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Kat Howard

Kat Howard’s short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in best of and annual best of collections, and performed on NPR. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Roses and Rot. She lives in New Hampshire, and you can find her on twitter at @KatWithSword.

Click here for more stories by Kat Howard.

The End of the Sentence: A beautiful novella

The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley & Kat Howard

Malcolm Mays is very close to the end of his rope. After the collapse of his terrible marriage, after a horrific tragedy, he has spent close to his last dollars on a house in rural Ione, Oregon. His first sight of the house confirms that there’s plenty of work to be done, but also that there’s something good to work with. When he opens the front door to his new home for the first time, he finds a huge pile of mail written to the dead owner of the house from an inmate at the federal prison two hundred miles away in Salem. As he explores the house, he receives a letter from the prison himself, delivered, apparently, without the need for a postal worker or any other human agent. The letter is from Dusha Chuchonnyhoof, who tells him that there will be a plate set out for him in the icebox, and flowers beside the bed. It is too long, Dusha says, since he was in that house; he’s b... Read More

Roses and Rot: The price of making dreams come true

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Roses and Rot (2016) is a slow-building but beautifully written dark fantasy, loosely based on a familiar folk tale that isn’t disclosed until about a third of the way into the novel, so I’ll refrain from giving it away. Primarily Roses and Rot explores the relationship between two adult sisters and their devotion to their respective arts, and how that affects their relationship during a year they spend at Melete, an elite fine arts retreat program in New Hampshire. At the same time, it asks hard questions of its characters, and of us as readers, about what we are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of our art, or any other personal goal.

Imogen, the narrator and older sister, is an author who uses fairy tale themes and motifs in her stories; her sister Marin is a gifted ballet dancer. The sisters’ relationship is loving but fraught with difficul... Read More

An Unkindness of Magicians: Dark and brisk with lots of good visuals

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Wizard tournaments and wizard duels are standard fare in fantasy now, and Kat Howard puts the concept to good use in her fast-paced An Unkindness of Magicians. Published in 2017, the story follows a group of families based in Manhattan, who call themselves the Unseen World. They use magic to enrich themselves, gain power and ensure their comforts. Periodically, they engage in a magical struggle for control called the Turning, in which each family or House appoints a champion who duels other champions, often to the death. The House whose champion wins the tournament becomes the Head of the Unseen World until the next Turning, which is usually twenty years. When the book opens, the Turning has been announced seven years early, and two wild card champions are set to disrupt things in a big way.... Read More

Magazine Monday: Weird Tales

Weird Tales celebrates “Uncanny Beauty” in the Summer 2010 issue (No. 356, and the most recent issue available as of this writing). The best story in the magazine, though, is one that is off-theme. “How Bria Died,” by Mike Aronovitz, is the tale of an unorthodox teacher who may well have taken his unusual teaching methods a step too far for the universe to abide.  This horror story is fresh, original and written from a position of real authority:  Aronovitz teaches English in a school much like the one in which his story is set.

Kat Howard’s “Beauty and Disappearance” is a surreal tale of disappearing bits of statues, soon followed by the disappearance – at first intentional, and later not so much – of other bits and pieces of other th... Read More

Magazine Monday: Adventure Fantasy and Literary Fantasy

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a bi-weekly online magazine that publishes literary adventure fantasy. Each issue contains two stories. Each issue is available for free online, or can be downloaded to an e-reader for a mere $.99. I read the two issues published in February 2011 for this column, but there are already two March issues available. Fortunately, past issues are available in all formats. In addition, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has published two “best of” anthologies.

Issue #63, published on February 24, 2011, contains “The Ghost of Shinoda Forest” by Richard Parks. Its first-person narrator, Lord Yamada, meets Kenji, a “reprobate priest,” in the forest of the title, near the remains of Enfusa Temple. Oddly enough, Lord Yamada has not been drinking sake, and doesn’t even want to, which Kenji finds somewhat frightening. But apparently something in Yamada is keeping him off the sauce and ha... Read More

Magazine Monday: A Summer’s Worth of Apex Magazine

Apex Magazine is an online magazine I’ve reviewed once before, stating some reservations about the change in editorial command. I’m happy to report that the summer’s issues indicate that the magazine is as strong as ever. The June, July and August issues contain something to satisfy nearly every fantasy reader.

The August issue opens with the stunning “Waiting for Beauty” by Marie Brennan. This twist on the classic fairy tale “The Beauty and the Beast” will stop your breath. The devotion of the Beast to his Beauty is transcendent and sad.

Kat Howard’s “Murdered Sleep” is equally extraordinary, though in a completely different way.  Kora has long heard rumors of an impossibly wonderful party, full of masks and decadence. One day sh... Read More

Magazine Monday: Apex Magazine, Issues 44 and 45

Issue 44 of Apex Magazine leads off with “Trixie and the Pandas of Dread” by Eugie Foster. It would take a hard heart to resist a story that starts like this: “Trixie got out of her cherry-red godmobile and waved away the flitting cherubim waiting to bear her to her sedan chair.” In the world Foster has created, one can become a god when the Karma Committee appears at her door bearing prizes akin to the Publishers Clearinghouse bonanza. Trixie uses her power to get rid of the jerks who write sexist, homophobic or racial comments on public internet forums. Can we all agree that we really need a goddess like this? But the work is growing less satisfactory lately; Trixie is having a mid-goddess crisis. The story is about how she gets past it, and it is as satisfying as it is funny.

Lettie Prell’s “The Performance Artist” asks serious questions about what constitutes life in a world where people can do... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean, Spring 2013

The spring issue of Subterranean is exceptionally strong, even for a publication known for its excellent fiction. The six long pieces in this issue seem to be somewhat thematically linked, most of them having taken some form of art as their theme.

In “Painted Birds and Shivered Bones” by Kat Howard, an artist named Maeve has gone for a walk, seeking both fresh air and perspective, when she sees a naked man crouched beside a cathedral. She reaches into her purse for her phone, but when she looks up again, the man is gone. In his place is a beautiful white bird. How could she have confused a bird, no matter how large and beautiful, with a naked man? Regardless, the bird proves to be a remarkable inspiration, and Maeve is soon working on a series of paintings of mythologica... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2013

Editor's note: We now know that K.J. Parker is author Tom Holt.

The Summer 2013 issue of Subterranean Magazine has a special K.J. Parker section, which is a treat for anyone who has read any of Parker’s work. This author (gender unknown) writes from the perspective of a military historian, and appears to have a special interest in ancient Greek and Roman warfare. All of his/her stories have the flavor of ancient days.

“The Sun and I” is the first of two Parker stories in this issue. It is a take on the statement attributed to L. Ron Hubbard: “If you want to get rich, you start a religion!”  Five friends, all from weal... Read More

Magazine Monday: Apex Magazine, Issues 55 and 56

The most recent two issues of Apex Magazine give us a chance to say goodbye to one editor and hello to the next, and offer an interesting contrast between two strong voices.

Issue 55 is Lynne M. Thomas’s last issue of the 26 she has edited. It is a strong issue, with stories that are beautifully angry — at disease, at societal expectations, at clichés.

The first story, “What You’ve Been Missing” by Maria Dahvana Headley, is about the losses everyone suffers when a man is stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease. Joe has been caught eating Proust, dipping the pages into his tea and devouring them. His wife, Bette, is enraged, because when they were first married he had said he’d sooner walk into the snow shoeless than live without the full use of his brain. Now Joe not only doesn’t remember that, h... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, January and February 2014

The January 2014 of Nightmare Magazine opens with “The Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s Chariot of Death” by Adam Howe. Gibbons is the proud owner of Eddie Gein’s car, a genuine relic of the murder on which Alfred Hitchcock based his movie Psycho. Gibbons has a carnival show built around the car, a regular “Disneyland from hell,” and he can’t figure why it isn’t the huge success he expected when he spent his inheritance from his mother on the thing. But not only don’t people flock to see his show with a two-bit carnival traveling from town to town; he is frequently shut down by the local police in response to a citizenry that finds his show too grotesque. And the rest of the carnies don’t like the police nosing around, because there’s a lot going on behind the tents that the cops shouldn’t know about. Even though the carny is all Gibbons has ever known, it looks like he’s not going to last more than another town or two before this... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Spring 2014

The Spring 2014 issue of Subterranean Magazine is as strong as this magazine ever is, and that’s saying a lot. Kat Howard’s story, “Hath No Fury,” stands out as a memorable work about the old gods in the modern age. It is a story about women who are victimized by men, and the women who refuse to allow those victims to go unavenged. Based loosely on the myth of Medea and Jason, the story is told in the first person by one of the Erinyes — the Furies — who in Howard’s contemporary New York are charged with avenging women murdered by husbands, boyfriends, lovers. Kaira is a close friend of Medea, who is a sort of muse to the Erinyes, guiding them when they first are changed from human to this new shape and watching over them as they fulfill their duties. Several other myths are mashed up here to create something new; so, for instance, Medea keeps bees, the Fates are old women knitting in t... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2014

To the dismay of all lovers of great speculative short fiction, the Summer issue of Subterranean Magazine is its last. This magazine was notable not just for the quality of its fiction, but for its willingness to publish short fiction at the novelette and novella lengths. The Summer issue ably demonstrates just what we’re going to be missing.

The magazine begins with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Pushing the Sky Away (Death of a Blasphemer).” The first person narrator is in desperate straits, her water and morphine gone, lost in a building of endless hallways, caught in a dispute between the Djinn and the Ghûl. Yet despite the fantasy setting, science has a place in this tale, as Cesium isotopes and radiation poisoning play a role. Kiernan’s language is chosen carefully, turning parts of this story into veritable prose poe... 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, siz... 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 hav... Read More

SHORTS: Carroll, Dick, Howard, Schanoes, Divya

This week's roundup of free short SFF on the internet contains some great old and new stories.


“The Stolen Church” by Jonathan Carroll (2009, free at Conjunctions, also in The Woman Who Married a Cloud: The Collected Short Stories)

Tina and Stanley, married for five years, are in the lobby of a nondescript apartment building, waiting for an elevator to take them up to visit his parents. The only problem is, Stanley’s parents are dead. Tina can’t understand what Stanley is thinking, whether he’s ser... Read More

SHORTS: Kusano, Swanwick, Howard, Tanzer

Our weekly sampling of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are some of the stories that caught our attention this week. 

“Next Station, Shibuya” by Iori Kusano (Jan. 2017, free at Apex, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

A poetic little story (under 4000 words) narrated by a city (or perhaps a city’s local spirit/deity) in second-person address toward Nagiko, a resident in whom the city has taken a particular interest.  I really liked the small details by which the city shows its love of Nagiko:
As you walked home from the station I made sure every streetlight above you was... Read More

SHORTS: Anders, Nagata, Howard, McGuire, Clarke

After a few weeks' vacation, SHORTS returns to continue exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about. 


“As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders (2014, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Marisol Guzmán, a pre-med student who decided that being a doctor was a better career choice than a playwright, is saved from the end of the world only because she’s housecleaning a mansion when massive earthquakes began. She ran into ... Read More

SHORTS: Howard, Wilde, Gaiman, Ellison, Keller, Dick

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

“A Recipe for Magic” by Kat Howard and Fran Wilde (2017, free at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog, free to download for Nook)

“A Recipe for Magic,” co-written by Kat Howard and Fran Wilde, features a curious kind of shop: at the Night and Day Bakery, magic spells are baked directly into pastries and confections, affecting both the baker/spel... Read More

Oz Reimagined: You might not even find yourself in Oz

Oz Reimagined edited by John Joseph Adams

Oz Reimagined is a collection of tales whose characters return as often, if not more often, to the "idea" of Oz as opposed to the actual Oz many of us read about as kids (or adults) and even more of us saw in the famed MGM version of the film. As its editors, John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, say in their introduction: "You might not even find yourself in Oz, though in spirit, all these stories take place in Oz, regardless of their actual location." And actually, I personally found my favorites in here mostly to be those stories that did not hew too closely with Baum's characters or plots, but instead took the characters and skewed them, or sent them down a different path than the yellow-bricked one. Though as is often the case with anthologies, I found the collection as a whole a mixed bag, its stories evoking reactions varying from distaste to "meh" to "interesting" to "now that was cool."
... Read More