Short Fiction


Nightflyers: Mystery and horror aboard a haunted spaceship

Readers’ average rating:

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

Readers’ average rating:  

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?

Readers’ average rating: 

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

Readers’ average rating:

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

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

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

Machine Learning: Thoughtful and thought-provoking stories

Readers’ average rating:

Machine Learning by Hugh Howey

Odds are good that you’ve heard of Hugh Howey — whether you’ve read one of his novels or short stories, or even if you’re just aware of the runaway success of his SILO trilogy, which began with Wool. Machine Learning (2017) is the first collection of his short stories (and one novelette), most of which were published elsewhere in various times and places, and it’s an excellent display of his range, insight, and talent. Each story is followed up by a brief Afterword from Howey, giving him the opportunity to explain where the story came from and what his goals were in writing it. When necessary, I’ve marked stories that were previously reviewed at... Read More

The Freeze-Frame Revolution: Doesn’t feel complete

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

Having never read one of Peter Watts’ novels before, I thought a short novel like The Freeze-Frame Revolution (2018) would be a good place for me to start. After all, I like science fiction, generation-style ships, rogue AIs, and solid narratives about mutinous crews. Watts delivers on those elements and many more, but the story never really coalesced for me, and I had trouble connecting with the narrator.

Over the last sixty million years, Sunday Ahzmundin and the rest of the Eriophora’s crew have been traveling the galaxy, harvesting usable materials from ... Read More

Time Was: Gorgeous prose kind of compensates for the flaws

Readers’ average rating:

Time Was by Ian McDonald

Time Was (2018), a novella by Ian McDonald, is billed as a time-travel love story, but really, there’s not a lot of depiction of either in this slim work, and while it’s often linguistically/stylistically beautiful, in the end I was more disappointed than not.

Emmet Leigh is a used book dealer who specializes in WWII. He comes across a 1930’s book, Time Was, with a letter inside from Tom Chappel to his lover Ben Seligman dating from the war. Curiosity piqued (“This was what every dealer, every bibliophile, craved: a story outside the book”), Emmett tries to learn more about the two men. His first clues come from Thorn Hildreth, whose great-grandfather’s stash of papers and photographs puts last names to first n... Read More

The Overneath: And assorted interesting stories

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle

It must be hard to be a literary icon, late in your career. You’ve ascended the literary heights and amassed an adoring following who still expect you never to repeat, and even improve upon your previous genius with each new work. But I’m not sorry for Peter S. Beagle, nor his latest short story collection The Overneath, which came out in November of 2017.

Most striking, to me, is that Beagle manages each new tale with a distinct, and yet perfectly effortless narrative voice. No problem with that whole repetition worry. There is none here. His narratives roll out rich in otherworldly wonder.

He does revisit the unicorn theme in this collection with b... Read More

Artificial Condition: Artificial intelligences with real personalities and concerns

Readers’ average rating: 

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The illicit adventures of Murderbot continue in Artificial Condition (2018), the terrific sequel to Martha Wells’ 2017 Nebula award-winning novella, All Systems Red. Murderbot, a deeply introverted cyborg security unit, or SecUnit, who previously hacked the governor software that forced obedience to human commands, has illegally gone off the grid, eschewing the safety of a mostly-free life with a sympathetic owner in order to travel on its own. Disguising itself as an augmented human, Murderbot takes off for the mining facility space station where, it understands, it once murdered a group of humans that it was charged with protecting, though its memory... Read More

SFM: 2018 Locus Award finalists

Today's Short Fiction Monday column features all of the 2018 Locus Award finalists for short fiction. The Locus Award winners will be announced by Connie Willis during Locus Award weekend, June 22 - June 24, 2018.

NOVELLAS:

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle (2017)

Claudio, a middle-aged curmudgeonly farmer living in a remote area of the Italian countryside, has been a standoffish loner since his wife left him decades ago. He’s satisfied with his current lifestyle, taking care of his land and his animals, and writing poetry that he shares with no one.

Everything changes one morning when a unicorn shows up on his farm. The pure and beautiful unicorn inspires C... Read More

The Prisoner of Limnos: Another chapter in Penric’s life

Readers’ average rating:

The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Prisoner of Limnos (2017 print, 2018 audio) is another of Lois McMaster Bujold’s PENRIC AND DESDEMONA novellas. It is a direct sequel to Mira’s Last Dance, so I’d recommend reading that (and its prequels) first.

Penric and Nikys, the widow Penric is in love with, are safe at court in Orbas when Nikys gets an encrypted letter stating that her mother has been taken prisoner by political enemies in Cedonia.

To his delight, Nikys comes to Penric for help, and the two set off for Cedonia to bust mom out of jail. This will involve Penric dressing up like a woman (again), using his chaos ... Read More

All Systems Red: The adventures of an introverted killing machine

Readers’ average rating: 

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The narrator of All Systems Red (2017), the 2017 Nebula award-winning novella by Martha Wells, is a once-nameless cyborg security unit or SecUnit that has given itself the name Murderbot (for reasons disclosed midway through the story). Using its own unprecedented and highly unauthorized initiative, Murderbot has hacked the governor module software that controls its actions and obligates it to be obedient. But instead of going on a killing spree, as one might expect given the name it adopted, Murderbot elects to spend its spare hours watching countless hours of video entertainment and trying not to interact more than is necessary with the group of eight humans that it’s responsible for protecting, a survey group of eight scientists called PreservationA... Read More

Barry’s Deal: Frenetic and fun

Readers’ average rating:

Barry’s Deal by Lawrence M. Schoen

The world and characters of Barry’s Deal (2017) will require no introduction to long time Lawrence M. Schoen readers. The Amazing Conroy, a space-traveling hypnotist and his companion Reggie, a buffalito (buffalo dog), have cropped up several times before, not least in Schoen’s last novella (Barry’s Tale, 2014). Nevertheless, the internet assured me that this latest installment can be read as a stand-alone novella and, as it’s one of this year’s Nebula nominees, I gave it a go.

Conroy and Reggie have just touched down on Triton, an arcology known for its opulent casino hotel and black-market activity. Now fabulously rich, Conroy i... Read More

SFM: McIntosh, Szpara, Andrews

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, including 2017 Nebula nominees in the short fiction categories.

“What is Eve?” by Will McIntosh (April 2018, free at Lightspeed, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Ben and several other middle school aged children are separated from their families and taken to an isolated school, to participate in a “unique program” that is supposed to be an incredible opportunity for the children. Once they arrive, Ben and the other students are given some odd instructions: wear an earbud day and night... Read More

I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land: A disquisition on the value of all books

Readers’ average rating:  

I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land by Connie Willis

Jim is visiting Manhattan, doing publicity for his blog, Gone for Good, and hoping to sell it as a book to a publisher. The point of Jim’s blog, and his sincere belief, is that things dying out and disappearing ― payphones, elevator operators, VHS tapes, and books nobody cares about ― is part of the natural order, a sign that society doesn’t need these things any longer. If society changes its mind, they can always be brought back. Books are generally digitized, after all. Or so Jim asserts.

When a meeting with a publisher gets cancelled, Jim wanders the streets of Manhattan until a downpour of rain drives him into an old-fashioned bookstore, Ozymandias Books, which appears to deal in rare titles. Jim wanders through the shelves, bemused at the odd variety of obscure books that he sees.
Pr... Read More

SFM: Bowes, de Bodard, Larson, Yoachim

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few excellent stories, including three more from the current crop of Nebula and Hugo award nominees. 

Dirty Old Town by Richard Bowes (2017, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, May/June 2017 issue; PDF is temporarily free here, courtesy of F&SF). 2018 Nebula award nominee (novelette)

Richard Bowes is no stranger to semi-autobiographical work. He returns to that for... Read More

SFM: Prasad, Wahls, Pinsker, Dick, Kressel

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Several 2017 Nebula short fiction nominees are reviewed in today's column.

A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2017, free at Clarkesworld, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue). 2017 Nebula award nominee (novelette)

In this near-future SF novelette, 3-D printing has become so advanced that a “bioprinter” can mass-produce copies of food. In any criminal forgery case, the best forgeries are the ones that never get noticed, and Helena Li Yuanhui of Splendid Beef Enterprises, a one-woman business in Nanjing, China, is an expert at it. She keeps her business small and the quality of her gray market meat forger... Read More

SFM: Lingen, Prasad, Wilde

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, including two excellent Nebula nominees. 

“Flow” Marissa Lingen (March 2018, free at Fireside Fiction)

In Marissa Lingen’s “Flow,” teenaged Gigi, who loves her father and proudly shares his mannerisms, accidentally discovers — or is discovered by — naiads in the nearby woods. The naiads knew her father, and are pleased to meet Gigi, who spends time over the coming years performing small tasks for the naiads and coming to know more about their environment. But two tragic and life-changing events befall Gigi, who must reshape her self-image and how she fits into a world that doesn’t make accommodations for either water nymphs or people with assistive devices.
Read More

The Tangled Lands: Great concept, varied execution across four novellas

Readers’ average rating: 

The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi & Tobias S. Buckell 

The Tangled Lands is a shared-world collection of four novellas, two each written by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell. The setting is the faded remains of the once-great Jhandpara Empire, whose glory had relied on wondrously powerful magic. The dying remnants of once-glorious empires litter the fantasy canon (think the faded glory of Gondor —or Numenor before Gondor — or the seedy world of Lankhmar), but in The Tangled Lands, the old trope is given new life thanks to the sharp ecological / environmental metaphor that lies at its core.

The Jhandapra Empire had once been a grandly magnif... Read More

SFM: Pinsker, Takács, Murray, Brazee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week we begin focusing on the 2017 Nebula award nominees in the short fiction categories.

Wind Will Rove by Sarah Pinsker (2017, originally published in Asimov’s, Sept-Oct 2017 issue; free PDF available at the author’s website). 2017 Nebula nominee (novelette)

Rosie, the 55 year old narrator, is a history teacher on board a generation ship that has been voyaging through space for the better part of a hundred years, and will be traveling for many more years. She’s also an accomplished fiddler, part of a band of fiddlers, guitarists, mandolinists and banjo players that plays weekly at the OldTime gathering... Read More

SFM: Buckell, Scalzi, Kanakia, Novakova

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 World to Die For” by Tobias Buckell (Jan. 2018, free at Clarkesworld, Issue 136, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Be warned: “A World to Die For” can be read as a message story, because the premise involves multiple realities with greater and lesser degrees of global warming. This does not get in the way of action and adventure, a study of personality, a collection of complicated characters, wonderful gadgets and a several types of suspense, ranging from the shoot-em-up kind to the m... Read More

Armageddon 2419 A.D.: Passing the buck

Readers’ average rating:

Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan

I would imagine, at this point, that you have previously heard of the fictional character named Buck Rogers. And indeed, dating from his initial comic strip appearance in January 1929, and proceeding on to radio shows (starting in 1932, Buck Rogers was radio’s very first sci-fi hero), a 12-part film serial (starring the former Olympic swimming medalist Buster Crabbe), several TV adaptations, video games, and comics, the character has been fairly ubiquitous for almost 90 years now. To be sure, Buck’s comic strip was so very popular in the early ‘30s that it spawned, in January 1934, a rival sci-fi strip starring Flash Gordon, a character that Crabbe would also portray in three fondly remembered film serials.

But unlike Flash, Buck had, as his actual provenance, a literary background. That predecessor, you see, was one Anthony Rogers, who ... Read More

The Best of Lucius Shepard: Earlier stories are best

Readers’ average rating:

The Best of Lucius Shepard by Lucius Shepard

I’ll come right out and say it. Lucius Shepard was one of the best SF short story writers of the 1980 and 1990s. 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 SF awards.

Although he had already been publishing his stories in SF magazines like SF&F and Asimov’s for several years, he gained greater prominence with his short story collection The Jaguar Hunter in 1987, which won the 1988 World Fantasy Award and Locus Award for Best Collection. Many of the stories were nominated for the Hugo and Nebu... Read More