Short Fiction


SFM: Shepard, de Bodard, Bear, Jemisin, Parker, Holland

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free short fiction available on the internet. This week's theme, just for fun, is stories dealing with dragons. 

The Man Who Painted The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard (1984, free online at Baen.com (sample from the Bestiary anthology), originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, also collected in The Dragon Griaule). 1985 Hugo and 1984 Nebula nominee (novelette), 1985 World Fantasy Award nominee (novella)

In ... Read More

Infernal Parade: Only for the most passionate Barker fans

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Infernal Parade by Clive Barker

This is an unfortunately disappointing collection of microstories from Clive Barker, an author who helped define my reading experience in mid-1980’s junior and high school. The six very loosely connected stories that make up the 88 pages of Infernal Parade (2017) were originally provided as exclusive companions to collectables made by McFarlane Toys in 2004. I believe these are part of a larger macroverse of characters published in Barker’s 2014 novella, Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordial.

Weaveworld and Books of Blood, the “Hellraiser" movies based on The Hellbound Heart, and Read More

SFM: Lee, Jones, Pratt, Skillingstead & Courtier

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of free short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories that caught our attention this week. 



“The Pirate Captain’s Daughter” by Yoon Ha Lee (2009, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

A female pirate captain sails the Unwritten Sea on her ship, the Improbable Dragon. Her crew includes her daughter, who is still unnamed despite growing into a young woman, for the Unwritten Sea has its laws and traditions, and a pirate must have the soul of a poet, and write a poem to the sea with enough power in it to move a ship. But the pirate’s daughter knows that she is no poet, and despite assiduous practicing and countless tries, nothing she writes can even move a toy boat acros... Read More

The Found and the Lost: Masterful stories by one of the genre’s greats

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The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Found and the Lost is the companion volume to The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, a hefty 816-page book or 34-hour audiobook collection of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novellas. It contains most of the stories that make up Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995) a set of linked stories in her HAINISH CYCLE about the two worlds of Werel and Yeowe, and explores the themes of slavery, oppression, revolution, and redemption. It also contains sev... Read More

SFM: Kusano, Swanwick, Howard, Tanzer

Short Fiction Monday: 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 lit … There is alwa... Read More

Shadow, Light, & Steel: Heroic characters light the darkness

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Shadow, Light & Steel by Robert Rhodes

Shadow, Light, & Steel (2016) is a thoughtful, evocative collection of short fantasy, including six short stories, two essays, and twenty character sketches, glimpses into the hearts and lives of vividly imagined people in other worlds and times. Rob Rhodes’ fiction in this collection is in the heroic fantasy genre, with a visible (and acknowledged) debt to Dungeons and Dragons lore. The main characters in these works are spirited individuals who are challenged, but not beaten, by their circumstances. Whether or not they prevail against adversity, their spirits are undaunted. These are people I would like to read more about, to get to know better, to share an evening’s conversation with by the fire.

Some of the longer stories that I found most memorable:

“To Be a Man:... Read More

Dreams of Distant Shores: A treasure box of stories

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia McKillip

Dreams of Distant Shores is a collection of seven shorter fantasy works ― five short stories and two novellas ― and a non-fictional essay by one of my favorite fantasy authors, Patricia McKillip. Several of these works are reprints of stories originally published elsewhere; “Mer,” “Edith and Henry Go Motoring” and “Alien” are the only ones original to this collection, but since I had never seen any of these stories elsewhere, they were all doorways to new and enchanting worlds for me. This collection, where faeries and other fantastical creatures and beings intersect with commonplace people,... Read More

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

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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 insubstantial at will. She moved to NYC shortly after her death and (... Read More

SFM: Vernon, Pinsker, Leigh, Swanwick, Young

Short Fiction Monday: our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week's (entirely coincidental) theme seems to be the monstrous elements within us.




The Dark Birds by Ursula Vernon (Jan. 2017, free at Apex, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

This creepy story is told by one of the ogre’s daughters, who lives in a home where the cannibalistic ogre stays in the basement and is fed by the mother. There are always three daughters, even though the mother has a child every few years. The daughters always have the same three names: the oldest is Ruth, the middle child is Susan, and th... Read More

Miniatures: Like pistachios; you won’t stop with one

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Reposting to include Bill's new review:

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi (2016), is a collection from John Scalzi, published by Subterranean Press. Sub Press cleverly chose only one blurb for the back cover, from Kirkus reviews: “Often verging on the silly, but on the whole, quite amusing.”

That was a stroke of marketing genius on the part of Sub Press because this collection of works does verge on the silly. It jumps the border of silly. It tap-dances and cartwheels through the world of silly, shrieking “Wheeeee!” the whole time until the end, where there is one serious piece. As a journalist, a columnist, and a long-time blogger, Scalzi works well in... Read More

Four Ways to Forgiveness: Slavery, oppression, revolution, and redemption

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Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is hardly afraid to tackle difficult topics. In fact, she delves into them with a fearless but controlled approach that forces us to look at painful subjects we may prefer not to. This time she is going straight for the jugular, exploring the sensitive subjects of freedom, slavery, oppression, sexual politics, and revolution. In the wrong hands this could easily become a heavy-handed polemic that might be unreadable.

However, Le Guin is far too skilled a writer to wield a cudgel — instead, she uses her scalpel to peel away layer after layer of ingrained societal norms as she explores just how human societies are affected by these topics, and leaving no side free of sin but shows how even the slavers victimize themselves as they indo... Read More

SFM: Gladstone, Chiang, Bolander, Johnston, Swanwick, Vaughn

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are some great stories that caught our eyes this week:



“A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone (2014, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle Version)

Within the first two paragraphs “A Kiss With Teeth” has outlined an unusual premise: a vampire masquerades as human in order to be an ordinary husband and father. He isn’t blending in to feast on blood or evade capture, but simply to give his wife... Read More

This Year’s Class Picture: A scene from a zombie apocalypse

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This Year’s Class Picture by Dan Simmons

Sci-fi and horror master Dan Simmons has only one real character in this short story: Ms. Geiss, dedicated fourth-grade teacher extraordinaire. She seems to be one of the very few remaining humans following the frequently mentioned, but never-explained, “Tribulations” that had some role in creating an environment where zombies roam the planet.

This Year’s Class Picture opens rather bluntly:
Ms. Geiss watched her new student coming across the first-graders’ playground from her vantage point on the balcony of the school’s belfry. She lowered the barrel of the Remington .30-06 until the child was centered in the crosshairs of the telescopic sight.
But don’t get Ms. Geiss wrong. All of her students are zombies... Read More

SFM: Carroll, Dick, Howard, Schanoes, Divya

Short Fiction Monday appears on a Tuesday this week! 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, ... Read More

Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar: Too many fragmentary tales

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Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey

Tempest (2016) is the most recent in a lengthy series of light fantasy anthologies set in and around Mercedes Lackey’s well-known Valdemar, is a land where people called Heralds are “Chosen” (read: magically bonded for life) with telepathic white horse-like creatures known as Companions. Once bonded, the pair joins others in traveling and policing their kingdom against wrongdoing, threats and evils of all kinds. While I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Valdemar, I’ve read several other works by Lackey and was impressed by a couple of her short stories of the Companions. Brilliant and heroic telepathic horses! What’s not to like? And many of these stories feature non-Herald humans from all walks of life, as well as gryphons, kryees (huge, intelligent wolves), and firecats (think large, magical, sentie... Read More

SFM: Byrne, Klages, Humphrey, Lecky, Vaughn

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of short fiction, old and new, available on the internet. 

 


“Alexandria” by Monica Byrne (Jan. 2017, Fantasy & Science Fiction Jan/Feb 2017 issue)
They were travelers, though of the domestic sort. After their terrible honeymoon, they’d never left Kansas again.
Monica Byrne is a playwright and fiction writer who won the James Tiptree Award in 2015 for her novel The Girl in the Road. “Alexandria” starts slowly, maybe a little bewilderingly, with Beth, an older woman living alone on her Kansas farm, thinking about the death of her husband Keiji. Interspersed with a record of Beth’s days are a few quotations from documents in the future. At first, it’s hard to see how the timelines will reconcile, but rest assured they do.... Read More

Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror: Another wonderful collection from “The Unique Magazine”

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Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror edited by John Betancourt & Robert Weinberg

This is the seventh anthology that I have reviewed that has been drawn from the pages of Weird Tales, one of the most famous pulp magazines in publishing history. Each of the previous collections had employed its own modus operandi in presenting its gathered stories. Weird Tales (1964) and Worlds of Weird (1965) had been slim paperbacks featuring previously uncollected stories. The Best of Weird Tales: 1923 (1997) had spotlighted tales solely from WT’s very first year. Weird Tales: A Selection In Facsimile (1990) was a generous hardcover offering photocopied pages from the original magazine. Read More

Shadowed Souls: One way to audition a new Urban Fantasy series

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Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher & Kerrie L. Hughes

Shadowed Souls is an invitational anthology edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes. Butcher is the author of three fantasy series: THE DRESDEN FILES, THE CODEX ALERA, and THE CINDER SPIRES. Hughes is an established short fiction writer who has edited several anthologies including Chicks Kick Butt, Westward Weird, and Maiden Matron Crone.

The theme of Shadowed Souls is, “good isn’t always light and evil isn’t always dark,” and the eleven stories here showcase main characters — often from the writer’s series — who struggle not to give in to the monster within... or to keep it contained. W... Read More

SFM: Anderson, Harrow, Beagle, Baldwin, Lechler

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.


“Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson (Dec. 2016, free at Strange Horizons)

“Das Steingeschöpf,” or the “Stone Creation (or Creature),” is set in Europe in 1928, where the aftermath of WWI mingles with foreshadowings of the Holocaust. A young German, Herr Hertzel, tells of his trip from Berlin to Bavaria, on his first assignment as a journeyman to repair a living, moving statue. All Steingeschöpfe are made of a magical stone called Queckstein (“mercury-stone”) that absorbs some part of the energy and memories of its creator to become animated. When Hertzel arrives in Bavaria, he’s deeply concerned to find that the statue, a massive man-beast called Ambro... Read More

Christmas SFF(riday): Clarke, Swanwick, Wentworth, Correia

Short Fiction Monday falls on a Friday this month! In this special edition, we've found speculative short stories with a Christmas theme. 


“The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke (1954, free online or purchase at Audible)

In this Hugo-awarded Christmas-themed story, an astrophysicist who is also a Jesuit priest struggles with his faith as he returns from a scientific voyage to investigate a white dwarf, the remains of a star that went supernova thousands of years ago. What they discover shakes the priest’s faith as he tries to incorporate his new knowledge with some of the more innocent-seeming ideals of his order’s teachings.

For people of faith, “The Star” ... Read More

Eternal Frankenstein: A Frankenstein horror story for practically everybody

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Eternal Frankenstein edited by Ross Lockhart

Eternal Frankenstein (2016) asks horror writers to imagine, or reimagine, the life of Mary Shelley’s infamous doctor and his “creature.” The book includes 16 stories, all of them original to this anthology, with one that appeared in a different form in the publication Perihelion.

Make no mistake, these are horror stories. Some may glance at science fiction, and some flirt with fantasy, but their primary purpose is to scare us, or make us uncomfortable as we read, and this collection succeeds at that.

The story that succeeded the best for me, because I felt the horror on multiple levels, was “Post Partum,” by Betty Rocksteady. The first-person n... Read More

A Feast of Sorrows: A sampler of delicious poison

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A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter

Angela Slatter was one of those authors I’d always been meaning to read. I have one of her earlier collections, The Girl with No Hands, on my Kindle and hadn’t gotten around to it yet. And then this year, her collection A Feast of Sorrows hit the US shelves. I was intrigued by Alyx Dellamonica’s review at Tor.com, not to mention seduced by the cover, and the rest was history.

A Feast of Sorrows is a collection of dark fairy tales. Some are retellings of fairy tales we all know, some are more loosely based on known tales, and some are completely new. I’m not kidding about the darkness (trigger warning: everything you can think of, and then some), yet they are m... Read More

Ficciones: Innovative and challenging fantastical stories

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Ficciones is a classic collection of seventeen short stories by acclaimed Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, originally published in the 1940s in Spanish, and winner of the 1961 International Publishers Prize. These stories and mock essays are a challenging mixture of philosophy, magical realism, fantasy, ruminations on the nature of life, perception and more. There are layers of meaning and frequent allusions to historic figures, other literary works, and philosophical ideas, not readily discernable at first read. Reading Ficciones, and trying to grasp the concepts in it, was definitely the major mental workout of the year for me. My brain nearly overloaded several times, but reading some critical analyses of these works helped tremendous... Read More

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories: Speculative Christmas-themed stories

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Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (1999) is a collection of eight short science fiction and fantasies by Connie Willis, plus an introduction and an afterword. It was on sale for $1.99 in early December 2016 ― a great value. It combines Willis’ heartfelt love for Christmas with a clear-eyed but sympathetic view of humanity and its foibles. In the introduction, Willis talks about how she has tried to walk the fine line between cynicism and “mawkish sappiness.” I think she’s done a fine job of it.

"Miracle:" 4 stars. In this story, as sometimes in real life, office Christmas party planning and politics threaten to sideline the true meaning of C... Read More

The Jaguar Hunter: Powerful, hallucinatory stories in exotic locales

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The Jaguar Hunter by Lucius Shepard

I try to avoid excessive praise unless it is truly deserved, but I can say this without hesitation -- Lucius Shepard was one of the best SF short story writers of the 1980s. His prose, imagery, themes, and style are so powerful, dynamic, and vivid that it’s a real crime that he didn't gain a wider readership when he was alive, though he did win many awards.

He burst on the scene with his short story collection The Jaguar Hunter, which won the 1988 World Fantasy Award and Locus Award for Best Collection. Many of the stories were nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, with “Salvador” winning the Locus Award in 1985 and “R&R” winning the Nebula Award in 1987. His work is characterized by strong elements of magic realism,... Read More