New Year, new collection of awesome short fiction to peruse. As always, this column is meant to shine a spotlight on a few stories I really enjoyed from the previous month. Clarkesword, in particular, had a selection of great stories.
- Extraction Order by Rich Larson. I loved his short story (also published in Clarkesworld) 'Meshed’ and I also loved this. Intense gritty military sci if. Not sure I fully buy the standard alien spore threat but the atmospherics here make the whole thing work.
- Everyone Loves Charles by Bao Shu translated by Ken Liu. Amazing Chinese novella. “Everyone Loves Charles” the kind of story Philip K Dick might right if he grew up with social media. In a near future of transorbital races and live-streamed experiences, a wise-cracking playboy provides entertainment and inspiration for a young shut-in. Bao Shu’s style is talky but always fascinating, incorporating corporate conspiracies and sincere romanticism within the same page. Probably one of the best of these translations from Storycom.
- The Dark Age by Jason Hurley. This charming heart-felt hibernation story appears in Lightspeed Magazine. An astronaut preparing for a generations long journey to the stars learns that he will be a father. The cruelty of this scenario is softened somewhat by the depth of the emotions on display, the sincerity of the pain. The way Hurley carefully handles the details of the story, the notes of characterization and cues to the passage of time, walk the reader into the heart of the story almost before they realize what's happening.
- All the World When It is Thin by Kristi DeMeester. My favorite story from the most recent issue of The Dark. Beautiful work with some of the themes of Shirley Jackson’s “We Always Lived in Castles.” Here a strong weird fiction element tells of a family knitted together in tragedy and town torn asunder by that loss.
- Maiden Thief by Melissa Marr. All sorts of bleak things going on in this one from Tor.com. Very little magic but enough fantastical overtones to create a sense of otherworldly menace. Not particularly suspenseful because we have a good idea of the identity of the Maiden Thief by the beginning of the story. But still there’s enough mystery here to draw the reader along. Very effective.