Short Fiction


Nightflyers: Mystery and horror aboard a haunted spaceship

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

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.
... Read More

The People’s Republic of Everything: An experimental collection

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

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... Read More

Untouched by Human Hands: Sheckley’s stories are sharp and insightful

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Untouched by Human Hands by Robert Sheckley

After reading Robert Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles, I was eager to read more of his work. That novel was intelligent, creative, thought-provoking, and entertaining. So I picked up Untouched by Human Hands, a collection of Sheckley’s short stories published in the 1950s in the various pulp magazines.

My edition is the audiobook produced by Skyboat Media and read by Gabrielle de Cuir, Stefan Rudnicki, and Harlan Ellison. It’s almost 6 hours long. The stories are:

"The Monsters" (Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, March 1953) — This is a first contact story in which friendly humans arri... Read More

SFM: Palmer, Schutz, Gregory, Goh, McKee

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.

“Thirty-Three Percent Joe” by Suzanne Palmer (2018, free online at Clarkesworld, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Science fiction humor is very hard to pull off, and rarely works for me. This Suzanne Palmer story is a radiant exception. Palmer hits a grand-slam with a human soldier who has 33% of his body replaced with smart parts, including a heart, one arm, part of the lower intestine and a spleen. An implanted Central Control Unit manages all of the implants, and their mission is to keep Joe alive. There are a couple of problems. One is that, while Joe is a good s... Read More

A Town Divided by Christmas: A humorous mix of science and romance

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A Town Divided by Christmas by Orson Scott Card

The scientific method collides with southern small town culture and a local mystery in Orson Scott Card’s charming and insightful novella A Town Divided by Christmas (2018). Two post-doc academics ― Dr. Delilah (Spunky) Spunk, an economist, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, a geneticist ― are sent to Good Shepherd, North Carolina to do a genetic and sociological study. The hope is that by studying a relatively genetically isolated population, they can prove or disprove the theory that certain people carry a “homebody marker": a genetic tendency to remain in their native community or return to it. Spunky, the more personable of the two, is charged with interviewing the townspeople and convincing them to give genetic samples; Elyon (“that mo... Read More

Diamond Fire: Wedding-related trials for the sister of the bride

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Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

Nevada Baylor is getting married to Connor Rogan, and when Rogan’s mother Arrosa shuts down their plans for a small and simple wedding, insisting on a full-scale formal wedding, a couple of things happen. Nevada inexplicably gets incredibly fussy and controlling about the wedding details, firing two wedding planners, and her beleaguered 18 and 16 year old sisters Catalina and Arabella decide that the only feasible option is to handle the wedding planning themselves. And a large crowd of Rogan’s Spanish relatives on his mother’s side descends on Mrs. Rogan’s Texas mansion for a few weeks’ stay before the wedding. The half of those relatives who descend from her father’s second wife are already hostile, and matters only get worse when everyone is cooped up together in the same home, however large and luxurious.

Now the Rogan fami... Read More

The Loved Dead and Other Tales: The story that saved Weird Tales

The Loved Dead and Other Tales by C.M. Eddy, Jr.

Sometimes, it seems, a little notoriety can be a good thing. Take, for example, the case of the legendary pulp magazine Weird Tales. Though famously cash strapped for most of its 32-year run, during its earliest days, in 1923, things looked especially bleak for the nascent publication. On the very brink of bankruptcy, editor Edwin Baird decided to purchase, against his better judgment, a story by a Providence, Rhode Island-born writer named C.M. Eddy, Jr.

Eddy had already had a few of his weird tales released in the pages of Weird Tales, but this latest one was a real envelope pusher, dealing as it did with the highly distasteful and borderline taboo subject of necrophilia. But Baird did indeed print the story, the now-classic tale “The Loved Dead,” with the result that the Richmond, Indiana PTA tried to shut the magazine down completely! The ... Read More

SFM: Jackson, Rucker, Ochse, Armstrong

Short Fiction Monday: Our reviews of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. For this year's Halloween week column, we offer a selection of haunted house stories. (The first story is admittedly pushing the boundaries of that classification, but it was too good to leave out.)

 

“The Man in the Woods” by Shirley Jackson (published 2014, free in The New Yorker)

Christopher, a college student, leaves school one day for reasons he can’t even articulate to himself, and walks for days through towns and fields, eventually making his way into a forest. The trees ominously press in on him, but a cat has joined him on his journey through the forest, giving him some companionship and comfort. Christopher and the cat eventually come across a stone house in the forest. He’s invited i... Read More

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

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