Being the start of May, it must be time to suggest a few stories to read from last month. As chance would have it, some of my favorite stories from the year so far appeared within the past 30 days. If you are a fan of speculative fiction, consider some of the offerings below:
- "All the Red Apples Have Withered to Grey" by Gwendolyn Kiste (Shimmer). Damn fine story. Sort of a fairy tale, taking elements from a few different sources, set in a realm that seems vaguely European medieval but could also be Pennsylvania. I know what I prefer. The idea of young women being sold off to an apple orchard keeper for the chance a prince might come to waken them from a sleep is handled exceptionally well. The pay off is ambiguous while still providing considerable pay-off for the story. This is a story that had me within the first few lines and never really let me go. This is probably my favorite work of hers since "Ten Questions."
- "Touring with the Alien" by Caroline Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld). This adventurous and entertaining novella reminded me of "Way Down East," a Tim Sullivan story I read in Clarkesworld last year. In both stories, aliens are used as a metaphor for loss and longing, and the irreducible distance between individuals. Gilman knows her way around neurobiology, though, and uses a chummy and breezing narrator to talk about things that make Peter Watts write blog posts. Another story that is greatly helped by a bold and unexpected ending.
- "The Girl Who Escaped from Hell" By Rahul Kanakia (Nightmare). This was a real heart-render. The genius of this piece is its delicately woven ambiguity. Although all the pieces are laid out in plain view there is a subtle design to their placement that leads the reader to places of wonder and doubt. This is not a horror story but a meditation on dread and grey failure. The protagonist, the father who provides a safe home for his trauma scarred daughter, slowly damns himself with his own words. Rarely has a story communicated the hell of diminished expectations and inevitability like this story.
- Reaper's Rose by Ian Whates. (Nightmare) Cleaver-like story, first notch sinking deep, each whack at the same target only bringing it closer to the inevitable separation. This is a story with a singular impression in mind, a single simple idea. The conclusion comes into view quickly - inevitable, and unstoppable. The fact that the ending has been cantilevered into place beneath you is the only reality needed. Do we need to know what's going to happen after the final line. Do we need to know who the narrator is or who she is speaking with? No and no and no.