Short Fiction


Driving to Geronimo’s Grave: A collection of Joe R. Lansdale’s favorites

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Driving to Geronimo’s Grave by Joe R. Lansdale

See, here’s why I read Joe R. Lansdale; in Driving to Geronimo’s Grave (2018), there is a short story called “Wrestling with Jesus.” The story is about wrestling and male bonding. It’s violent. It’s gross and vulgar. The plot involves two men gambling over a woman. There are two women characters; one is weak and venial and the other is evil and manipulative. It has foul language. It’s funny. Generally, only “it’s funny” would even remotely attract me to a story like this, but “Wrestling with Jesus,” which follows the relationship of a lonely teenage boy and an octogenarian wrestler, is probably my favorite of this 2018 story collection.

Marvin, the teen boy in the story, is a target for bullies in hi... Read More

Kingdoms of Elfin: Brrr!

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Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner

I first read Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin (1977) almost twenty years ago. At the time, I was using the recommendation lists in the back of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s fairy tale books as a to-read list (side note: I highly recommend this; I found lots of amazing books that way). The online used-book market was not what it is today, so I found most of them by haunting the local used bookstores constantly to see if anything on the list had appeared since my last visit. Kingdoms of Elfin was one of the hardest to find. When I finally did, it left me with a lasting impression of sad and unsettling content delivered in beau... Read More

Rock Manning Goes for Broke: A strange and original tale by a brilliant writer

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Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders

The thing I loved the most about Rock Manning Goes for Broke, the 2018 novella by Charlie Jane Anders, is the narrative voce of Rock himself. Here are the opening lines:

Earliest I remember, Daddy threw me off the roof of our split-level house. “Boy’s gotta learn to fall sometime,” he told my mom just before he slung my pants seat and let me go.

That’s the flavor of this brief, fast-paced, action-packed dystopian, heroic dark comedy and kinda-love story.

Dad is not a psycho, or maybe he is, but he is also a stuntman, teaching his sons the trade. Rock gets older and enters school, where his class-clown antics bring him to the attention of the school bully, and also to the... Read More

Exit Strategy: Murderbot to the rescue

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Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

Murderbot, the snarky, introverted cyborg hero of Martha WellsTHE MURDERBOT DIARIES series, returns from its trip to Milu, the deserted terraforming facility in space. The cyborg Security Unit ― which has committed the unprecedented crime of hacking its “governor” that required it to obey orders ― was searching on Milu for additional evidence against the evil-ridden corporation GrayCris, as related in the third novella in this series, Rogue Protocol. Because of key evidence found on the Milu trip, Murderbot decides it needs to meet face-to-face with Dr. Mensah, who is technically Murderbot’s owner and possibly also its friend … though Murderbot would sa... Read More

SFM: Blackwell, Spires, Grizzle, Fox, Anderson

Short Fiction Monday: 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.

“Waves of Influence” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires (2018, free at Clarkesworld magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Chenghui, a clever young Chinese woman, has committed fraud to win a contest to be trained by Meixiu, an internet sensation and social influencer. Chenghui’s sister, Yixuan, is a devoted fan of Meixiu, and is also slowly dying of a heart ailment. Chenghui reasons that if she can work her way into Meixiu’s inner circle, she can use her position to pretend to be Meixiu and send personalized messages to Yixuan, giving her the encouragement to keep fight... Read More

Scream and Scream Again!: Spooky Stories from Mystery Writers of America

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Scream and Scream Again! edited by R.L. Stine

Scream and Scream Again!: Spooky Stories from Mystery Writers of America (2018) is a short-form horror anthology in which “every story begins or ends with a scream,” and its twenty contributors are all members of Mystery Writers of America, an organization “dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre.” The anthology is edited by R.L. Stine, himself a contributing author, and the overall age range of its protagonists and general subject matter mark it firmly as suitable for the pre-teen and early-teen crowd.

Two of the authors may be familiar to Fantasy Literature readers — Beth Fantaskey and Read More

The People’s Republic of Everything: Not the right collection for me

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The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas

I don’t know if I simply wasn’t in the right mood for Nick Mamatas’ short-story collection The People’s Republic of Everything (2018), or if I’m not the right audience for his preferred themes and overall style, but this book and I just could not mesh.

There was one story, “Tom Silex, Spirit-Smasher,” which gripped my attention and had everything I look for in short fiction. The story focuses on Rosa Martinez, whose elderly grandmother might — through quirks of legality regarding her first marriage and the question of ownership of her first husband’s pulp publications — own the rights to a series of stories revolving around psychopomp Tom Silex. The character work is strong, the plot is laser-focuse... Read More

SFM: Kritzer, Valentine, Robson, McClellan, Reed

Short Fiction Monday: Our feature exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we want to share with readers.

“Field Biology of the Wee Fairies” by Naomi Kritzer (2018, free at Apex Magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)When Amelia turns fourteen, everyone assures her that she’ll catch her fairy soon. Almost every girl catches a fairy, and the fairy will give you a gift if you promise to let her go. The gift is always something like “beauty or charm or perfect hair or something else that made b... Read More

Barren: Strong second half balances out novella issues

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Barren by Peter Brett

Barren (2018) is a novella-length (just over 130 pages in my ARC version) story that answers some questions left after the conclusion of Peter V. Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series. Specifically, what happened back at Tibbet’s Brook, the small village that was home to Arlen Bales and Renna Tanner, two of the protagonists of the Cycle.

The first point I want to make has more to do with marketing and target audience than the book itself. My accompanying publicity says Barren is a good “entry point” for the series, but I’d respectfully disagree with that assessment and hope the book doesn’t get sold as such, say, on inner covers or blurbs or online descriptions. While Barren certain... Read More

The Black Druid: Part 2 of a classic collection

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The Black Druid by Frank Belknap Long

In my recent review of Frank Belknap Long’s short-story collection The Hounds of Tindalos, I mentioned that when this hardcover volume was initially released by Arkham House in 1946, it contained 21 tales, encompassing the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. I also mentioned that most later reprintings of this now classic collection contained only half of those 21 stories, including the 1975 edition that I recently wrote about; the one from the British publishing firm Panther. But later that same year, Panther released the other half of the 1946 classic in a collection entitled The Black Druid, a paperback that I eagerly sought ou... Read More

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms: And some pretty well detailed space realms, too

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Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms edited by Ellen Campbell & Patrice Fitzgerald

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms (2018) is a space opera anthology released by Astral Books. I don’t know whether the realms in question are really unimagined. In some places they are pretty dimly lit.

A Lunar colony’s aroma of baking bread did enter into the narrative in “The Art of Baking Bread on the Moon” by David Bruns. Ah, fresh bread! But again, that’s more nostalgic.

My favorite story by some distance was “Adagio for Tiamat Station,” by Marion Deeds, who happens to be a colleague reviewer and author in her own right. Her writing is spare and mercifully unsentimental in relating a tale of poignance and significance. Its gentle urgency echoes through time, and in fa... Read More

Fright into Flight: This anthology gives “flight” a broad definition

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Fright into Flight edited by Amber Fallon

2018’s Fright into Flight anthology, edited by Amber Fallon, contains a collection of stories written by women. Theoretically, each story deals with flight, although that definition is broad. Because this was published by Word Horde, I expected a horror anthology, but several of these stories aren’t horror, and one is straight-up fantasy. All but one of the stories is a reprint. “I Did it for the Art” by Izzy Lee, is original to this volume.

Here’s the table of contents:

“The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” by Damien Angelica Walters. Written in “found-footage” structure, this story addresses a bizarre occurrence that happened twelve years ago, as the documentarian wrestles with her own sense of guilt over the loss of her childhood friend.

“I Did it for the Art,” by Izzy... Read More

SFM: Borges, McDermott, Tidhar, Peynado, Larson

Short Fiction Monday: Our 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. 

“Death and the Compass” by Jorge Luis Borges (1954, free online version)

When Edgar Allen Poe goes in for creating an all-divining detective, you get "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"; when Gene Wolfe does it, you get "The Detective of Dreams"; when Jorge Luis Borges does it, you end up with "Death and the Compass". No disrespect to Poe or Wolfe, who are both among the gr... Read More

The Hounds of Tindalos: Part one of a classic collection

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The Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long

In my recent review of C. L. Moore’s Northwest Smith, I mentioned in passing that the author was a member of what has come to be known as the “Lovecraft Circle” — a group of authors who not only regularly corresponded with the “Sage of Providence,” but who were encouraged by Lovecraft himself to write to one another and critique their fellows’ work. Other writers in this loose-knit fraternity included Henry Kuttner (Moore’s future husband and collaborator), Robe... Read More

The Language of Thorns: Magical folk tales that stir the pot

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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns (2017) is a collection of six stories and novelettes by Leigh Bardugo, dark and lyrical folk tales set in her GRISHA universe, in the Russian-inspired country of Ravka and other nearby countries. These are stand-alone stories, unrelated to the specific characters and events in the GRISHA novels. This tales might be told on a dark night by a villager living in Ravka.

Bardugo’s stories, containing elements of both fantasy and horror, include elements of traditional fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel,” “ Read More

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day: A brief, but tender, ghost story

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s novella Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day (2017) is a sensitive tale of love, loss, and regret — the kind that haunts people, turns them into ghosts, makes them flee thousands of miles from their homes, makes them linger somewhere long after it’s time for them to leave.

In 1972, Jenna Pace’s older sister Patty committed suicide in New York City, far away from her family home in Mill Hollow, Kentucky. Jenna, wracked with grief, ran out into a freak thunderstorm and tumbled into a ravine, where she died. Because her life ended before it was supposed to, though, Jenna remains in the living world as a ghost, able to make her body corporeal or in... Read More

SFM: Roanhorse, VanderMeer, Theodoridou, Moore & Kuttner, Divya

Short Fiction Monday: Our 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.

“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM” by Rebecca Roanhorse (2017, free at Apex Magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Accolades have been pouring down on this 2017 SF short story, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and is also a Sturgeon Award nominee, a Locus Recommended Short Story, a Apex Magazine Reader’s Choice Winner. Additionally, Rebecca Roanhorse won the Hugo’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. On my first... Read More

Jirel of Joiry: A truly marvelous fantasy collection from C.L. Moore

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Jirel of Joiry by C.L. Moore

Just recently, I had some words to say regarding the stories that Golden Age sci-fi/fantasy author C.L. Moore placed in Weird Tales magazine, during the 1930s, that dealt with the futuristic smuggler/spaceman Northwest Smith. But as most fans of Catherine Lucille Moore will readily tell you, Smith was not the only character from this beloved writer who made semiregular appearances in the legendary pulp that decade. From October ’34 until April ’39, Moore also regaled readers with a wholly different character: Jirel of Joiry. Whereas the Smith series runs to a total of 11 stories, starting in November ’33 and winding up with a belated coda in June ’57, the Jirel series consists of a mere half dozen tales. The Smith series is an amalgam of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, set in... Read More

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories: Diverse tales show Clines’ talent

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Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines

I love Peter Clines’ weird ideas and a short story collection seems the perfect way to experience a bunch of them. I found Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories (2017) at Audible. At this moment there is no print version of this collection, but the audio version, with narration by two of my favorite readers (Ray Porter and Ralph Lister) is excellent and well worth picking up. It’s only 5 hours long.

The stories, which cover 10 years of Clines’ writing career, are:

"Mulligan" — The NSA has been called in to speak to a cop who has just interrogated a man in a lizard costume. As the cop tells his story, it gets weirder and weirder.
"Bedtime story" — A young boy tells his pare... Read More

Nightflyers: Mystery and horror aboard a haunted spaceship

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Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Nightflyers was first published in 1980, won the Locus Award for best novella, and was nominated for a Hugo Award. It was made into an unsuccessful film in 1987. It’s recently been on people’s radars due to the upcoming SYFY series based on the novella. You can purchase it in several new (2018) formats including an illustrated edition, a story collection, and an audio version. I listened to the audio version, which was narrated by actress Adenrele Ojo.

The story is a... Read More

Metamorphica: The myths of Ovid’s Metamorphoses reimagined

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Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Metamorphica by Zachary Mason

Zachary Mason, who retold Homer’s story of the wanderings of Odysseus in his well-received 2007 debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, takes on Ovid's epic narrative poem Metamorphoses in his latest work, Metamorphica (2018). Mason distills Metamorphoses’ over 250 Greek myths i... Read More

Rogue Protocol: Can humans and bots be friends?

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Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ endearingly grumpy cyborg Security Unit Murderbot returns with a vengeance in Rogue Protocol (2018), the third novella in the MURDERBOT DIARIES series. In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot heads off to Milu, a deserted terraforming facility in space, to investigate the past of a murky group called GrayCris, which we originally met in the first book in this series, the Nebula award-winning All Systems Red. GrayCris appears to be intent on illegally collecting the extremely valuable remnants of alien civilizations. To all appearances Milu is an abandoned project of GrayCris, but Murderbot suspects, based on its ... Read More

The Future is Blue: Life, and this collection, is like a box of chocolates

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The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente

Fans of Catherynne M. Valente who especially love her line-by-line prose will be pleased with her 2018 story collection, The Future is Blue. Fifteen of Valente’s shorter works are showcased here. The title piece is a novelette. The similarity they share is the priority of narrative voice and prose above other story elements, even those of character and plot.

I recommend that readers who love Valente’s prose consider this book as a box of gourmet chocolates, rather than a meal. It is possible to overindulge on Valente’s fascinating and fantastical conceits if you try to read this one sitting — and since it’s a story collection, you don’t have to.

The stories included are:

“The Futu... Read More

SFM: Larson, Connolly, Lechler, Murphy and Doherty

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

 

“Meat And Salt And Sparks” by Rich Larson (June 2018, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Al Huxley and Cu are detectives and partners in this near-future SF tale. Cu is a chimpanzee whose intelligence has been enhanced to human-level through a company’s cruel and illegal experimentation. Granted "personhood" rights ― and a hefty settlement ― in a court case, Cu still feels isolated. She’s most comfortable alone in her Washington state home, off Puget Sound, usually working with Huxley on a remote basis, ... Read More

Brief Cases: Adventures of Harry Dresden and his friends

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Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

Magic is well and good, but bullets are often swifter.

Brief Cases (2018) is a collection of a dozen short stories set in the world of Harry Dresden, a private investigator and talented wizard living in Chicago. Harry is the main character in most of the stories, but not all; a few other characters in Jim Butcher’s DRESDEN FILES universe get their chance to relate their adventures in their own voices.

This is the case with one of my favorite stories, the first one, “A Fistful of Warlocks,” set in the American Old West in the late 1800s, long before Harry Dresden’s time. Anastasia Luccio is a wizard and a Warden of the White Council o... Read More