Short Fiction


SFM: Zelazny, Reisman, Stufflebeam, Silverberg, Moraine

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.

“A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny (1963, text and audio free on EscapePod, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). 1964 Hugo nominee (short fiction)

In this classic and much-anthologized tale of life on Mars, Gallinger, a brilliant linguist and poet with an antagonistic personality, is part of an Earth mission to study the humanoid Martian natives. The Martians are long-lived but slowly dying society, though Gallinger sees evidence of their past greatness in their buildings and culture. As he studies their ancient texts, tutored by M... Read More

Down Among the Sticks and Bones: Inventive, enthralling, heartbreaking

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Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway (2016) introduces the reader to a reality in which some children get swept away to other worlds. These worlds of whimsy or darkness (and everything in between) become home to the children so much so that they are devastated if they are forced to leave. If they do come back to our world, a fortunate few may find kindred spirits at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the setting of that first novella. Now, Down Among the Sticks and Bones (2017) centres on the events leading up to Jack’s and Jill’s stay at the home for wayward children. More specifically, their time in the world that c... Read More

Wicked Wonders: The wonder and magic in our lives

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Reposting to include new reviews by Bill and Jana.

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

In Wicked Wonders (2017), Ellen Klages has assembled an impressive collection of her short stories. Although almost all of these stories have been previously published (the sole exception is “Woodsmoke”), most of them appeared in anthologies and are unlikely to be familiar to most readers. These fourteen stories run the gamut from non-fiction (“The Scary Ham”) to straight fiction (“Hey, Presto,” “Household Management” and “Woodsmoke”) to science fiction and fantasy. They’re often bittersweet or wistful and frequently surreal; tales of ordinary lives in which the fantastical or unexpected element sneaks up and taps you on the shoulder, and when you turn around the world has shifted.

Several tales in Wicked ... Read More

SFM: de Bodard, Smith, Buckell, Steele, Pinsker, Barnett

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.

The Waiting Stars by Aliette de Bodard (2013, free to read online or download on author’s website). 2013 Nebula award winner and 2014 Hugo award nominee (novelette)

In this 2013 Nebula award-winning story, set in the 22nd century, Aliette de Bodard weaves together two narratives that at first seem unconnected but in the end, of course, are. The first concerns a woman’s exploration of a derelict spaceship in a graveyard of spaceships in an isolated corner of space controlled by the Outsiders. Lan Nhen’s Vietnamese-descended people build Mind-ships, ... Read More

A Taste of Honey: A love story with a very particular style

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A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Another 2016 Nebula nominee today, this time for best Novella. A Taste of Honey (2016) is set in the same world as a previous work by Kai Ashante Wilson, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, which I confess I have not read (it’s not necessary for the understanding of this story, though it may provide some useful background to the setting and its institutions).

At its heart, A Taste of Honey is a love story between two men from different lands — wealthy nobleman, Aqib, from Olorum (where the story is set), and battle-hardened warrior, Lucrio, from Dalucan. The story moves through time, alternating ... Read More

SFM: Wong, Shehadeh, Buckell & Schroeder, Sieberg, Anderson, Honeywell, Taylor, Rustad

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.




You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay, Alyssa Wong (2016, free at Uncanny, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue) 2017 Nebula and 2016 Hugo award nominee (novelette)


Alyssa Wong sets her novelette You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay in a Western mining town, focusing this second-person tale on Ellis, a young boy who works at the town’s brothel... Read More

Every Heart a Doorway: Two takes on this Nebula winner

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Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

It seems like there are many tales around today that strive to explain the ‘after’ in ‘happily ever after’, with varied results. Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway is one such story that had me riveted from the first. This novella appears to be the first in a plan for more stories in this world, and as an introduction it does an excellent job.

Every Heart a Doorway concerns the lives of those girls and boys (but mostly girls, as explained in the novella) who found passageways to other worlds and then came back again. These are your Alices and Dorothys, young people who found and were found by worlds that wanted them. Specifically... Read More

SFM: Buckell, Krasnoff, Miller, Herbert

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of  free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about, including some nominees for the 2016 Nebula award.

“A Militant Peace” by Tobias Buckell (2014, $2.62 at Audible)

“No nation has ever seen an invasion force like this.”Tobias Buckell’s short story “A Militant Peace” was published in Mitigated Futures, a collection of tales dealing with “the future of war, our climate, and technology’s effects on our lives.” Buckell’s story, as you can probably tell by the title, is about the future of war and I thought it was fascina... Read More

River of Teeth: Bear in mind, please, that this isn’t a caper

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River of Teeth
by Sarah Gailey

River of Teeth (2017) is Sarah Gailey’s first novella-length work, and if the idea of a gonzo queer alt-history hippo extravaganza doesn’t immediately set your imagination aflame, then perhaps rich character work and a thoroughly convincing atmosphere will do the trick. Beyond that, there’s a caper (which Mr. Winslow Remington Houndstooth would like everyone to know is an operation) and a whole lot of revenge to be had.

Let’s travel back in time, shall we? Back to America in the late 19th-century, when a portion of the lower Mississippi River was dammed off and given over to a terrifying population of feral hippos, the kind who enjoy noshing on a human’s viscera; a time when women and genderfluid individuals of various races had a little more equality with the white men around them; a time when ri... Read More

Children of the New World: Check it out of the library for the several excellent stories

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Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

Children of the New World
(2016) by Alexander Weinstein was a bit of a mixed bag as a story collection, with a few excellent ones, several decent ones, and several that fell flat. At his best, Weinstein offers up moving examinations of the impending impact of near-future technology, even if many of the ideas will seem familiar.

Example number one is the first story, “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” as Weinstein starts off with the best of the bunch (a choice that has its advantages and disadvantages). When they wanted a child three years ago, the parents in this tale choose to not go the trendy “clone” route and instead adopted a Chinese baby. Their agency also suggested an android older brother to serve as a “Big Brother, babysitter, and storehouse of cultural knowledge,” the kind of “cultu... Read More

The Perseids and Other Stories: Strange nights in Toronto

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The Perseids and Other Stories by Robert Charles Wilson

I’m mostly a sceptic of both short stories and short story collections. When reading short science fiction, I can’t help thinking that if the premise were truly worthwhile, the author would have developed it into a novel — or at least a novella. I’m perhaps revealing my own limitations rather than my preferences. Still, I’ve found that the most common descriptions of short story collections are “mixed bag” or “some are duds.” And because every word counts so much more in shorts, the prose too often is so much more… overwrought. Ironic or not, considering that science fiction is often carried by an interesting premise rather than interesting characters, some part of me still insists that its best ideas be delivered as novels.

So I was pleased to realize that Read More

SFM: Lawrence, Vaughn, Kressel, Baggott, Mott, Veter, Clarke

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



“The Secret” by Mark Lawrence (2015, $1.95 at Audible)


I haven’t read Mark Lawrence’s BROKEN EMPIRE series yet, but after reading “The Secret,” I definitely want to. This story gives some background into Brother Sim, an assassin who is part of Jorg Ancrath’s brotherhood. Brother Sim has snuck into a princess’s bedroom (invited) and is telling her the story of an assassin. I saw where this story was going, but I didn’t care. I liked Lawrence’s storytelling style and I was intrigued by Brother Sim. I want to know more about his origins and his goals and motivations. I wan... Read More

Final Girls: Intriguing, but overall, did not satisfy me

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Final Girls by Mira Grant

Stories about people trapped in virtual reality have been thoroughly done, and the trope of the horror-story “final girl,” the lone survivor or almost-survivor who makes it to the end of the movie, at least, is pretty familiar too. In Mira Grant’s latest story, the novella Final Girls (2017), she mixes both of these with a dash of science fiction for an interesting tale that didn’t completely work for me.

Dr. Jennifer Webb is a visionary who has created proprietary VR technology designed to help people address and ultimately heal old traumas. Webb’s favorite VR technique is to run the patient (or patients, if it is a family situation) through a horror movie scenario. With all the safety subroutines in place, the patient can use fleeing fro... Read More

SFM: Santos, Palwick, El-Mohtar, Lechler

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


“In the Shade of the Pixie Tree” by Rodello Santos (March 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

On a sunny springtime day, 14 year old Bekka, the apprentice of a wicker witch, has been sent to the pixie-orchard to pick some new pixies for the witch (the “unripe ones still on the trees, not those flitting to and fro with the wind”). On her way to the orchard she’s stopped by Joakem, a village youth... Read More

SFM: Brennan, Edelstein, Kress, Sterling, Sobin, Grant

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




“From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review” by Marie Brennan (2016, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Have a little pity for the editors of the Falchester Weekly Review — when they published Mr. Benjamin Talbot’s news that he had recently come into po... Read More

SFM: Mohamed, Goss, Tyson, Smith

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. 



“Willing” by Premee Mohamed (2017, anthologized in Principia Ponderosa, $3.99 Kindle ebook)

“Willing” is set in a world that has pickup trucks, spaghetti and meatballs, ceramic heaters and gods that walk the earth. Gods demand sacrifices. When the gods help cattle rancher Arnold during a difficult calving season, they soon visit with an “invitation” to Arnold’s youngest child … and everyone knows what that means. Read More

SFM: Emrys, Edelstein, Goss, Forrest, Yang, Kinney, Deeds

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of  free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 



The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys (2014, free on Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Aphra Marsh lives in San Francisco, listening to the sounds of the sea and relishing freedom after spending years in an American internment camp. Her crime: belonging to a peculiar heritage, a dark legacy, and a little New England town called Innsmouth. World War II is over, now, and Aphra wo... Read More

Carmilla: If you’re not an 1800s-horror expert, it’s better with a little homework

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Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Editor's note: Carmilla is free in Kindle format because it's in the public domain.

Giving Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) a 4-star rating feels a bit like critiquing my cat’s life choices. Sure, she could act more like a cat, and she could definitely make more sense from time to time — but ultimately, I love her and that ought to be enough.

Carmilla truly begins when Carmilla (surprise) arrives somewhat suddenly at the summer home of Laura and her father. It’s a picturesque manse on a ... Read More

SFM: Barthelme, McGuire, Hurley, Wong, Vaughn, Anders, Headley, Shawl, Bolander, Walton, El-Mohtar, Valente, Dick

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“Report” by Donald Barthelme (1967, originally published in the New Yorker, free at Jessamyn.com (reprinted by permission), also collected in Sixty Stories)
“Our group is against the war. But the war goes on. I was sent to Cleveland to talk to the engineers. The engineers were meeting in Cleveland. I was supposed to persuade them not to do what they were going to do.”
“Report,” by Donald Barthelme, was published in the New Y... Read More

Forest of Memory: Engaging if somewhat bewildering

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Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

A story set in the future about an ‘authenticities’ dealer, Forest of Memory is set in a culture where everyone is connected by an omnipresent internet. The main character has a personal AI who is always listening and also recording and broadcasting the life of the protagonist. Mary Robinette Kowal then thrusts the main character into a situation where none of her technology works.

The premise of the tale interested me. In few words, Kowal has built a culture that is both rooted in today and wholly futuristic. It is believable and engaging, asking and answering: what if the internet connects us all, all the time? Its dream-like atmosphere and descriptions lend to the uniqueness of the tale, and made it a gripping setting.... Read More

SFM: Barnhill, Clark, Goss, Smith, Polansky

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. We've found some excellent stories this week!

 


“Probably Still the Chosen One” by Kelly Barnhill (Feb. 2017, free at Lightspeed, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Eleven year old Corinna discovered a strange metal door in the cupboard under the sink of her home, which is a portal to the magical land of Nibiru, where she is hailed as their Princess, their Chosen One. After spending a year and a day in war-torn Nibiru, where she learned swordfighting, battle tactics and survival skills fighting wit... Read More

Dark Integers and Other Stories: Humanism and hard science

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Dark Integers and Other Stories by Greg Egan

Though the count may not be high (five stories all told), Greg Egan’s Dark Integers and Other Stories packs a theoretical punch, quite literally. Novellas and novelettes only, the 2008 collection is filled with the author’s trademark hard science speculation. The selections were published between 1995 and 2007; one pair of stories is set within the same universe as his 2008 novel Incandescence, another pair within a near-future Earth setting, and the fifth is set on a water world. The quality of this collection is contentious, and certainly those who appreciate abstract theorizing will enjoy it the most.

The following is a brief summary of the five pieces:

“Luminous” (1995): In a sho... Read More

Galactic North: Reynolds excels at shorter lengths

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Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds

Having read all the full-length novels in Alastair ReynoldsREVELATION SPACE series, I knew I’d eventually get to his shorter works set in the same dark and complex universe. The main novels are Revelation Space, Redemption Ark, Chasm City, Absolution Gap, and The Prefect. Reynolds has produced a ... Read More

The Complete Cosmicomics: Cosmic tales of the universe’s origins

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The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

Along with his brilliant Invisible Cities (1972 in Italian, 1974 in English), one of Italo Calvino’s most enduring creations was his series of whimsical and erudite stories inspired by the origins of the universe and scientific principles, labeled Cosmicomics (1965 in Italian, 1968 in English). They are narrated by a mysterious being called Qfwfq, who tells of the Big Bang and the time before that when the universe was a single point without space or dimensions. Qfwfq has a refreshingly frank and humorous attitude towards such momentous moments as the birth of our universe, the origins of life, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the first animals t... Read More

SFM: Chiang, Liu, Sanderson, Kinney, Seybold

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (1998, originally anthologized in Starlight 2, reprinted in Stories of Your Life and Others). 2000 Nebula award winner (novella) and 1999 Sturgeon award winner.

Being more of a fantasy lover than a sci-fi fan, I still hadn’t read the short-story superstar Ted Chiang. Keen to see what I’ve been missing, and possibly throwing myself in at the deep end, I read “Story of Your Life.” Boy,... Read More