I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile. But it seems like whenever I did short fiction lists on twitter, I ran out of steam. I also did year end lists on the main website but those builds crashed. Twice. Ill-fated indeed. So, I’m just going to quietly do these monthly lists for as long as I’m able. Hopefully I won’t run out of steam. The modus operandi is simple. Every month, I read a handful of magazine issues. I’ll select the stories I like the most. Not more than two per issue, preferably one. Sometimes, I’ll read an issue and not like any of the stories, so they don’t get featured. That has already happened this month! I selected stories from 6 magazines but I actually read through the issues of 10 magazines. Likely, on some other month I’ll find something I really like from the magazines I have not mentioned so one should not see it as a negative judgement. Not every story works for me.
Note: I’ll only read the free-to-read magazines because I’m not made of money .
Don’t attach too much weight to these lists. Taste is subjective, mine even more-so as I’m a trained and very critical reader. Also, I won’t be revealing anything about the plot, just giving my immediate reader responses and evaluation of the texts. No spoilers, always!
Up-Falling by Jendayi Brooks-Flemister (Science Fiction/Lightspeed Magazine)
I love a well-structured scifi story and Brooks-Flemister has written one here that is visually striking and emotive. Immediately, I wanted to know more about the character and the storyworld. I think this was a well-constructed story with a powerful plot and enough of an emotional lynchpin to sustain the vision. But more than that, this is the kind of science fiction that rocks my world.
An Address To The Newest Disciples of the Last Words by Vanessa Fogg (Fantasy/Lightspeed Magazine)
Wow, this story just catches you in the throat, doesn’t it? Overall Lightspeed’s January issue is stellar. So many good stories which makes it hard for me to choose, but this is one of Fogg’s best works. It’s complex, it’s embedded and it’s got such powerful visuals coupled by the strength of Fogg’s lyrical narrative, which I’ve always loved about her fiction. It was really hard to limit my choice to just two stories from Lightspeed. But really, there was no way it wasn’t going to be this story.
Bishop’s Opening by R.S.A. Garcia (Science Fiction/Clarkesworld Magazine)
Oh, this was absolutely delicious! I loved the use of chess imagery to construct a new SFnal story system, and loved the byzantine nature of this SFverse. I can tell I’m going to want to read this a few times, as there is a lot to unpack.
Gentle Dragon Fires by T.K. Rex, Lezlie Kinyon (Fantasy/Strange Horizons)
Stories like these encapsulate why I read fantasy in the first place. It immediately pulls you into another world. It is a narrative that seems to have its own meter and cadence, augmented by the poetry within it. You read it and you feel as though you are entering a fever-dream, but it is a cozy one, with birds, and fantastic architecture, and dragon’s eggs, and food. A wonderful, fresh take on fantasy short fiction. Yes please.
I’ve never hidden what a fan I am of Theodoridou’s works and this is an especially powerful one. The narrative is strong and pulls at you, inviting you to inhabit a world of loss and shadows, which is spectacularly beautiful in its own way. This is another fantasy story I’ve enjoyed this month that has birds in the world-building and strong bird imagery. But it’s also a story of passion, and of haunting. Enigmatic, and heartbreaking. Highly recommended.
The Elements of Her Self by Kiyomi Appleton Gaines (horror/dark fantasy/Nightmare Magazine)
Wow, this has everything I love about the best fairytale and folktale retellings, with a dark edge that goes satisfyingly well with the narrative. If Truancy was still active, this would be the kind of story I’d want in it. So good. I’m going to have to watch out for more fiction by Appleton Gaines!
I can’t resist a story with a library in it, and this one is oblique and enigmatic. The story is carried not just on the back of an intriguingly dark setting and the unsettling imagery but on a very well-drawn protagonist. I always appreciate a clearly delineated protagonist and I really enjoyed how Cade has set this up here. Great story!