Saturday, September 5, 2015

What I Read in August

Neil Clarke’s post on Clarkesworld explaining why his magazine doesn’t have a short fiction review column struck me. Not having access to his web traffic logs I can’t argue with the facts he brings to bear, namely that short fiction reviews don’t drive readers to the site. I would say on a pure anecdotal level, however, that I have read many short stories on the basis of review columns and, more importantly, also discovered markets where such stories appear. These “What I Read” posts also tend to attract the most traffic on my site.




That said, I agree with him on one level - this blog, which really is just a list of the stories I like - is probably not going to be moving anyone to read a particular story. I do hope that in assembling these lists every month a casual short story reader might come across a title that does seem worth interesting or a magazine that they had not heard of. Really, if the year so far has taught me anything, it’s that there is an incredible wealth of quality fiction available, most of it free, for any one willing to follow a few links.

Okay, stepping down from the soap box, let me once more offer a few stories I think worth your time. Seriously, please read one of these stories. They’re amazing.

  • Hani's: Purveyor of Rusks, Biscuits, and Sweat Teas by Sara Saab. (The Dark) I like my fairy tales dark and perfectly understandable within the context of that world. This work is a succinct and cogent story reworking of the “House of Candy” trope, creating a pastry shop and it’s not-so-sweet proprietor. A dark long con played upon hungry children, with sweet caramelized dollops of body horror.
  • It Was Educational by J. B. Park (Clarkesworld) I clicked open this story humming that old Pixie song, not sure of what I’d find. Essentially this story plays with an idea I’ve always found stimulating - history as a simulation for the edification of the future. Beautiful and full of ideas.
  • Ships and Stars and Childhood Things by Gwendolyn Kiste (Flash Fiction Online) A bitter sweet tale of a love grown into through magic of time dilation and then outgrown in turn. Kiste writes about terrible things with a rare clarity and precision. I also recommended one of her stories from February “Once Lost, Gone Forever." 
  • Mustard World by James Victor (Apex and Abyss) This is a horror story - essentially a  fairy tale - swapping out princes and fairies for chlorine drenched hellscapes and astronauts. Raiding old stories is a tactic I whole-heartedly endorse, especially when done with vivid and knowing skill. The chummy, unaware attitude demeanor of the narrator makes this story worm beneath your skin.
  • Milagroso by Isabel Yap (Tor.com) I loved this story - a vibrant and riotous exploration of the future and significance of real food. Even as the narrator - a food engineer himself - recognizes the obvious benefits genetically tailored food provides, he longs for the simple imperfections of the past. In a world where artificial miracle food feeds the poor and prevents disease, true luxury is clutching onto the fragile and already rotting artifacts of the past.




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