Annie reads short fiction - Part 1

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Annie reads short fiction - Part 1

1AnnieMod
Editado: Dez 31, 2021, 4:15 am

I am not sure how many reviews I will be posting (probably just blurbs for most stories) but this is mainly so I can keep track of what I am reading.

Starting date: 2022-01-01

2AnnieMod
Editado: Fev 7, 2022, 1:32 pm

=== JANUARY ===

1. (2021)"Wish You Were Dead" by Peter James (24K words, chapbook)
2. (2021)"The Haunting of Hajji Hotak" by Jamil Jan Kochai (?? words,The New Yorker, November 8, 2021)
3. (2021)"Lu, Reshaping" by Madeleine Thien (?? words, The New Yorker, December 20, 2021)
4. (2021)"A Lot of Things Have Happened" by Adam Levin (?? words,The New Yorker, December 27, 2021)
5. (2021)"Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters" by Aimee Ogden (23K words, chapbook)
6. (2021)"Marriage Quarantine" by Kate Walbert (?? words, The New Yorker, December 6, 2021)
7. (2022)"Ennead in Retrospect" by Christopher Mark Rose (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)
8. (2022)"Full Worm Moon" by Paul Lorello (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)
9. (2022)"Proximity Games" by M. L. Clark (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)
10. (2022)"Salt Calls to Salt" by Maiga Doocy (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)
11. (2022)"doe_haven.vr" by Cara Mast (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)
12. (2022)"The City and the Thing Beneath It" by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)
13. (2022)"There Won't Be Questions" by Joe Baumann (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)
14. (2022)"Animale Dei Morti" by Nick Dichario (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)
15. (2022)"Bone Broth" by Karen Heuler (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)
16. (2022)"Prison Colony Optimization Protocols" by Auston Habershaw (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)
17. (2022)"The Gentle Dragon Tells His Tale of Love" by J. A. Pak (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)
18. (2022)"The Art of Victory When the Game Is All the World" by Eugie Foster (?? words, novella, F&SF, January/February 2022)
19. (2021)"Flowers for the Sea" by Zin E. Rocklyn (?? words (20K-25K as an estimate), chapbook)
20. (2021)"Fireheart Tiger" by Aliette de Bodard (20K words, chapbook)
21. (2019)"The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday" by Saad Z. Hossain (30K words, chapbook)
22. (2021)"The Past Is Red" by Catherynne M. Valente (39K words, chapbook)
23. (2021)"In the Watchful City" by S. Qiouyi Lu (37K words, chapbook)
24. (2020)"Stone and Steel" by Eboni Dunbar (23K words, chapbook)
25. (1948)"The Case of the Crimson Kiss" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "The American Magazine", June 1948)
26. (1933)"Fingers of Fong" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "All Detective", March 1933)
27. (1930)"The Valley of Little Fears" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "Argosy", September 13, 1930)
28. (1928)"Crooked Lightning" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "Detective Fiction Weekly", December 29, 1928)
29. (1939)"At Arm's Length" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "Detective Fiction Weekly", December 9, 1939)
30. (2022)"Nothing Nefarious, Just General Badassery" by Daniel C. Bartlett (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
31. (2022)"Noble Vista Blues" by Joseph S. Walker (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
32. (2022)"In the Beginning, the End" by Stephen D. Rogers (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
33. (2022)"Bad Times at Big Rock" by John M. Floyd (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
34. (2022)"All the Love You Can Handle for a Dollar" by Lamont A. Turner (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
35. (2022)"Superficial Appraisals" by K. R. Segriff (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
36. (2022)"A Perfect Spiral" by David Bart (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
37. (2022)"Out for Delivery" by Gregory L. Norris (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
38. (2022)"Drive Through" by Keith Brooke (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
39. (2022)"Man Overboard" by John H. Dromey (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)
40. (2022)"Dissent: A Five-Course Meal (With Suggested Pairings)" from Aimee Ogden (724 words, Lightspeed, January 2022)
41. (2022)"Up Falling" from Jendayi Brooks-Flemister (3,560 words, Lightspeed, January 2022)
42. (2017)"On the Ship" by Leah Cypess (6,468 words, Lightspeed, January 2022, originally in Asimov's, May-June 2017)
43. (2022)"Cale and Stardust Battle the Mud Gobblers of Hudson Valley" by Lincoln Michel (7,751 words, Lightspeed, January 2022)
44. (2022)"In the Beginning of Me, I Was a Bird" by Maria Dong (5,446 words, Lightspeed, January 2022)
45. (2022)"In the Cold, Dark Sea" by Jenny Rae Rappaport (716 words, Lightspeed, January 2022)
46. (2022)"An Address to the Newest Disciples of the Lost Words" by Vanessa Fogg (3,383 words, Lightspeed, January 2022)
47. (2019)"Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death" by N. K. Jemisin (2,513, Lightspeed, January 2022, originally in A People's Future of the United States)
48. (2022)"Snowflake" by Nick Wolven (novella, Asimov's January 2022)
49. (2022)"Goldie" by Sean Monaghan (novella, Asimov's January 2022)
50. (2022)"River of Stars, Bridge of Shadows" by A.A. Attanasio (novelette, Asimov's January 2022)
51. (2022)"October's Feast" by Michèle Laframboise (novelette, Asimov's January 2022)

=== FEBRUARY ===
52. (2022)"Fasterpiece" by Ian Creasey (novelette, Asimov's January 2022)
53. (2022)"Welcome Home" by Jendayi Brooks-Flemister (short story, Asimov's January 2022)
54. (2022)"The Roots of Our Memories" by Joel Armstrong (short story, Asimov's January 2022)
55. (2022)"Unmasking Black Bart" by Joel Richards (short story, Asimov's January 2022)
56. (2022)"The Beast of Tara" by Michael Swanwick (short story, Asimov's January 2022)
57. (2022)"Long-Term Emergencies" by Tom Purdom (short story, Asimov's January 2022)
58. (2022)"The Boyfriend Trap" by Stephanie Feldman (short story, Asimov's January 2022)
59. (2022)"Werewolf" by U. M. Celovska (Daily Science Fiction, 3 January 2022)
60. (2022)"The Devil You Don't Know" by Dave Henrickson (Daily Science Fiction, 4 January 2022)
61. (2022)"The Ansible Light" by Chloe Smith (Daily Science Fiction, 5 January 2022)
62. (2022)"Cures for Hiccups" by Rachel Rodman (Daily Science Fiction, 7 January 2022)
63. (2022)"Leader of the Pack" by Alter S. Reiss (Daily Science Fiction, 10 January 2022)
64. (2022)"Shattered Petals of Celadon" by M. K. Hutchins (Daily Science Fiction, 11 January 2022)
65. (2022)"Help Her Fit in" by Tamlyn Dreaver (Daily Science Fiction, 12 January 2022)
66. (2022)"Invasion" by Candice R. Lisle (Daily Science Fiction, 13 January 2022)
67. (2022)"A Stirring of Wings" by Ken Altabef (Daily Science Fiction, 14 January 2022)
68. (2022)"Flesh of My Fin" by Shannon Fay (Daily Science Fiction, 17 January 2022)
69. (2022)"Commuting" by S. A. McKenzie (Daily Science Fiction, 18 January 2022)
70. (2022)"Last Flight" by Bret Parent (Daily Science Fiction, 19 January 2022)
71. (2022)"Mind the Meniscus" by Jason P. Burnham (Daily Science Fiction, 20 January 2022)
72. (2022)"Counterparts" by Andrew Hansen (Daily Science Fiction, 21 January 2022)
73. (2022)"God 47" by Laila Amado (Daily Science Fiction, 24 January 2022)
74. (2022)"2021" by Sean Vivier (Daily Science Fiction, 25 January 2022)
75. (2022)"Teleportitus" by Mark S. Bailen (Daily Science Fiction, 26 January 2022)
76. (2022)"Turning the Tide" by Dawn Vogel (Daily Science Fiction, 27 January 2022)
77. (2010)"Faith" by Mario Milosevic (Daily Science Fiction, 1 November, 2010)
78. (2022)"Tourists" by Marlan K. Smith (Daily Science Fiction, 28 January 2022)
79. (2022)"The Future History of Your Body" by Davian Aw (Daily Science Fiction, 31 January 2022)
80. (2022)"Shadow Helper" by Eric M. Witchey (Daily Science Fiction, 1 February 2022)
81. (2022)"Space Unicorns and Magic Ovens" by Liam Hogan (Daily Science Fiction, 2 February 2022)
82. (2022)"She Died As She Lived" by Riley Tao (Daily Science Fiction, 3 February 2022)
83. (2022)"Rock Hard Place" by Don Redwood (Daily Science Fiction, 4 February 2022)
84. (2019)"Vigilance" by Robert Jackson Bennett (32K words, chapbook)
85. (2021)"We Shall Sing a Song Into the Deep" by Andrew Kelly Stewart (~40K words, chapbook)
86. (2020)"Out of Body" by Jeffrey Ford (33K words, chapbook)
87. (2022)"Thermophile” by Jack Klausner (The Dark Magazine, January 2022)
88. (2022)"Intrusions” by Margot McGovern (The Dark Magazine, January 2022)
89. (2022)"Funny Faces” by Seán Padraic Birnie (The Dark Magazine, January 2022)
90. (2022)"The Lending Library of Final Lines” by Octavia Cade (The Dark Magazine, January 2022)
91. (2022)"Bad News" by Steve Hockensmith (EQMM Jan/Feb 2022)
92. (2022)"Paleolithic" by K. L. Abrahamson (EQMM Jan/Feb 2022)
93. (2022)"The Death-Camp Angel" by Doug Allyn (EQMM Jan/Feb 2022)
94. (2022)"Stone Still" by B. A. Paul (EQMM Jan/Feb 2022)

3AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 1:19 pm

1. (2021)"Wish You Were Dead" by Peter James (24K words, chapbook)

Part of the Quick Reads Initiative, it is a short entry for a series of long books.

Roy Grace and his family go on a vacation to France - and everything goes wrong. The chateau, which looked as paradise in the pictures, ends up being an almost falling down ruin and the hosts appear to be anything but welcoming. And then things go really wrong - nothing is a it seems, even worse than what it looked like initially.

It is a good story of a nightmare vacation but... it is not a Roy Grace story - you could have replaced the name with any English policemen and nothing would have changed. Yes, Cleo and Bruno and the few other side characters are there but again... you don't need them. And by making it a Grace story, James lost some of the intrigue - you know that none of them can die which takes away from the atmosphere and the sense of danger. Plus I never understood how adding stories into long running series fits the point of the Quick Reads initiative - the idea is to get reluctant readers, ones that had stopped reading and the ones who never read to read and you don't do that with adding a story to a 17 books series... Although maybe that explains the remoteness from the series - it HAD to work for non-series readers after all. And arguably, it will actually work better if you don't know Roy Grace (although Bruno may annoy even more than he does usually).

Despite all that grumbling, I actually enjoyed the story for what it was. I wish James wrote stories a bit more often - I like his novels but he is not that bad at the shorter forms either if this is any indication.

2. (2021)"The Haunting of Hajji Hotak" by Jamil Jan Kochai (?? words, The New Yorker, November 8, 2021)

One of those strange stories told in the second person - without ever revealing who the "you" the narrator talks to is. Hajji Hotak is an ex-Afghani mujahid who had settled in USA with his family after escaping and trekking across the world to safety. His grown up children and wife live with him (with a few exceptions) and the "you" is assigned to watch them -- in a way that is so obtrusive and complete that one starts wondering if we are talking about human observers or something altogether different. We never learn that - but what we get is the story of a family in distress. The end is as ambiguous as the story's "you" but at the same time it has a really awful finality in it.

3. (2021)"Lu, Reshaping" by Madeleine Thien (?? words, The New Yorker, December 20, 2021)

Lu had moved to North America from Hong Kong and found a good job in Supply management but she never really learned the language. Her thoughts and speech are full of Chinese expressions translated literally and she keeps her older daughter up late at night so the child can assist with her written presentations. She sleeps with whoever she fancies, cooks for her Husband and daughters and keeps working the same job. Until one day things collapse -- an internal investigation unsettles her world and makes her take a look at her own life. She ends up changing - but maybe not where a reader expects. It is an immigrant story in a world that gets less and less tolerant of immigrants (both hers and ours - her story is set at the last decade of the last century) and the different.

4. (2021)"A Lot of Things Have Happened" by Adam Levin (?? words,The New Yorker, December 27, 2021)

I am not sure I understood the point of the story. The narrator, a man named Adam Levin (just as the author) talks about his life in the last 20 years - from a mouse chasing with an old girlfriend to missing the death of the sister of a woman he once loved (and being surprised that she was upset by that) to a parrot in our pandemic world. It is a slice of life story (or stories really - the story is even split into parts) and it is well written and enjoyable to read 9the author can tell a story) but left me with the "so what?" feeling that a lot of modern mainstream story do. It seemed to try to lead to something but either it eluded me or that was the whole point. And it matches the title in a way.

4AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 1:21 pm

5. (2021)"Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters" by Aimee Ogden (23K words, chapbook)

Once upon a time there was a princess who lived under the sea with her father, the king of the sea people. She met a man from the land and fell in love and asked a witch to make it possible for her to live on land. The witch helped and the princess walked the land.

We all know how that tale ends (well, Andersen and Disney had different ideas but most people know both endings). But this is not a retelling of either version.

So let's start this tale again. Once upon a time humanity dispersed among the stars, with genetic engineering and technology on a level allowing them to adapt to anything they find out there. Different groups settled on different planets and sometimes in different places on the same planet and changed. Fast forward some time and a princess who lived under the sea fell in love with a man from the land on one of those planet. Add 20 more years and the happy couple and the whole land people clan are in trouble - a plague had struck them and they are dying off. But despite her change and living 20 years with them, our princess, Atuale, is the only one that seems immune - because she is still not the same. And that's where Aimee Ogden opens her tale.

Atuale resolves to go to the World Witch who helped her change all those years ago. Except that they used to be lovers and they had their own agendas at the time, using each other. Add the 20 years of never meeting and some interesting biological processes happening in the clans (apparently people change gender involuntarily under certain conditions although they can also do that on purpose with technology) and things are a bit more complex than one would expect. The World Witch decides to help of course - but they want their price paid - and part of it is Atuale coming with them to a different world to find the cure.

Despite the names and the overall fairy tale feeling of these early pages, this is a science fiction tale - the witch works with nannites and other pieces of technology; all of the magically sounding happenings are really tech-related. And once among the stars, the past comes to haunt both of our heroes - in flashbacks and in conversations.

The end comes a bit too... perfect. It makes sense in the context and it does make sense if you take that as a modern fairy tale but... it misshapes the story a bit - it feels like a balloon getting filled with air and then left to just lose all of it with no attempt to tie it up. I would not have minded it as much if there was a gradual slow down I think but it went from "and now what?" to "and they lived happily ever after" in no time - not abruptly or as if the author did not know what she want to do (it felt planned and it was well done) but it is not how I like my stories to finish. But it works for the story and I cannot be upset that it is not the story I wanted. Part of it I think is that it first lulls you into the fairy tale, then shows you that it is anything but and then throws you back into the fairy tale.

Aimee Ogden's world (and galaxy) building is fascinating - I wish she had expanded that to a full novel (and I don't say that often for novellas), exploring the multiple threads and hints she just throws out there. Maybe she will revisit the world? The fact that we don't even get proper descriptions of the people we see, not even the main characters (we get elements, you can almost make a picture in your mind and then a new element throws you off) and it still works makes that even more interesting.

Whatever Ogden does next, I want to read it (and I plan to go back and read her already published short stories).

6. (2021)"Marriage Quarantine" by Kate Walbert (?? words, The New Yorker, December 6, 2021)

Another new author for me. An exploration of marriage while in quarantine, finding memories and trying to find a connection. It almost reads like a couple in a psychoanalysis session - each of them almost obsessing about their own thing and each of them being mindful of the other. I am still not sure I got what the author wanted to do with the story though.

5AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 1:28 pm

Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2022, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas:

7. (2022)"Ennead in Retrospect" by Christopher Mark Rose (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)

A far future tale of a broken space craft and a knife which can split a person in two - their dark and light side. Except that this does not really make two complete people, especially for the ones who live with them. Add a child and a secret or three (which are obvious from the beginning) and the story makes sense but something just did not click for me.

8. (2022)"Full Worm Moon" by Paul Lorello (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)

A clan of people live at the outside of society and feeds with the memories of the departed - by eating the worms that eat their remains. What they get it return is not just memories though - they almost become the other people. And when a young man eats too many too early, he starts questioning his own life. It is a tale about belonging but you better not have your lunch when you are reading it.

9. (2022)"Proximity Games" by M. L. Clark (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)

This story sends us to space. Families get selected to leave Earth, to go live among the stars, to conquer new worlds. It all sounds noble and nice but things are not as green as they look and one may wonder what really is better - to be left behind or to be selected. As for the stars - we are really not a very intelligent species sometimes. It is a nice tale of exploration and choices - not all of which are what they seem to be.

10. (2022)"Salt Calls to Salt" by Maiga Doocy (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)

Zelda is not allowed any real feelings or excitement - if she ever has them, her feet get covered in scales and she turns into a mermaid. So her aunt does anything she can to make sure that she is protected, with Zelda cooperating fully, knowing her own mother's fate. At least for the time being anyway. It is a sweet tale of growing up and deciding what is important in one's life.

11. (2022)"doe_haven.vr" by Cara Mast (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)

The story throws us into the life of a young woman who finds solace into a virtual reality - until someone disturbs her there. It is a quiet tale about being able to connect with other people.

12. (2022)"The City and the Thing Beneath It" by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)

The story is written by a Nigerian (Igbo) writer and is set in Lagos where the week does not go exactly as the rulers of the country want it to - something falls from the sky and they are not happy about it (and despite everyone seeing it, they still try to claim it never happened). There are soldiers and violence and a Lagos which seem to be in our times but you hope it is not. It is a confusing tale - both the way it is told and what it tries to achieve.

13. (2022)"There Won't Be Questions" by Joe Baumann (?? words, short story, F&SF, January/February 2022)

This story plays with the magical - a boy finds out that if he wishes something very much, it can appear - even if there is a price to pay. Noone knows how or why, noone knows if these things get transported in space or if they get recreated or come from elsewhere. Mix up some young love which appears to be one-sided and the whole mess gets even messier. It is clear where the tale is going and it does get to its logical end. Ending it where it did end may leave someone unhappy but it works - because if it was continued, it would be a different story.

14. (2022)"Animale Dei Morti" by Nick Dichario (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)

A modern Italian fairy tale, set nowadays but using the conventions of the old time - complete with a witch, animated corpses and misunderstandings. It is one of my favorite stories in this issue - it should sound derivative but it does not and you cannot stop laughing at how anything the main character Marco tries makes things worse - trying not to break one tradition ends up messing up others; not thinking through the witch's conditions ends up costing him everything. And for all that, the tale never gets dark (and one wonders if some of the bad things were really that bad - that bride of his was not really someone you would wish to your worst enemy).

15. (2022)"Bone Broth" by Karen Heuler (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)

In this story, a secret society believes themselves to be connected to the giants who roamed the Earth in the olden days (tying aliens into the mix as well). Then a waitress somehow stumbles into it and seems to fall for all of it. The scary part is that I am pretty sure that there are people who may really believe in this kind of things - and not just inside of this story.

16. (2022)"Prison Colony Optimization Protocols" by Auston Habershaw (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)

The story leaves Earth and transports us to a penal colony on a station somewhere in the galaxy. An AI had really messed up but due to UN rules, it cannot be just disabled or killed so it is sent to try to optimize the systems of the penal colony. So what happens when an AI is punished? It finds a way around its punishment of course - in the most unexpected way. I really enjoyed this story - it found that path between humor and seriousness that is hard to stay on.

17. (2022)"The Gentle Dragon Tells His Tale of Love" by J. A. Pak (?? words, novelette, F&SF, January/February 2022)

This is the kind of tale that does not hide anything - its title tells you what you are getting. An old dragon finds love for the last time and tells us the tale. Except the gentle maiden he finds is neither a maiden, nor gentle. And yet - love conquers all and the two broken souls find happiness. I hope the authors plans to add more stories to this world - there are so many more tales to be told - both about our dragon and about everything else.

18. (2022)"The Art of Victory When the Game Is All the World" by Eugie Foster (?? words, novella, F&SF, January/February 2022)

This is one of those discovered stories which are published after the author's death and as such it is unclear how much it may have changed had the author lived. These can be hit or miss - depending on where the story was when the author died and who got to work on it after that. In a world which does not seem to have any correlation to our own, a caste of technicians creates "champions" - constructs who are formed by careful combination of aptitudes and impediments. Another cast sponsors the creations which are considered viable - and play a game, seeing how their lives evolve. That game is the pinnacle of the society - that's what everyone else exists for. People belong to a caste based on their own aptitudes - they get assigned into them, they make their vows and they are usually stuck in them. Until one of the best technician is asked to step up and attempt a promotion. We never learn who is who in that society - is that gods and humans or humans and a different form or something totally different. But it does not really matter. We get to live the life of one of the constructs, to be part of the game - and almost as a sideline, to be part of the life of the society that plays the game. In a centuries old way, life imitates art (and vice versa) and love ends up the ingredient that noone adds but that matters the most. The whole story is a play on the choice and destiny duality - and one can make their own decision if they want to fall on either side or find their own way.

6AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 1:33 pm

19. (2021)"Flowers for the Sea" by Zin E. Rocklyn (?? words (20K-25K as an estimate), chapbook)

When the land got submerged under the waves of the seas, people moved to boats. This story starts on one of those boats, where Iraxi is heavily pregnant - and everyone hopes that this will be the first child to be born after years on the waves and all other newborns being lost. But for her the story started a lot earlier - she belongs to a family which was persecuted and killed off for being able to talk to the sea, she was once asked for by a prince and she saw the destruction of her world long before the world of everyone else ended.

And she dreams - sometimes with open eyes, sometimes while sleeping - about the past and about sea monsters. Because in this world the seas and the air contains literal monsters - some being visible by everyone and some seemingly hiding.

There is nothing beautiful in living on a boat for years - everyone is dirty and everyone's mind may not be exactly as sharp as it started. But the baby seems to give everyone hope. Iraxi, knowing more than others, being able to see more than others, is not sure. And birth in primitive conditions is never fun - even when the child is normal.

It is unclear how much of what Iraxi sees is reality and how much is feverish dreams. It can be read either way in some places I think. The end is almost expected (although the fact that some people made it to the end surprised me a bit). There seems to be connection to some African myths, Iraxi is often described as being very dark skinned and there is something akin to magic happening towards the end of the novella. The very end is as decisive as it is completing a circle. Plus some of the dreams sounded almost Lovecraftian.

I don't enjoy horror as much as I enjoy the rest of the speculative genres and this novella was getting a bit too close to where I usually draw my lines. But it worked out at the end. It won't make my list of best novellas of the year but it is readable and it may work even better for someone who enjoys that type of stories more than I usually do.

20. (2021)"Fireheart Tiger" by Aliette de Bodard (20K words, chapbook)

Thanh had been a hostage most of her life - despite being born a princess (well, actually because of it), she does not get to grow up with her family but ends up in the capital of Ephteria, the most powerful country in the region. When we meet her in this story she is already back home, trying to find a place in the court of her mother (and mostly failing). Until a delegation show up from Ephteria - led by their own princess - which also happens to be Thanh's ex-lover.

In a lot of ways, this is a romance novella - you have the two young lovers, you have the people blocking their way and there is a big secret in the past that is about to change everyone's life. But there is also a fire elemental and there is a world which we barely get a glimpse of - enough to make it fascinating but not enough to drown the story into irrelevant details. But under the romance story, there is the story of a young woman finding her voice and making choices - despite the advice of everyone around her. The fact that somewhere in there she also finds what her heart really wants is a bonus.

The world is based on old Vietnam (maybe with some additions from other countries from the region) and is refreshingly different from the almost usual medieval settings of similar worlds. But that is expected when you see the name of Aliette de Bodard - almost everything I had read by her had been set in a world based on an Asian country. And the style is her own - lyrical and enticing.

21. (2019)"The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday" by Saad Z. Hossain (30K words, chapbook)

When Melek Ahmar wakes up something just does not look right. There are no humans to welcome him. Noone seems to care that the king of the djinn had escaped from his stone grave (or had awaken - whatever you prefer to call it). The only man he meets is the old Gurkha soldier Bhan Gurung - and the man does not behave as one would expect. Apparently being asleep for 4 millennia (or thereabouts) is not a good idea. Not that Melek Ahmar had a lot of choice but still.

While the djinn was asleep, humanity managed to mess up the planet - the air is unbreathable unless you have a lot of nano-machines to assist you and to top it all, the big city close to the mountain, Kathmandu. had given up everything and is not ruled by Karma - an all-seeing all-knowing computer which controls everything based on the karma of its citizens - you do good things, you win karma; bad things - you lose some and you pay for everything you nee with karma. The system is supposed to work, right? Well... ask Bhan Gurung - who was supposed to be dead but somehow managed to not be executed and instead lives outside of the city.

Melek Ahmar is really trying to figure out what had happened and how he can be a king again - and Bhan Gurung wants revenge (or wants the truth to finally be revealed - sometimes even he is not sure). The two of them end up allied, each of them for their own purposes and each of them believing that they are driving the agenda. Add another jinn and an old massacre into the mix and the calm and nice reign of Karma starts to get a bit less calm... and a lot less nice.

The novella was a lot more entertaining than I expected it to be. The story ends up being familiar - people are people, people with power will not allow anything to take away that power - but still, the storytelling and the exact details were interesting enough. And I loved the ending.

Apparently there is a second book coming out this year - I am not sure if it will be just the same world or a real continuation of the story but I plan to find out as soon as I can.

22. (2021)"The Past Is Red" by Catherynne M. Valente (39K words, chapbook)

In 2016 Catherynne M. Valente wrote a novelette called "The Future Is Blue" which introduced us to Tetley - the girl who lives on a patch of garbage in the middle of the ocean (because that's the only place where people can live if you do not count the boats - the oceans had covered all the dry land) in a town called Garbagetown. This novella expands that story (or if you prefer - this book contains the novelette and a continuation novella, presented as two part of the same story).

Garbagetown is as tightly segregated as any city in our time - if anything, the rules are enforced even more. People don't mix up - and everyone protects what they have. So when Tetley first falls in love with someone who she should not and then destroys the dreams of most people on the patch, she is not exactly the most liked person in town (even if they don't even know of her love). There are no prisons so the laws are pretty basic - if you really mess up, everyone is allowed to do anything they want to you. That's where we found Tetley and in the novelette (first part of the novella), she tells us how she got to that point.

The second part of the story moved a few years in the future, with Tetley having moved away to a boat (of a type) alongside the patch. Her curiosity and refusal to give up leads her to more adventures (despite the last one having led to her being called a criminal). It leads to love (again), it leads to sorrow but it also leads to her discovering what really happened on Earth and finding what the fate of humanity might be. No aliens - we did not get that lucky - humanity managed to mess up on their own - and when Tetley finally finds the truth, it is humanity that disappoints her yet again. And yet, she never stops hoping.

While the story would have worked regardless of the narrator, Tetley makes the story even more enjoyable - you just cannot not feel the hope and the enthusiasm of our character - even when she is at her lowest. And as much as we all probably wish to pretend that this not a very likely future, we cannot. And we all hope that when it happens, there will be a Tetley there to bring some sunshine and hope to everyone.

23. (2021)"In the Watchful City" by S. Qiouyi Lu (37K words, chapbook)

It is hard to pull the story inside of a story format in a novella length text. It gets even harder when there are multiple embedded stories. And S. Qiouyi Lu pulls it off effortlessly.

The city of Ora is built from trauma - it makes the lives of its citizens easy and enjoyable and turns them into prisoners - without them realizing it for the most part. The Gleaming, the living network which nurtures and protect the city, have human avatars (or almost human anyway) who can use the network to jump into the minds of animals (real and man-made) and are tasked with protecting the city and its inhabitants. Anima is one of these avatars and as with everyone else, she believes in Ora.

Until things get a bit weird. First she is sent to stop someone from leaving the city which makes her wonder why would someone want to leave Ora and if they do, why would hey not be allowed to? Then a man appears where he cannot be - undetectable entity in a town which knows and control everything. And that man has stories - stories from the world outside of the walls of Ora; stories that don't exactly match with what reality is supposed to be.

So Anima hears the stories and tells her own (in blank verse) and somewhere in between there, things start changing. That stranger's existence should be impossible and yet, here he is and he keeps showing things that should not be, cannot be. All the stories belong to the same world but they are not really connected - they are glimpses into the lives of different people - mostly love stories although most of them are not happy ones. And then there is the job - Anima suffers when she is too late in one of the calls the Gleaming sends her on - and that makes the stories so much more alluring.

It is pretty obvious where the story must go - the author does not leave it any other path. But it is not predictable. Each of the embedded stories could have been a story of its own (or almost a story); weaved together they are like a string of pearls - each of them shining on its own and making a much bigger thing as a whole.

The only thing that somewhat annoyed me in this novella were the pronouns. We never get an explanation of all the differences (or even hints at what they are) and it felt like using a separate pronoun for every person we meet was just an exercise in using different pronouns just for the sake of it, hindering the reading of the text.

Still a good novella (although I found the writing in the embedded stories clearer and better than the one in the framework story).

24. (2020)"Stone and Steel" by Eboni Dunbar (23K words, chapbook)

Once upon a time there were two girls who grew up together - almost like sisters, although they were a lot more. They defeated the bad old king and one of them, Odessa, became the Queen and the other one, Aaliyah, became her general who defended the country and attacked most of the neighbors (or so it looks like).

But all that is in the past - now Aaliyah is coming back from war and all she wants is to get to a bed (with Odessa in it). Except that things are not as they look. When Odessa took the throne she promised to change everything to the better but it looks like she is worse than the old king. And when Aaliyah decides to mention something about it, things don't go as expected. Cue a war between the two of them.

The plot is almost cliched. The world it happens in is fascinating - there is magic everywhere, there are different types of mages (each controlling an element - fire, air, iron, bone, water or stone) and there are people with no magical power (such as Aaliyah; Odessa is a powerful stone mage). Some of the details of the rebellion and the past story are interesting enough. But the whole novella feels like a sketch - with a lot of hand-waving where the plot needs to take a leap. I can accept some of it and I don't mind that much about the lack of polish in the prose but... it feels a bit too thin in places. And not in the usual way for a novella - I wish there was more story in there but I don't want another story to fill in the missing places.

At the end I did not really dislike the story - it had its moments. But it could have been so much better.

7AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 1:38 pm

The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories by Erle Stanley Gardner (1971, collection, reprints)

25. (1948)"The Case of the Crimson Kiss" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "The American Magazine", June 1948)

If you find your married lover murdered in the apartment he kept so you can be together, what would you do:
a) Call the police
b) Pretend you did not find him and let someone else find him
c) Give enough sleeping pills to your roommate to kill her, move her things to the dead man apartment and take a smaller dose of the pills so you appear drugged?
If you answered with a) or b), then you are not Anita, one of the first two characters we meet in this story - Fay and Anita. Fay is happy because she has just been engaged and is about to be married (as soon as her aunt comes to town). Anita is not exactly happy - she used to go out with the man her roommate is about to marry - and she has her own issues with the man she is now seeing. When he turns up dead, she figures she can escape the whole thing... and only chance saves Fay. At least for now - before long she is apprehended for the murder and Perry Mason is called to help. It is an unusual story in a lot of ways - the reader knows the truth (or part of it anyway) and Perry does not get to the idea of it until relatively lately. The solution itself is a classical Mason one - no Sherlock-style deduction but just knowing the science of detection.

26. (1933)"Fingers of Fong" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "All Detective", March 1933)

A Chinese man is accused of killing and robbing a woman - and Dick Sprague is sent to investigate and try to find the truth. It is one of the Oriental stories by Gardner and despite the times he writes in, it is almost non-racist (it probably won't be published today but it is pretty mild for the 30s). There is a crime boss, there are sacred jades statues and there are more dead people. Plus a bunch of policemen who are happy to just have a killer and don't care about the truth.

27. (1930)"The Valley of Little Fears" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "Argosy", September 13, 1930)

This is one of the Bob Zane/Whispering Sands stories. Fred Smith moves to a mine town and seems to be afraid of everything. He gets his job but he also becomes the butt of every joke. Until the local cafe owner takes him under her wing and decides to help him - and Fred Smith learns to stand his ground.

28. (1928)"Crooked Lightning" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "Detective Fiction Weekly", December 29, 1928)

The story introduces us to a diamond dealer whose job is to travel with some very expensive stones. Spotting one of the big gem thieves on the same train, he decides that the man is there to rob him - so he breaks a rule or three and even partners with another dealer who he had worked with but never met. It is obvious where that story is going but reading it is still a pleasure.

29. (1939)"At Arm's Length" by Erle Stanley Gardner (?? words, The Case of the Crimson Kiss: A Perry Mason Novelette and Other Stories", originally in "Detective Fiction Weekly", December 9, 1939)

This story introduces us to Jerry Marr, a PI who looks at the newspapers for cases the police struggles with and finds a way to work on them. A woman is killed in her own house and noone seems to have any idea what happened. Before long, Jerry finds not only the man who is being framed, but also the people who are framing him. Some of the ways Jerry worked the case reminded me of some of the Perry Mason novels - both how Paul and Perry worked in some cases.. Gardner never wrote another Marr story so it is possible that he just got what worked and used it in his big series.

8AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 1:43 pm

Mystery Magazine, January 2022, edited by Kerry Carter (crime, mystery,original stories)

30. (2022)"Nothing Nefarious, Just General Badassery" by Daniel C. Bartlett (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

The story's narrator used to be an artist. These days he is married, has a kid and teaches art - one needs to eat and take care of their family after all. But when a friend calls with a tale of a buried treasure while the wife is out of town, he cannot resist and decides to help. Things get a bit more heated than expected (there is a treasure but it is also the 21st century and you cannot just find coins and sell them) and the day of innocent looking for treasure (for some value of innocent) turns into something completely different. And there is a fedora. The story works but it also felt overwritten.

31. (2022)"Noble Vista Blues" by Joseph S. Walker (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

The story's protagonist on the other hand never had much chance - he took money from a criminal and then proceeded to steal from him. The story is mostly the backstory of how he got to this point and how he tried to make things better and it had a few twists and turns that were almost unexpected but the basic premise made it clear where the story is going.

32. (2022)"In the Beginning, the End" by Stephen D. Rogers (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

A clever little story which shows us two separate timelines - in one a man and a woman talk in bed, in the other a woman is trying to dig a hole. You think you know how these connect - until the very last paragraph when the story gets turned on its head.

33. (2022)"Bad Times at Big Rock" by John M. Floyd (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

The story takes is to the Wild West and the frontier towns and shanties of the days long gone. A pair of outlaws terrorize one of those small towns until an unexpected hero stands up to them. Add a witch/seer/wise woman of a type which steers the action a little bit and it was an enjoyable story.

34. (2022)"All the Love You Can Handle for a Dollar" by Lamont A. Turner (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

It starts with a dead girl and a man accused of her murder. Except that nothing is as easy as it seems and the only person who does not appear to be who he claims to be is the man accused of murder. So it is down to a detective, Doverman, to find out the truth. This story reads like a pulp one - with Doverman being a bad-ass and trying to emulate some of the big pulp detectives. It did not quite work but it could have been worse.

35. (2022)"Superficial Appraisals" by K. R. Segriff (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

The story is set in 1953, in a spooky hotel with real ghosts and an owner who is about to get the surprise of his life. He does - but then the ghosts get the surprise of their (un)life as well.

36. (2022)"A Perfect Spiral" by David Bart (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

The story introduces us to a man who seems to always loose - a crash kicked him out from football (but he kept the girl), his small hotel which started great got overshadowed by a big one nearby and these days the town has a bet going on on when he will get even a single customer. And then the one he gets dies on them. Which turns out to be a bit of a good luck for the owners of the hotel because it allows them to start a new career - until things go horribly wrong there of course. The story actually start with the end - we see the final result at the very end but the moments before that are the story-opener.

37. (2022)"Out for Delivery" by Gregory L. Norris (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

The main character Keith is a letter carrier who gets enamored by a woman on his route. When she appears to be in danger, he decides to do something about it - except that seeing a situation from the outside, even if you believe to know everyone because you see the mail they get, does not mean that you really know what is going on. That's the kind of story that cannot happen anymore (with most bills coming online only) and it feels more 1930s than 1980s based on some parts of it but something does not sound right. It is a nice story but that inability to place it in time seems almost planned - it just does not belong anywhere.

38. (2022)"Drive Through" by Keith Brooke (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

What would you think if you see someone you know killing a man with their car? Carrie decides to protect Lucy - and that ends up being a really bad idea because as it turns out, Carrie never really understood what her place in Lucy's life was. A quiet semi-psychological story which makes you wonder if you really know what people think about you.

39. (2022)"Man Overboard" by John H. Dromey (?? words, Mystery Magazine, January 2022)

An You-Solve-It story, it has an insurance detective looking after what appears to be a reckless action by a young man (who is now dead). But the more he looks into it, the less it looks like being either reckless or an incident. We shall see next month if I figured out what he did see and did not spell out.

9AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 2:09 pm

Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 140, January 2022, edited by John Joseph Adams - speculative fiction, mix of new and reprinted stories.

40. (2022)"Dissent: A Five-Course Meal (With Suggested Pairings)" from Aimee Ogden (724 words, Lightspeed, January 2022): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/dissent-a-five-course-meal-with-sugge...

A quirky menu which ties food and real life issues from a dystopian world that sounds almost too much like our own. It is a nice appetizer for the issue but it is not my type of story - it is almost too tricky.

41. (2022)"Up Falling" from Jendayi Brooks-Flemister (3,560 words, Lightspeed, January 2022): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/up-falling/

The story takes place in a far future when humanity had been ravaged by decease and had messed up the planet and anyone who seems to be immune to the current set of issues is valuable - as a breeder for some, as a chance to make a medicine for others. Some people had escaped the ravaged world and are now trying to help the world - but that requires a child to defeat her own fears. It is a nice story about what people are capable of and I liked the fact that the author did not take the easy way out of the situation.

42. (2017)"On the Ship" by Leah Cypess (6,468 words, Lightspeed, January 2022, originally in Asimov's, May-June 2017): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/on-the-ship/

The story introduced us to Ava - a child living on a ship which is trying to find a habitable planet. Do ships have ghosts? And if they don't, then who is the red-haired woman which shows herself only to Ava? Not everything is what it looks like and while I expected a twist of some type, it was not what really happened in this story.

43. (2022)"Cale and Stardust Battle the Mud Gobblers of Hudson Valley" by Lincoln Michel (7,751 words, Lightspeed, January 2022): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/cale-and-stardust-battle-the-mud-gobb...

The story has one of those titles which make you think of superheroes and children's stories - except that it is anything but. Sometime in the future, New York is starting to disappear under the waves. So the politicians find a solution - move some of the land mass to the city - and the mud gobblers are sent to dredge the Hudson outside of the city and bring what they get downstream. Except that it is not just the river bottom that they dredge and the people who live along the river have a bit of a problem with it... at least for awhile. It is a cautionary tale of a future that may very well happen - and in some ways an exploration of power and opposition - when there are other choices, when there are other priorities, even what seemed important becomes just a nuisance.

44. (2022)"In the Beginning of Me, I Was a Bird" by Maria Dong (5,446 words, Lightspeed, January 2022): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/in-the-beginning-of-me-i-was-a-bird/

The story's narrator can jump between animals. It is unclear why they can do that or if it is common but we know that there is at least one more individual who can do that and that their initial jump was to escape from their old bodies which were taken over by a seed that fell from the sky. I liked the premise of the story but it felt like it went nowhere - there seems to be a love story (or a friendship?) in there and there is a lot of pretty language but... something just did not click properly for me.

45. (2022)"In the Cold, Dark Sea" by Jenny Rae Rappaport (716 words, Lightspeed, January 2022): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/in-the-cold-dark-sea/

An origins tale for the sirens. Well executed and getting darker and darker as the story proceeds.

46. (2022)"An Address to the Newest Disciples of the Lost Words" by Vanessa Fogg (3,383 words, Lightspeed, January 2022): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/an-address-to-the-newest-disciples-of...

The narrator of this story is an old man who came back to finish an education in a world where a lost language is treasured and all its words are considered important enough to be studied - even if noone knows the language and there is a very limited number of words which had been found. If one had ever learned a foreign language, especially one whose phonology is very different than the one they are coming from, this story will resonate. The words here are a lot more complex, they seem to include movement and expressions and song but... the challenges are the same.

47. (2019)"Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death" by N. K. Jemisin (2,513, Lightspeed, January 2022, originally in A People's Future of the United States): https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/give-me-cornbread-or-give-me-death/

In this story women fight dragons and the system by... cooking collard greens. It sounds almost comical but it somehow works and it connects resistance with food and tradition in a way you would not expect from a tale about dragons (and collard greens).

10AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 2:14 pm

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, January-February 2022, edited by Sheila Williams - science fiction, original stories

48. (2022)"Snowflake" by Nick Wolven (novella, Asimov's January 2022)

It takes awhile to realize that it is actually a science fiction story. The narrator is Sam, the best friend of a singer, Coco, and the story Sam tells is the story of Coco - an almost washed out star who is trying to keep her career afloat, through addiction and new technology if needed. It is this new technology and throwaway references to other things which make that a SF story but at the heart of it is really a story of choices and deciding if pain is worth being removed from one's life. It's a chilling tale (and one that is way too believable).

49. (2022)"Goldie" by Sean Monaghan (novella, Asimov's January 2022)

The story takes us to another living world where Earth scientists are trying to observe but not intrude. But can you do that for decades and not get attached? I loved the description of the biosphere of the world and I liked how the author handled the feelings of everyone - from curiosity to love (and everything in between).

50. (2022)"River of Stars, Bridge of Shadows" by A.A. Attanasio (novelette, Asimov's January 2022)

The story takes a place on a ship traveling between the stars. Something went horribly wrong and the ship is slowly slipping towards its destruction. Deri, a young human, still in a bio-form unlike a lot of humanity and still really young in a world where people live a very long time, is on their first trip among the stars and now needs to deal with a talking snake (an artificial valet that presents as a snake for some reason), an ancient human, an entity who can see the future and a ship which may not make it (and in a time where noone really dies completely - with ultimate death). The background of the story is fascinating and the story itself works but something in its language just did not work for me - I don't mind authors getting inventive with their language but it felt a bit too much here.

51. (2022)"October's Feast" by Michèle Laframboise (novelette, Asimov's January 2022)

A story of survival. A ship goes across the stars looking for a new planet for its passengers. But they need to make sure they can survive there even if they lose everything they brought, even if Earth vegetation cannot work in that place. Thus the surveys - send a team of 2 people to find 3 local things that are edible and can provide nutrition. The story is one of those surveys - together with dealing with stories of old surveys, the history of what happened before, personal relationships and just being able to survive. It is a well done story, without really shining.

52. (2022)"Fasterpiece" by Ian Creasey (novelette, Asimov's January 2022)

The story takes us to the future where a new technology allows people to enter fast time - a speeding of their internal clock so they can finish long tasks in very short actual time - while they actually live through the whole time. And of course it is the old arts and crafts that get their revival from that - a portrait that needs weeks to be done now feels like an hour or 3 for the model (while the artist can have the weeks they need to work on it); a carving that can take months can be produced in days (or hours) in the real world. Of course these new technologies did not come without a price - Birmingham got destroyed by nano-bots at some point and even if we do not hear about others, that was not the only disaster. And yet, humanity embraces technology and that includes artists such as Barnaby. But when everyone can take as long as they need and produce a huge amount of work for the real work, how do you get ahead? By making a masterpiece of course - and that's where Barnaby goes - which turns out to be a bit more complicated than one expects. Who would think that the love for plums and raspberries may end up the salvation from oblivion? It is a nice tale even if it feels like the "you live 10 years in hours" repercussions felt a little under-explored.

53. (2022)"Welcome Home" by Jendayi Brooks-Flemister (short story, Asimov's January 2022)

A cautionary tale about accepting things that are too good to be true. Theresa is on the verge of homelessness and losing her daughter because of it when she finds a place to live, costing a lot less than she would ever hoped for, in one of the modern complexes which have AI to control the home and to assist you. But when does assistance turn into dominance? I really liked the pacing in this story.

54. (2022)"The Roots of Our Memories" by Joel Armstrong (short story, Asimov's January 2022)

The story takes us to a future where people don't just get buried - it had been discovered that the root system of hemlock can sustain thoughts and serve as a neuro-bridge so people get planted when they die - in cemeteries shadowed by the hemlocks whose root systems connect the death to computers so people can almost talk to the death. But the hemlocks are still biological entities and as such a disease can harm them and thus kill the death. And as usual, funding is hard. It is a nice story but I am not sure that it went anywhere - it resolved one character's problem but it feels unfinished. Or maybe I just wish that it had been a bit less about that one person and more about the world.

55. (2022)"Unmasking Black Bart" by Joel Richards (short story, Asimov's January 2022)

The author takes the pandemic and runs with it. COVID-19 is in everyone's rear-view mirror. The only thing that survived were the masks - now used by everyone for all kinds of purposes - usually holo-mask that make you look like someone else - a younger version of yourself, someone famous (and dead - the only restriction - you cannot have a mask that makes you look as someone else who is still alive) or anything in between. So when Noah's high school reunion rolls in, it is not unexpected that they decide that the first night, as an ice-breaker, they will wear masks of themselves as they were at graduation. Meanwhile, someone robs a bank. The two stories connect in weird ways - and even at the end, you are not sure if you really know what happened. A nice light-hearted story of a future that may just happen.

56. (2022)"The Beast of Tara" by Michael Swanwick (short story, Asimov's January 2022)

A time traveling story on steroids - just when you think you know what s really happening and things get turned around again by yet another time traveler. It explores the usual problem of "can we change the past if we can go back" but puts a nice spin on it. Enjoyable read.

57. (2022)"Long-Term Emergencies" by Tom Purdom (short story, Asimov's January 2022)

The author takes us to space in a far future where humans are being humans and there are still people who would get themselves in the middle of minor disagreements just so they can make a bigger fracas out of it. And just as is the case in our times, there is no real way to deal with these people rationally. It is depressing to think that we may be able to progress and live across the stars and still not lose that part of humanity. Depressing but not surprising or unexpected.

58. (2022)"The Boyfriend Trap" by Stephanie Feldman (short story, Asimov's January 2022)

A weird story which can be read either as a parallel worlds one or as something more on the fantasy side. A woman and her boyfriend go on a trip to a mountain hut so they can discuss their plans - she wants to move to Denver for a job (with him in tow), he wants for them to stay in Philadelphia. The whole thing gets into a bit of a weird stage when he seems to change abruptly. I really did not care about this story - the ending was good but...

11AnnieMod
Fev 4, 2022, 2:54 pm

59. (2022)"Werewolf" by U. M. Celovska (Daily Science Fiction, 3 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/Monsters/u-m-celovska/werewolf
A reverse werewolf story where a wolf turns into a human on the full moon. Except that this is the only thing that is reversed - and humans are not very happy with the wolves who eat their animals. By the end one really wonders who the monsters are - and what exactly the narrator is. A well done tale.

60. (2022)"The Devil You Don't Know" by Dave Henrickson (Daily Science Fiction, 4 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/religious/dave-henrickson/the-devil-you-...

A known trope - a man selling their soul to the devil but with a twist. What if you can sell your soul, get everything you need and forget you did it until you die? Would you do it? And what if there is no guarantees of what you will actually get out of it?

61. (2022)"The Ansible Light" by Chloe Smith (Daily Science Fiction, 5 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/space-travel/chloe-smith/the-ans...

When two lovers are separated - one of them on a mission in space, one of them back home, their perceptions of time changes - time passes faster on Earth. We see the diary entries of the one in space - where 50 days are 3 years on Earth. I am not really sure where the story is going. It feels like a vignette - share the feelings of a love which is too close but you know is slipping and then it just ends...

62. (2022)"Cures for Hiccups" by Rachel Rodman (Daily Science Fiction, 7 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/sf-fantasy/rachel-rodman/cures-fo...

80 possible cures for hiccups - some of them mundane, some of them not so mundane. It feels overwritten - it gets boring very quickly (which should not happen for such a short story) and I would have liked it a lot more if it was paired down to 10 (or 20). As it is, it really did not work for me at all - I can like a 'list' story but this one is just not that entertaining.

12AnnieMod
Editado: Fev 6, 2022, 8:20 pm

63. (2022)"Leader of the Pack" by Alter S. Reiss (Daily Science Fiction, 10 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/virtual-reality/alter-s-reiss/le...

Biological weapons designed for people can easily be miscalculated and hit the large primates as well. After a war, they are on the verge of disappearing and despite the pathogens being eliminated, they don't seem to have much of a chance surviving. Unless someone pays attention to what does not work. Sometimes all you need is to turn the question around - and the solution becomes obvious. And the last made me laugh - of course that would apply to that group as well - the similarities go both ways.

64. (2022)"Shattered Petals of Celadon" by M. K. Hutchins (Daily Science Fiction, 11 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/magic-realism/m-k-hutchins/shatte...

Everyone had heard about carrying one's heart on one's sleeve. What if that is true for all feelings - and you need to make space for them in your heart-box for everyone to see? A lyrical story about feelings and choices, making them visible for all to see and dealing with the consequences. Not my thing but well written anyway.

65. (2022)"Help Her Fit in" by Tamlyn Dreaver (Daily Science Fiction, 12 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/future-societies/tamlyn-dreaver/...

Try to be different in school - not just a bit different, but with green hair and skin. Or is it any different from any other teenagers?

66. (2022)"Invasion" by Candice R. Lisle (Daily Science Fiction, 13 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/aliens/candice-r-lisle/invasion_...

When the aliens come, they won't come with weapons - all they need is a friendly tour guide. A very short story which still somehow works.

67. (2022)"A Stirring of Wings" by Ken Altabef (Daily Science Fiction, 14 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/fantasy/ken-altabef/a-stirring-of-wings

Does it matter how old you are if all you want is to hear the birds one more time? Apparently not - as long as you have the power to stop the assassins who come for you. It's a neat story but it feels incomplete - I want to know more about... well, everything.

68. (2022)"Flesh of My Fin" by Shannon Fay (Daily Science Fiction, 17 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/fantasy/shannon-fay/flesh-of-my-fin

Maybe lying to your kids about your history is not a great idea, especially when they catch you doing something not so normal. It tends to backfire - regardless if Mom is a mermaid or if she smoked pot in high school.

69. (2022)"Commuting" by S. A. McKenzie (Daily Science Fiction, 18 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/Monsters/s-a-mckenzie/commuting

Solving the problems of global warming and the almost depleted oil reserves of the planet sounded so easy when demonic energy was discovered. Yes, it costs a life or 3 here and there and you can be the person to die today but... it's all for the best, right? It makes commuting so much more interesting. Just don't try to cheat the IRS/your local tax authority - you may figure out how to escape the demons but the tax man will always get you.

70. (2022)"Last Flight" by Bret Parent (Daily Science Fiction, 19 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/robots-and-computers/bret-parent...

Can you afford to be compassionate when you are fighting for your life? Can you afford not to be? It's a tight story about choices and humanity and it works much better than I expected (on a purely emotional level I think...)

71. (2022)"Mind the Meniscus" by Jason P. Burnham (Daily Science Fiction, 20 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/space-travel/jason-p-burnham/min...

Looking back, that was probably not the best way for humanity to learn that FTL travel is possible. Or what is in the universe...

72. (2022)"Counterparts" by Andrew Hansen (Daily Science Fiction, 21 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/other-worlds-sf/andrew-hansen/co...

We never look at what is straight in front of us, do we? When mysteries shadows start showing up, behaving as real people, they seem connected to the living - but in a weird way. Everyone seems to have counterpart - and our narrator really wants to meet hers.

73. (2022)"God 47" by Laila Amado (Daily Science Fiction, 24 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/science-fiction/laila-amado/god-...

Gods die when people forget them and stop believing in them. So why not find a place where people will never forget you? A nice play on the theme in a very short story.

74. (2022)"2021" by Sean Vivier (Daily Science Fiction, 25 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/humor/sean-vivier/2021

The real world is a lot stranger than fiction. Imagine 2021 as a story - it just does not work. The author takes what was essentially a FB meme and runs with it (and it works). Apparently there is also a story about 2020.

75. (2022)"Teleportitus" by Mark S. Bailen (Daily Science Fiction, 26 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/science-fiction/mark-s-bailen/te...

What would you do for love? Herk keeps showing up naked at Liza's place of work -- not on purpose, he just have a condition which causes him to teleport unintentionally and the clothes remain behind. It is embarrassing for Liza but does it matter if she loves him? Not a bad story even if Liza sounded like a empty-headed teenager for most of the story...

76. (2022)"Turning the Tide" by Dawn Vogel (Daily Science Fiction, 27 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/clones/dawn-vogel/turning-the-ti...

Clones. A new batch of clones. The only interesting thing is how they look different and that is not explored at all. Either I missed something in the story or it was just pointless. Making the clones look like the enemy... that's the while story.

77. (2010)"Faith" by Mario Milosevic (Daily Science Fiction, November 1, 2010): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/aliens/mario-milosevic/faith

Maybe it is not a good idea to tinker with people's thoughts and believes if you do not understand the species. A group of aliens tries to figure out where they miscalculated when they tried to "help". I may have read that story way back in 2010 (I am pretty sure I did - the first story came out on my first working day after I moved to the States and the coincidence made me notice the magazine but I do not remember that story at all. But then it had been 11 years and some change).

78. (2022)"Tourists" by Marlan K. Smith (Daily Science Fiction, 28 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/aliens/marlan-k-smith/tourists

What would happen if the aliens show up on Earth now, during a Solar eclipse? In the current climate of information and disinformation? That will not be as much to watch as one imagines. No aliens were killed during the writing of this story. People on the other hand... (unless you decide not to believe). A seemingly serious story that reads like a satire... or like a story that actually can happen if the aliens arrive.

79. (2022)"The Future History of Your Body" by Davian Aw (Daily Science Fiction, 31 January 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/time-travel/davian-aw/the-future...

Sometime in the future, another civilization will find our bones - the same way we found the dinosaurs' ones. And maybe they will do exactly what we did.

80. (2022)"Shadow Helper" by Eric M. Witchey (Daily Science Fiction, 1 February 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/magic-realism/eric-m-witchey/shad...

Where do the monsters from under your bed go when you grow up? They are imaginary you say? Sure, but does your imagination disappear just because you grow up? I liked the connections made in this story even if the style was a bit weird for my taste.

81. (2022)"Space Unicorns and Magic Ovens" by Liam Hogan (Daily Science Fiction, 2 February 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/sf-fantasy/liam-hogan/space-unico...

Where is the line between facts and beliefs? And is there really one especially when you are on a generation ship traveling across the stars. Someone needs to be able to explains things after all. Just don't lose your imagination.

82. (2022)"She Died As She Lived" by Riley Tao (Daily Science Fiction, 3 February 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/time-travel/riley-tao/she-died-a...

A sweet time travel story about a crash... of more than one type. Very short. And incredibly sad.

83. (2022)"Rock Hard Place" by Don Redwood (Daily Science Fiction, 4 February 2022): https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/virtual-reality/don-redwood/rock...

What do you do when you cannot tell what is real? You hope for the best of course. Even if it looks hopeless. Especially if it looks hopeless.

13AnnieMod
Fev 6, 2022, 11:41 pm

84. (2019)"Vigilance" by Robert Jackson Bennett (32K words, chapbook)

After the 514th mass-shooting in 2026, someone gets a brilliant idea - why don't we make a TV show where we send the shooter in and see what happens. What about the people who happen to be where the shooter is released? Well, that's part of life - they can become victims anyway - who cares if they are victims because of a TV corporation or because a shooter chose the place on their own. Corporations agree for their venues to become part of it - they will get a cut of the profit after all and the game "Vigilance" is born - noone knows when and where it will happen - and when it happens, it is on live TV. And people die. Of course there are awards - for a shooter surviving, for someone on the ground taking down a shooter and killing instead of being killed... it's America after all. And people love it.

In 2030, the media director of Vigilance, John McDean, is about to make a decision on where it will hit this time. And while we are following him while he is preparing for the show, we get to have a look behind the scenes of the reality show (well... the deaths are very real (even if they may be reported differently if that will get more viewers) but anything else... not so much). You see - reality is boring and needs to be spiced up - plus why pay people when have AIs. Except for the dying part - there you need real people. Although if they are inconvenient, they can die and invented ones may replace them in real time... And while we get to see that, we hear about the world - most of America is burning, Europe is recovering from a hurricane, the world led by China had banned any cars using petrol and so on (except for USA that is) and there had been some kind of urban war-fare in Canada. We never get too many details - these are just mentioned in passing. But what is shown a bit better is a second story, the story of a barmaid who just wants to survive - and may not have the chance to.

And what everyone seems to forget is that if you are dealing with replaced reality, if you change what people think and see every time, you may not be the only one doing that.

Of course it sounds exaggerated - that cannot happen... right? Right? You want to read that as satire and an impossible dystopia and yet, you keep seeing things that are already happening... and it makes you wonder - is this really that exaggerated?

I suspect that the novella won't be for everyone - for one, it is very American so not sure how it will work for someone who is not dealing with the local news here, especially in the years it was written and published (2018/2019). And it will probably trigger some reactions in the American readers as well - some may feel like they are being made fun of I suspect. But it is an entertaining story -- as long as you do not try to see just how close some of it sounds like our reality.

85. (2021)"We Shall Sing a Song Into the Deep" by Andrew Kelly Stewart (~40K words, chapbook)

This one may actually be tipping into the novel size -- but it is way too close to call and I cannot find a reliable word count so I count it as a novella.

In 1963, one of the American nuclear submarines shot all its torpedoes but one (and the one that did not get out because it malfunctioned). retaliation followed and the bombs flew in all directions.

But we do not know that when this story starts - because we get to see the world of Remy, a pre-teen girl on the submarine Leviathan, where women are not allowed, boys are being cut so they remain pure (and the voices of the ones who can sing do not break) and the Caplain (a mix between a captain and chaplain) leads a cult whose sole objective is to one day send that last torpedo out and end the world. So what is a girl doing in that vessel? Well, it is complicated and everyone (but the Caplain) thinks that she is a boy. The fact that she can sing really well does not harm anything - because the plan is for everyone to die while singing. For decades now, the submarine had been dodging the people up above the waves - raiding them, stealing boys from them (and throwing girls into the waves). Only a handful of people remember the past - and they are not talking. Everyone else is too young and believes what the Order/cult had taught them - the wars devastated the land and they need to end it for everyone so everyone can go to God. So they live according to the Bible, with prayers and singing in Latin, the way a monastery will live. Most people have a short and brutal lives, if they survive the cutting which is always done once the boy arrives on the boat, then they will be dying from exposure to the reactor - unless they can sing - then they have a chance of a bit longer life. Mostly.

Remy has memories of the sun and when a captured outsider tells her a story of the world, she decides to help her (the fact that the outsider is the first woman Remy ever sees plays a role into it). Remy, and most of the other people on the submarine, are naive to the point of being stupid. And everyone who ever lived elsewhere exploits it. But real friendships still exist - and when people have nothing to lose, they may make weird choices.

I wish the author had actually expanded this and included the end of the story - we get some information about the world, we know that it is 1986, we know that Leviathan was the submarine that sparkled the whole mess and the Chinese and Russians are winning the war but... we never get to see the world. Or to see how the kids who escaped the horrors of Leviathan it into that world. I can see how that can be counted as a complete story but... it feels more like a volume 1 of a bigger story than a complete and finished story.

86. (2020)"Out of Body" by Jeffrey Ford (33K words, chapbook)

Owen, the librarian of the small town of Westwend, stops by at his local deli on his way to work, as he does every morning, and witnesses a robbery/murder (well, witness may be too strong of a word - he spends most if it on the floor unconscious). But the shock triggers something in his brain and he becomes are sleeper - his soul leaves his body when he sleeps and enters the astral plane - allowing him to visit everyone and see everything without being noticed.

Except that nothing is so innocent - there are dangers in that astral world. And there is a serial killer who lives in both worlds. So Owen and his friend Melody (helped by the wife of the man who murdered the deli's barista) need to find a way to stop him - or he will kill them all before continuing his crime spree.

My biggest issue with the whole thing is Melody - she feels as deus-ex-machina. Owen arrives in the astral plane and before long she is there to guide him, before he manages to get in trouble. That part may be believable - she has a teacher, she saw him the first time he was there so maybe. But a night after telling Owen that she never believed in things like the serial killer/vampire, she suddenly not only manages to talk to her teacher and her teacher gives her all the answers but she also knows a way to beat him. She is needed for the story to work but... it just felt a but too... easy.

Not a bad story despite my misgivings about Melody and a nice play on the old vampires and small town horror tropes. But I cannot stop wondering if it could not have been much better.

14AnnieMod
Fev 6, 2022, 11:43 pm

The Dark Magazine, January 2022, edited by Sean Wallace, horror, dark fantasy, original stories

87. (2022)"Thermophile” by Jack Klausner (The Dark Magazine, January 2022): https://www.thedarkmagazine.com/thermophile/

A man suddenly start spending a lot of time in the bathroom - long showers, long baths. His roommate (who really wants to be more than that) is worried about the bills - she thinks she knows what he is doing there. Except nothing is as easy and things escalate... I wish the author had gone one step further an provided some kind of an explanation of what really happened - and how - I am rarely a fan of stories which only deal with the end results (and even for that, it needs some more data and less hand-waving).

88. (2022)"Intrusions” by Margot McGovern (The Dark Magazine, January 2022): https://www.thedarkmagazine.com/intrusions/

When you sleep in other people's houses without permissions, you sometimes need to deal with surprises - even if you don't believe in ghosts. The story is just spooky enough to make one wonder if there are ghosts or if someone is playing a trick (I vote for the ghost... or something else supernatural).

89. (2022)"Funny Faces” by Seán Padraic Birnie (The Dark Magazine, January 2022): https://www.thedarkmagazine.com/funny-faces/

Did a little girl dream of monsters (and still dream of them occasionally) or did she see monsters in the supermarket? The story is almost claustrophobic but it was meant to be.

90. (2022)"The Lending Library of Final Lines” by Octavia Cade (The Dark Magazine, January 2022): https://www.thedarkmagazine.com/the-lending-library-of-final-lines/

The crabs are coming for everyone - sooner or later everyone will die and they will take them - usually still alive. And if they do not want to feel the claws, they can get a piece of paper - the final lines of a book which when eaten allow people to live the lives in those pages - usually while dying a gruesome death. A new spin on "books make you live someone else's life" which actually works. The rest of the details of that world make the fate of the children in the Dickens novel look like paradise.