AN INCOMPLETE LIST OF BEAUTIFUL STORIES (and some essays!) THAT HAVE KEPT ME COMPANY THIS YEAR (BY PUBLICATION MONTH).

This time I made the small effort to add a few words alongside the stories. There might be typos but I did my best. Thank you so much for your words everyone ❤

The Unrepentant, by Derrick Boden, in Escape Pod, (January)

This is such a roller-coaster of story. Packed with action and twists, it is also a sharp commentary on a bleak future that seems not too far off.

My Mother’s Hand, by Dante Luiz, in Constelación (January)

This is an amazing story about witchcraft, identity and bodily autonomy. A man’s hand is possessed by his witch mother’s ghost. I really loved the worldbuilding and the way the possession progresses. The ending is both cathartic and triumphant.

There, in the Woods, by Clara Madrigano, in The Dark (January)

A disturbing story about going back to a place that made you uncomfortable as a child. About feeling powerless as you slowly lose the things that shaped your identity as an adult. The feeling of doom stays with you for a long time after.

Secrets of the Kath, by Fatima Taqvi, in Strange Horizons (January)

This is a story of many layers that slowly peel away one after the other to reveal the ugly core of oppression. But the puppets know, just like the earth knows and all the women before. And now it’s the protagonist’s turn to know and to act.

From Witch to Queen and God, by L. D. Lewis, in Mermaids Monthly (January)

A gorgeous anti-colonial take on the Sea Witch with amazing characters and very smart solutions to the problems that arise. The ending was chef’s kiss.

Laughter among the Trees, by Suzan Palumbo, in The Dark (February)

A story about immigration and what it means to not fit in, but also sibling rivalry and survivor’s guilt. All these themes are woven masterfully into this chilling horror story.

The Antagonizer, by Gardner Mounce, in Hobart (February)

This one is a surreal take on the already surreal and bleak office culture. The sharp commentary is not lost but neither is the tender core of the story. 

Fanfiction for a Grimdark Universe, by Vanessa Fogg, in Translunar Travelers Lounge (February)

I just love stories inside stories, and this one is so satisfying because it offers so many different version of what this story could be in another place and another time, and what it ultimately becomes. The sweetness that reveals itself under the hard armor of war and desolation.

The Taste of Your Name, by Amal Singh, in Translunar Travelers Lounge (February)

A very strong issue of TTL! This story was a sensory feast and made me so hungry! I just love all the descriptions of taste. It is bittersweet story, but ultimately full of hope that love and family can be in balance like the tastes in a favorite dish.

The Mathematics of Fairyland, by Phoebe Barton, in Lightspeed (February)

A wonderful mix of fairytale and science fiction in way that makes the story feel fresh and compelling. It’s full of heartache and grief and how far one can go for love.

We Are Not Phoenixes, by John Wiswell, in Fireside (March)

This is such an emotional but also delicate story about end-of-life care. It’s compassionate and full of meditations on disability and how magic can being people a little closer and make life a little brighter.

Colors of the Immortal Palette, by Caroline M. Yoachim, in Uncanny (March) – novelette

I just love how this story is sectioned according to a specific color that lends its qualities to the entire period it titles. The historical details and the vividness of each period left me breathless. A story about who gets to really be immortalized through art and what representation means. Just gorgeous.

The Center of the Universe, by Nadia Shammas, in Strange Horizons (March)

This is such a smart story in a way that feels organic. It takes tropes and twists them around to reveal the wound that’s been bleeding all this time. It’s about who gets to be the protagonist of their own life. In the world we live in, many people don’t even get the chance to tell their own stories the way they chose to. Really powerful stuff that will stay with me. 

All Worlds Left Behind, by Iona Datt Sharma, in Khōréō (April)

This story rings so devastatingly true. It’s a portal story but also a diaspora story. People as the only connection one has to certain places that might become lost in time as generations come and go. Heart-rending and hopeful!

Jenny Come Up the Well, by A.C. Wise, in PodCastle (April)

This had such a beautiful imagery. Mythical creatures and humans band together to break free from injustice and intolerance. I am so glad about that ending! It was a rollercoaster to get there and it felt so well-deserved.

A House Is Not a Home, by L Chan, in Clarkesworld (April)

If “There will come soft rains” was both more optimistic and complicated and there was the moving PoV of the abandoned house, it would be this story. So, so smart!

Eighteen Days of Barbareek, by Rati Mehrota in Uncanny (April)

What an amazing piece. It drew me in from the first sentence. Dry humor contrasted with a ghastly war imagery and a bitter conclusion that still leaves a sliver of hope sneak in at the end.

Forward, Victoria, by Carlie St. George, in The Dark (April)

This is a horror story with a breakneck rhythm. It grabs you from the start like a slasher movie (and it’s a big nod to slasher movies) and you keep reading transfixed, even though you can see how things might play out. Even though you know things always play out like this in horror movies. Brilliant.

Unnamed, by Monte Lin, in Cast of Wonders (April)

This is a story of names and idenity but also a story about finding your place in complicated and confusing world, especially as a young person. The author builds the characters so fast and deaftly, and we can’t help but share the sense of dissoriantation and ftustration the protagonist goers through. The ending is so movign because it comes full circle. 

Bride, Knife, Flaming Horse, by M.L. Krishnan, in Apparition Lit (April)

This is such an amazing story, subverting tropes unapologetically with a sharp sense of humor. I just love the uncompromising protagonist who gets what she deserves at the end.

“The White Road; or How a Crow Carried Death over a River” by Marika Bailey, in FIYAH (April)

Broadfeather the crow is in search of a name of her own. So she leaves the nest in search of one. What happens after is a tale of immense pain. A story of reclaiming names and lives stolen. It’s bleak but also hopeful and full of amazing worldbuilding.

Like Birdsong, the Memory of Your Touch, by Izzy Wasserstein, in Fantasy Magazine (May)

This story is written in a stream of consciousness style that really blurs the lines of past, present and future. I read it in one breath. One breath was all it took for the entire world and a relationship to unfold and end in front of my eyes in the most poignant and chilling ways.

Peristalsis by Vajra Chandrasekera in The Deadlands (May)

Like Nadia Shamma’s story, Peristalsis asks questions about whose narrative this is. Who are the characters and who are the spectators. Or is everything part of a larger scheme of things that neither characters or spectators can see, and they are all being pushed along a dead narrative, until the end of the Universe? Gorgeous prose.

Blood in the Thread, by Cheri Kamei, in Tor.com (May)

This is a retelling of “The Crane Wife” and what a retelling it is! Georgeous prose that waves the original tale with the modern version about a make up artist and her actress lover and it elevates both in one heartbreaking and poignant conclusion. There is so much emotion here. 

Balfour in the Desert, by Fargo Tbakhi, in Strange Horizons (May)

Balfour and his companion chase an elusive creature through the desert. The Englishman, Balfour, is the PoV for most of the story, but is he really someone to root for? And is the creature the real danger here? This piece does amazing things with its metaphors and symbolisms. The author captures the greed of the protagonist as such an innate quality to him, that he literally feels like himself only when he takes and destroys. The caring nature, hopelessness and righteous anger of his companion is so pulpable, that any victory, however small, feels like the biggest triumph. 

To Rise, Blown Open, by  Jen Brown, in Anathema (May)

A nuanced and complicated super hero story about trauma and complicated relationships but also about change and perhaps the hope of healing. So full of emotions.

Bones in It, by Kristina Ten, in Lightspeed (May)

“Give me something with bones in it!”

Wow, this story could have gone so dark. And it is dark if you really think about it. But Kristina keeps the tone and the prose light with her masterful humorous prose and her keen eye for irony. In her hands, the story becomes whimsical and mythical, but so very grounded it could just as well have happened to someone you know. 

Oh, and please call me tenured professor. 

Proof by Induction by José Pablo Iriarte, in Uncanny (May/June)

This is a story of family and self-acceptance. The protagonist struggles with themselves first and foremost and then with the father or the peers. What they gain in the end is a quietly triumphant love for one’s self and hope for the future.

Unseelie Brothers, Ltd. by Fran Wilde, in Uncanny (May/June) – novelette

This was such a wonderfully fresh take on a few fairytales, and the important of sacrificing parts of yourself in order to gain your heart’s desire. Is it worth it? This is an answer one can only give for themselves. Plus show stopping magical dresses!

A Welling Up, by Natalia Theodoridou, in Strange Horizons (June)

This story is hypnotizing and inescapable. There is a lingering sadness in it that draws you in. It will remind you that people can be vert similar but also far apart, like tiny islands in the ocean.

All This Darkness, by Jennifer R. Donohue, in Apex (June)

The mines are closing and the adults are too preoccupied with finding a way to pay the bills. But their children still crave their missed chance. The chance to enter the mountain and go deep inside its belly. This is a surreal story that’s both dark and charming with a very effective prose.

Three for Hers, by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko, in Podcastle (June)

I love a tale of revenge as much as the next person. But this is so much more. The worldbuilding here is amazing, especially when it comes to the rules of the Margrave and how firm but also slippery they can be. Because for those who hold the power there aren’t really any rules.

Data Migration, by Melanie Harding-Shaw, in Strange Horizons (July)

A very effective and realistic depiction of a near-future environmental Apocalypse. What makes this story stand out and become really extraordinary is the way the author handles the form by taking advantage of negative space and the fact that the protagonist tries against all odds to hold on to hope as well as pass it on.

The Child Feast, by Kaitlyn Zivanovich, in Pseudopod (July)

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, and how you seemingly succeed, you can’t really save your child from the witch’s house. This is horror. Real, tangible, inescapable horror. Very well-written and heartbreaking story

Our Days of Tear-stained Glass, by Avra Margariti, in Baffling Magazine (July)

I just love this piece and the poetry it carries within each sentence! A fabulous story about loving impossible things and persisting, even if those things are giant mermaids with shipwrecks wedges between their sharp teeth!

Across the River, My Heart, My Memory, by Ann Leblanc, in Fireside (July)

This story took some unexpected turns from the get-go but we slowly piece together the image of an unusual community of people and their legacy, still looking out for each other ever after they lose their human form. And even when they are treated with cruelty, they still strive for community and improvement.

Mushroom Head, by Marla Bingcang, in Apparition Lit (July)

If grotesque beauty and fungi horror had a child this would be it. This is a horror tale were the language and the description take center stage, and offer a chilling sensory experience. It is also the tale of a family’s desperation and hunger, and there is another horror tale hidden inside the first one like a matryoshka doll of terror.

Faithful Delirium, by Brent Lambert, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies (July)

A powerful story about religious fanatisism and the pain and destruction it can cause to meet a pointless goal. That plot twist was everything. Chilling.

Cocoon, by H. Pueyo, in Strange Horizons (August)

A beautifully rendered and gutting piece of flash that deals with dementia. You feel the sadness and the tenderness of the piece from the first line to the last.

Before the Haze Devours You, by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, in Lightspeed (August)

How can someone fit so much worldbuilding, pain and redemption in such a short space? This is a bit over flash-length but it’s tense and emotional and everything in space!

Immolatus, by Lyndsie Manusos, in The Dealands (August)

I love a ghost bride story and this one does not disappoint, especially when there is delicious revenge. The descriptions of the ghost bride corpses and how they find each other are chilling!!!

A Guide to Snack Foods After the Apocalypse, by Rachael K. Jones, in Diabolical Plots (September)

Well, this was terrifying. I love the structure of this piece and how the distraction of rating snacks adds to the real horror of what is happening. Also that ending!

Sía, by Lizz Huerta, in Lightspeed (September)

Liz Huerta can’t write a story that won’t have me hooked from start to end. Have you ever thought of what would happen if ancestors got another chance to fight each other and try to right part of the wrongs of colonialism? This story is both hilarious and heartbreaking and combines so many truths and concepts in a brilliant way. But it’s also a story with warmth and the value of family, of someone who knows you intimately and looks out for you even after death.

Questions Asked in the Belly of the World, by A. T. Greenblatt, in Tor (September)

This story examines a society were everyone can and should be an artist but also an art critic. A society that those who can’t produce art or discuss it are considered redundant. This story hit hard with its message and the world-buidling was strangely wonderful.

Down in the Aspen Hollow, by Kristiana Willsey, in Uncanny (September/October)

If there is one person can take a murder ballad and breathe new life into it, that’s Kristiana. This is such an enchanting tale of heartbreak and slow, delicate revenge, that feels right in the way it feels in ancient stories.

Mulberry and Owl, by Aliette De Bodard, in Uncanny (September/October)

A story about the aftermaths of war and whether reconciliation can truly happen. I loved the back and forth between Thuỷ and Owl, and the idea that survival can be its own kind of atonement or revenge.

Hold Your Breath, by K.C. Mead-Brewer, in Uncharted (October)

Oh my, this is a very creepy story. A house It’s a story wrapped around a thick mist of expectations about oneself, about sex, about the things we leave behind before we enter the world as adults and about what kind of humans we are going to be from now on.

Those Virtues, Those Poisons, by Martin Cahill, in Beneathe Ceaseless Skies (October)

A deeply emotional story. It literally goes through the entire spectrum of the MC’s emotions, and it does so eloquently. A journey of self-exploration with the self as the main antagonist. Giant serpent is a giant plus for me too!

Small Monsters, by E. Lily Yu, in Tor (October)

This is a story full of monsters. It’s strange and beautiful, ponderous and vivid, dark and tender and it hides a great truth inside. It’s the kind of story that I aspire to write in the future.

Caw, by WC Dunlap, in Nightmare (October)

Lovely body horror. Like “The Birds” but more terrifying and with themes of trust and group dynamics. In a life and death situation would you trust a stranger or choose darkness?

Not Quite What We’re Looking for Right Now, by Jana Bianchi, in Fireside (October)

A very short but very smart piece about art and how it can impact real people. This flash takes full advantage of its format and it manages to be really funny while saying something important.

Sorry We Missed You! by Aun-Juli Riddle, in Khōréō (November)

This is such a wonderful and quiet story. It unfolds delicately, with a great warmth that makes the grief underneath a little sweeter and more bearable. Because family and love can be found in a bowl of potato noodles even when you are planet-hoping. 

What Floats In a Flotsam River by Osahon Ize-Iyamu, in Strange Horizons (November)

This gorgeously surreal story has a strong environmental message but also a deeply social one. A message about the power of the masses and the importance of working as a group in order to achieve any kind of meaningful change, but also the importance of individual expression and validation. 

For Want of Milk, by Grace P. Fong in Uncanny (November/December)

This story was both hard and soft in all the right places. I love where Grace took the story. I did not see it coming but it made perfect sense!

The Cold Calculations, by Aimee Ogden, in Clarkesworld (December)

This story is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not about rage for me (it has that too for obvious reasons). It is about wanting to change something and making the effort to do so. Even if it’s something seemingly small and insignificant. Like the ending to a story.

Writing You, by Sharang Biswas, in Lightspeed (December)

Flaying your boyfriend has never been done so beautifully. Two people make plans on how to mourn the passing of their lover in their own personal way. The language really shines here and reverbarates with musicality, but it’s the end that will get you like a small knife in the ribs. 

Essays:

Using Unreliable Narration to Create Voice, by Priya Chand, in SFWA blog (February)

Seduced by the Ruler’s Gaze: An Indian Perspective on Seth Dickinson’s Masquerade, by Sid Jain, in Uncanny (March)

Death and Wednesday, by Suzan Palumbo, in The Deadlands (May)

Un/Reliable: Reflections in The Drowning Girl, by Jordan Kurella, in Mermaids Monthly (June)

WWXD: A Warrior’s Path of Reflection and Redemption, by C.L. Clark, in Uncanny (July/August)

The Bad Dad Redemption Arc Needs to Die, by Nino Cipri, in Uncanny (July/August)

We Are the Mountain: A Look at the Inactive Protagonist, by Vida Cruz, in Fantasy (August)

Worldbuilding with Legs: Incorporating Insects into Your Stories, by Premee Mohamed, in Fantasy (October)

Liminal Spaces: Shelters and Cells, by Avra Margariti, in Strange Horizons (November)

Creating Character Arcs in Games Writing, by Natalia Theodoridou, in SFWA blog (December)

One thought on “AN INCOMPLETE LIST OF BEAUTIFUL STORIES (and some essays!) THAT HAVE KEPT ME COMPANY THIS YEAR (BY PUBLICATION MONTH).

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