Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I Read in June

Another tough month to whittle my favorite stories to five or so I prefer for this column. In particular Nightmare and Clarkesworld offered several fine stories.

  1. The Wanderer, in the Dark of the Year by Kris Millering (Clarkesworld) Now this is why I read Clarkesworld. Fantastically invasive story that reminds me of Michael Swanwick’s Passage through Earth last year. A kidnapped correspondent bonds with an alien taken in by anti-Roma terrorists. The alien described as a kind of mitochondrial mat and the unusual structure of the narrative: multiple beginnings and endings communicates effectively how much was lost and gained during the encounter. 
  2. Five Spikes by Nicholas Diehl (DSF) Excellent macabre story about a boy, a witch, and zombie spikes. The closest thing I’ve read to a Shirley Jackson story in a while.
  3. The Cellar Dweller by Maria Dahvana Headley (Nightmare) Another great story from Headley. This dark fantasy is a little bit Gaiman, a little bit Barker, and a whole lot of something very distinct and appalling. In an unspecified village, a girl grows up as a kind of exterminator for the hungry spirits in old homes.
  4. The One Mission by Patricia Russo (DSF) An example of what Daily Science Fiction does so well - giving a venue for tiny perfect stories. Russo’s central idea is that the various departments of a generation ship have devolved into a series of tribes keeping the functions of the ship going on the basis of interlocking oral traditions. There is so much here that cries out for more stories. Very, very good.
  5. The Hole in the Hole by Terry Bisson (Clarkesworld) An interesting character study about two friends who stumble on to a wormhole to the moon, hidden in a difficult-to-find junkyard. A very Rudy Rucker set-up becomes a Neal Stephenson-style tale of entrepreneurial mayhem. Of particular note is how Bisson uses urban fantasy motifs in telling a science fiction story.
My favorite reprint last month appeared in the Weird Fiction review, Mutation Planet by Barrington Bayley. A longer story detailing the weirdness pervading the universe and the uniqueness of the human preoccupation with exploration. I marked this as an older story even before I had it confirmed in the post-script. The language is somewhat clumsy, the dialogue rang false, and the politics of the piece are not encouraging. Even so, the sheer volume of ideas in the is piece and the refreshing Barlowe-style aliens are very interesting. One of the better pieces I’ve read this year on the basis of sheer weird ideas alone.

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