Slightly better situation this month for reading short stories. I still didn't quite to as many as I'd like to but I can recommend a few stories without hesitation.
- Scent by Maria Haskins (Flash Fiction Online) Another tale of the horrific perfumes. Here, a daughter administers to a frightful mother, a kind of demon who steals away the fragrances (and presumably souls) of unlucky mortals. There is something memorable about the intertwining of imagery and odor, and also the slow, twisting tension between a mother and a daughter; the mask of pleasant perfumes over something dark and predatory.
- All the Mermaid Wives by Gwendolyn Kiste. (87 Bedford) a couple of Kiste's favorite motifs intertwine here. Fairy tale creatures updated for a fraught present, sisterhood, and questions of empowerment. This story broadens her work in some respects. While still retaining a directness and unpretentious grace, more and more of her lines stand out, the siren call of the well-crafted phrase.
- The Little Widow by Maria Dahvana Headley. (Nightmare) One mark of a good story is that it never slips out of the groove it lays down, superior fiction sets a pace and sticks with it. This one starts and finishes weird. A group of survivors of a suicidal cult make their way in the town of miracle by biting the heads off dinosaurs. This felt like one half Ted Chiang and one half gonzo nightmare.
- War dogs by Michael Barretta (Apex) Barrett offers a nightmarish vision of America swollen with broken veterans, genegineered soldiers and lethal fungus infestations. Everything in the story conspires together perfectly, each detail charging into the next, every stray gesture carrying within it the seed of doom. (reprint from Apex's speculative military fiction anthology: War Stories: New Military Science Fiction.)
- The Sound that Grief Makes by Kristi DeMeester (The Dark). A mother, partly to provide comfort to her son, and partly to salve her own grief, begins to pretend to be her husband's ghost. There is a suggestion at the end that whether by trick or coincidence, both characters are locked in a cycle of anguish, haunted by an unspoken need.
The next episode of "Agent Shield and Spaceman" is now available. Thank you for reading!