|Pacific Flotsam (2015 Morgan Crooks)|
- The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt by Alex Bledsoe (TOR.com) Bledsoe’s story is the kind I normally skip as the first scene involves a girl trying on an beautiful dress and making wedding plans. However, something about the protagonist's flinty dialogue kept me reading. I'm glad I did as within a few swift pages I was hooked. Bledsoe sets his fantasy pageant in a backwoods Virginia rife with European fairies intriguing with indigenous fey. The bride, the Bronwyn of the title, navigates through the needs of her own family and the machinations of rivals. This is a genuinely tense scenario with clever twists.
- An Ocean of Eyes by Cassandra Khaw (The Dark) I’m recommending this story on the basis of its ghastly and strangley dignified setting: a city ruled by dead, hungry gods and the fools lured to their own destruction. One of a handful of stories I’ve read this year bringing something fresh to Lovecraft Mythos.
- Time Bomb Time by CC Finlay (Lightspeed) Finlay weaved an elegant mental claw-trap of a story. To say too much about the plot is to ruin the effect but suffice to say it revolves around two characters stuck in a bizarre situation unable to perceive that anything strange is going on at all. Very well constructed. Finlay is able to take a simple idea (almost a gimmick) and make it the heart of a distressing morality play.
- Disharmony by Ken Poyner (DSF) A weird micro-fiction involving an alien race that uses music for weapons and the terrible results of getting into war with them. Evocative language in service of an unsettling idea.
- For the Love of Sylvia City by Andrea Pawley (Clarkesworld) Science Fiction stories should introduce a world too weird to be possible and too compelling to be ignored. This story hits the mark on those two levels and so many more. The craft here is notable, Pawley able to conjure up entire post-human societies in the space of time it takes a person to swim to the surface and back.
- The Red Light is Blinking by Kealan Patrick Burke. (Nightmare) The Red Light is a rather troubling piece seemingly one pitch away from being the next Blumhouse horror movie. Having watched my fair share of Blumhouse films I don’t mean this as a criticism. The writing was taut and effective but also nasty and morally questionable. Just the way horror should be some might say.
- Poof! by Laura Walden Rabb (Driftwood) A literary speculative piece about an artist striving to reimagine painting for the future. After first creating moveable paint Marx Shepherd invents disappearing paint. All of his work will at some point disappear and the story uses this idea to point to something interesting about the nature of art and life. A small but entertaining story.