Short Fiction


Mira’s Last Dance: An amusing episode in Penric’s continuing story

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Mira’s Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Note: Contains mild spoilers for the previous PENRIC novellas.

Around 15 years ago, Lois McMaster Bujold published her much-acclaimed WORLD OF THE FIVE GODS series which contained three stand-alone novels: The Curse of Chalion (winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards), Paladin of Souls (winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award, nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award) and The ... Read More

Every Heart a Doorway: Four takes on this Nebula winner

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Reposting to include Tim'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: Anders, Nagata, Howard, McGuire, Clarke

Short Fiction Monday: After a few weeks' vacation, SFM returns to continue exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about. 


“As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders (2014, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Marisol Guzmán, a pre-med student who decided that being a doctor was a better career choice than a playwright, is saved from the end of the world only because she’s housecleaning a mansion when massive earthquakes b... 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

The Jewel and Her Lapidary: A Nebula and Hugo-nominated novelette

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The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde’s novelette The Jewel and Her Lapidary was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards this year. I listened to the 1.75 hour long audiobook version produced by Macmillan Audio and narrated by Mahvesh Murad.

I loved the setting of this story — a kingdom that is protected by powerful gems which can be heard and gently manipulated by lapidaries, people who have a genetic predisposition for connecting with the gems. Think of them as gem whisperers. The lapidaries serve the royal family, at least until they go mad in later life.

This story is about two young women who are closely bonded to each other. Lin is the kingdom’s princess (referred to as a “Jewel”) and Sima is her lapidary. When we meet them... Read More

SFM: Wahls, Jemisin, Gaiman, Coen, Pi

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. It's an outstanding group this week!

“Utopia, LOL?” by Jamie Wahls (June 2017, free on Strange Horizons)

Charlie Wilcox, after uncounted centuries of cryogenic frozenness, is decanted in a distant future. He’s cheerfully helped to adjust by an extremely ditzy person named Kit/dinaround, who is the assistant of the AI known as the Allocator, which watches over and guides humanity. Through a temporary upload station, Kit shows Charlie the ropes of their virtual society, which humans (who now number in the trillions) experience solely as digital entities, “uploaded consciousnesses in distributed Matryoshka brains.” It’s an immense, and immensely complex, Matrix type of w... Read More

In Search of Lost Time: A Robin Hood character steals life and memories rather than gold

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In Search of Lost Time by Karen Heuler

Hildy, who’s been experiencing odd gaps in her awareness, is hit with the news that she has cancer of the Tempora, a (made-up) part of the brain where the body experiences time. Her chemotherapy has an odd side effect: Hildy can now see auras around people in the form of colorful mists and vapors. What’s more, she finds that she can pull away bits of aura from other people and inhale it. It gives her the feelings and memories from the person she took the bit of aura from. An old person has a thin aura that gives her a sense of duty and money worries; a younger person’s aura makes her feel exhilarated.

When she begins hanging around a playground to surreptitiously capture part of babies’ auras in jars, she’s confronted one day by a man who accuses her of stealing time. He informs her that there’s a market for stolen time; dying people wh... Read More

Black Dog Short Stories: Events in the lives of key Black Dog characters

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Black Dog Short Stories by Rachel Neumeier

This set of four short stories is an interlude in Rachel Neumeier’s BLACK DOG universe, where werewolves ― more properly known in this world as black dogs ― are adjusting to a world where humans are now aware of them, after an interspecies war that wiped out the world’s vampires and decimated many of the black dog packs. To the black dogs’ dismay, destroying the vampires also destroyed a type of mental mist or miasma produced by the vampires that kept humans from recognizing the magical creatures around them. Many humans recognize that at least some of the black dogs are worth having as allies against the more evil types, but it’s an uneasy alliance at best.

With one exception, these stories are set after the first book in t... Read More

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

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

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

Stories of Your Life and Others: Eight carefully crafted stories

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Stories of Your Life: And Others by Ted Chiang

In his review of Ted Chiang’s brilliant short story collection Stories of Your Life and Others (2002) in The Guardian, China Miéville mentions the “humane intelligence [...] that makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.” The oxymoron “calm passion” is an insightful and ingenious way to describe these stories because of the way it hints at their deft melding of the most solid of hard science fiction concepts with an often surpris... 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