronomers ahead of her. Their travel to a new village is one frought with danger, from bandits, from demons, even from gods. Though they seem reasonably well-prepared and sufficiently cognizant of the dangers about them to fight them, it is a difficult journey. And always the question hovers over them: have they done the right thing by leaving their home village? The story made me think of dozens of stories starring youn... Read More

Magazine Monday: The Dark, Issues 2 through 7

I was excited by the first issue of The Dark, which I reviewed in 2013. The following issues fulfill the promise of the first, containing lovely and mysterious stories of dark fantasy. Reading the sweep of the magazine from Issue 2 to Issue 7 reveals that a particular type of story is likely to catch the editors’ eyes: stories that are often elliptical, gentle, hinting at more than they say, and rich in poetic language.

Issue 2 is as wonderful as was Issue 1.  “Our Lady of Ruins” by Sarah Singleton opens prosaically, when the protagonist’s car breaks down two hours away from the city, in the middle of a forest. He can’t get a cell signal, and there’s no passing traffic, so he’s feeling at a loss when he sees a girl wearing a red coat in the forest. He follows her because she seems like the only source of help available to him. Events ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 167-168

K.J. Kabza opens Issue 168 with “Steady on Her Feet,” in which two men who purport to be physicians advertise that they are able to provide a surgical augmentation of one’s character. Holliday, a poor child, is induced to enter their shop by a shop boy who promises a free consultation, though Dr. Mortleaus isn’t too keen on helping a mudlarker — one of those who makes a living pulling valuable materials the river leaves behind when the tide goes out. But his partner, Dr. Svartlebarrt, persuades him to examine Holliday, and what they find surprises them: she is of excellent character, despite her humble circumstances. They induce her to become a shop employee, but it is evident immediately that they have ulterior motives. The story is a trifle inconsistent in that Mortleaus and Svartlebarrt have the aura of snake oil salesmen, and Kabza clearly means them to be do what they purport to be able to do. Still, it’s merely a mix-up about what sort of evil they’... Read More

Magazine Monday: Clarkesworld, February 2015

The February 2015 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine opens with “The Last Surviving Gondola Widow” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The first person narrator of the story is a woman living in Chicago who works as a Pinkerton (that is, a detective employed by the Pinkerton Agency, established in 1850 as one of the first such agencies) who was on Michigan Avenue the day the Gondolas came in from the South to rain hell down on the city. Now it appears that the widow of one of the Gondolas — for that’s how the engineers who piloted them were named, as the Gondolas would respond to the voice and touch of their own engineer like living beings — is not only still living in Illinois, but holds a position of prominence. The story is a steampunk adventure that includes a sort of engineering magic combined with a feminist sensibility. I found the story diff... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Nightmare, February 2015

Karen Munro opens the February issue of Nightmare Magazine with “The Garden,” a Weird story of Darlene, an Australian immigrant to South Korea, and Sook Joo, her Korean lover. Darlene is supposed to be teaching English, but she spends most of her time with Sook-Joo, watching her get high or bargain with her drug dealer. Sook-Joo loves drugs, just about anything she can get. One night Sook-Joo offers Darlene a handful of mushrooms, but Darlene refuses to indulge much, taking only one small brown chip; Sook-Joo swallows down the rest in one gulp. Even the small amount Darlene takes makes her gruesomely sick to her stomach, but not before she sees tiny golden filaments falling to the earth all around her. Sook-Joo disappears under the Wonhyo Bridge while Darlene retches, and they don’t meet up again until the next day. It’s immediately apparent that Sook-Joo’s experience with the ‘shrooms has been much different from Darlene’s. Thos... Read More

Magazine Monday: Grimdark Magazine, Issue Two

The opening story of Issue 2 of Grimdark Magazine, “The Line” by T.R. Napper, presents a picture in nobility. You might not think that at first, as the tale concerns George, a wrestler who makes a practice of breaking his opponents’ bones; but, you soon learn, that’s the least harm he can do to end a match. George is so good at his game that his wins come to seem too easy, and that’s where danger seeps in. The thoroughly corrupt regime that runs the “free zones” — places that seem anything but free to the majority of those who live and work there — has plans for George. What will George do in the face of the implacable foe ironically called Hope Corporation? The story is predictable and manipulative, but nonetheless somehow exhilarating and, at the same time, depressing to read. I’m curious to see what Napper will do as his writing experience and skills grow.

Aaron Fox-Lerner’s “Drone Str... Read More

Magazine Monday: Uncanny Magazine, Issues One and Two

Uncanny Magazine is a new bimonthly internet publication edited by Lynn M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. The editors have explained their mission this way:
We chose the name Uncanny because we wanted a publication that has the feel of a contemporary magazine with a history — one that evolved from a fantastic pulp. Uncanny will bring the excitement and possibilities of the past, and the sensibilities and experimentation that the best of the present offers. . . . It’s our goal that Uncanny’s pages will be filled with gorgeous prose, exciting ideas, provocative essays, and contributors from every possible background.
Issue One opens with “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” by Maria Dahvana Headley, in which the animal stars of movies and television have personalities, hopes, wi... Read More

Magazine Monday: Grimdark Magazine, Issue 1

Grimdark Magazine seeks to fill a gap in the niche market for those who enjoy “grim stories told in a dark world by morally ambiguous protagonists,” according to the editorial in the first quarterly issue. The first issue is promising, if somewhat opaque to one who is not already immersed in this relatively new subgenre.

The first story is “Shadow Hunter: A Shadows of the Apt Story” by Adrian Tchaikovsky, set in his universe in which humanoids take on the characteristics of insects. The Wasp-kinden, for example, are described as savage and angry, and have the ability to deliver a sting that emanates from the palms of their hands. One leader successfully corralled the Wasps into a mighty army and became emperor, but what happens to a Wasp who no longer interested in being a foot soldier? Gaved undertakes a mission to find a Moth in a thick and... Read More

Magazine Monday: Crossed Genres, Issues 24 and 25

The theme for Issue 25 of Crossed Genres Magazine is “Indoctrinate,” but the theme is only loosely applicable to the first story, “Cabaret Obscura” by Julian Mortimer Smith. The first-person narrator, Truddla, once catered to the kinky sexuality (or, at least, sexual curiosity) of humans at the Rialto. Most of her audience left “titillated but embarrassed,” she tells us, but some send her marriage proposals, and the dangerous ones lie in wait for her after shows. She’s a hobgoblin. Whether that means she’s a creature from the fairy tale world or an alien to whom a handy word has been applied isn’t made clear — that’s the “crossing” of genres in this story, apparently, a melding of fantasy and science fiction so that we can’t really tell which is which. There isn’t much of a plot, but the story is full of atmosphere and weirdness that suggest Smith has a vibrant imagination. I’m looking forward to watching him us... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 162-163

The last issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies for 2014 begins with “Alloy Point” by Sam J. Miller. It is a steampunk story of Ashley, who has a talent with Lustrous Metallics like gold and silver, and her forbidden affair with Gabriel, whose strength resides with Base Metallics. They are discovered by the City Fathers, who send a metalman to kill them both. As the story opens, Ashley is in flight from the metalman, who is pursuing her with single-minded determination. Ashley makes some uncomfortable and frightening discoveries as the chase goes on. It’s an old story in new clothes, told well. The use of metals and their importance to the lives of the characters caught my interest so much that I would ejnoy reading a novel in this world, and I’m not even a fan of steampunk.

The other story in issue 163 is “Until the Moss Has Reached Our Lips” by Matt Jones. This story is almost hallucinatory in its strang... Read More

Magazine Monday: Fantasy Magazine, Women Destroy Fantasy

Fantasy Magazine was folded into Lightspeed Magazine in 2012, but it came out of retirement in October 2014 for the Women Destroy Fantasy issue, one of the stretch goals of a Kickstarter for an all-women edition of Lightspeed. I was one of the contributors to the Kickstarter, and, as my review last week revealed, I greatly enjoyed the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare Magazine that was another stretch goal of the same Kickstarter. I’m pleased to report that the fantasy issue is just as “destructive” and enjoyable.

Cat Rambo guest-edited the new fiction for this issue of Fantasy. Her editorial remarks on the difficulty of seeing the shape of a field when you’re smack in the middle of it. You can see fine details, but the overall structure, size and scope tend to escape you. That means that sexism in genre literatu... Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, Women Destroy Horror Issue

I wouldn’t normally review a magazine from last month, but the October issue of Nightmare Magazine is something special, and it’s still available. In this issue, Women Destroy Horror! Issue 25 is devoted to horror written by women, the result of a Kickstarter originally intended to help women destroy science fiction (in the June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine) that met its stretch goals. (Full disclosure: I contributed to the Kickstarter.)

The guest fiction editor of this issue is Ellen Datlow, who is the foremost horror editor working today, of any gender. She picked a lot of great stories for this special issue. Her editorial reminds us that women not only once dominated horror, but actually invented it. Ghost stories and gothic tales were written by women for decades before Read More

Horrible Magazine Monday: Black Static, September/October 2014

Issue 42 of Black Static is packed with stories, reviews, essays and an interview.

“Be Light. Be Pure. Be Close to Heaven” by Sara Saab is a tale of a Christian sect that takes Antonietta Meo, the Little Matron, as its guide. Meo lost her leg to disease when she was five years old, and declared it “ballast shed to lighten her ascent to Heaven.” The people in this sect, therefore, submit to voluntary amputation of some sort in order to demonstrate their devotion. Tanta is a young woman whose mother gave up a leg, and whose father gave up his eyes, who is now contemplating her own sacrifice. Though she is extraordinarily devout, in the course of the story she faces substantial temptation, and makes her choice. It’s a creepy story that reminds us of all the oddities that historically occur in every religion. (It’s not part of the story, but: Meo actually existed. She was an Italian girl who died at the age of six from t... Read More