Happy New Year everyone!
This took a while but I feel I read more stories this year perhaps. As always my wish is to read more and there are still stories I have my eye on to read but haven’t yet gotten around to. Please enjoy this imperfect list in the hope that you’ll find something you love in there.
Ribbons, by Natalia Theodoridou, in Uncanny (January)
This story is both down to earth and very mythical. There is a harshness to this world, but also a deep tenderness to fight off the loneliness.
Sonskins, by Dare Segun Falowo, in Baffling Magazine (January)
Ahhhh there is a kind of surreal body horror imagery that just hits the right buttons for me, and this is one of those cases. This story is devastating and devastatingly beautiful. Who does a body belong to? Can you change a person by forcing their body to act a certain way. These questions cut deep in the story.
The Needle Eye Bridge, by Millie Ho, in The Puritan (January)
This is a touching account of loss. Loss of family, loss of culture, and loss of a childhood that is connected to a place. I really loved how Millie wrote about migration and trying to figure out how to reconnect with ones roots after so much time has passed.
The Aftertastes, by Daria Lavelle, in The Deadlands (January)
This was a gut punch. Food had the power to redeem you or destroy you in the afterlife, and the game is rigged. But what if someone with compassion started cooking the food of the souls?
Dick Pig, by Ian Muneshwar, in Nightmare (January)
This is a super original take on both haunted house and cosmic horror and all via Grindr app. As always with Ian’s stories, the prose is sto strong and flows so fast you barely notice the length.
She Calls, by Nelly Geraldine Garcia-Rosas, in Apparition Lit (January)
This is such a mesmerizing story! It grabs you and pulls you in and you swim until you reach Her! If you want to feel the rain against your cheeks this story is for you!
Dissent: A Five-course Meal (with Suggested Pairings), by Aimee Ogden, in Lightspeed (January)
An entire revolution unfolds in front of our eyes in less than a thousand words. And its taste is pungent and bitter, but ultimately sweet. Because no matter how much the protagonist has lost during the course of the story, they haven’t lost themselves.
A Record of Our Meeting with the Grand Faerie Lord of Vast Space and Its Great Mysteries, Revised, by A.T. Greenblatt, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies (February)
I love a good time travel story as much as I love stories with unusual structures and Aliza manages to blend both seamlessly in this enchanting story with an equally enchanting Faerie Lord.
Neunet, by Sharang Biswas, in Lightspeed (February)
A company that uses human brains as computers and the people who offer themselves (or are offered by others) for the job. Oh, this story wrecked me. Read it when you want to feel deep existential emotions and also need a good cry.
Intimacies, by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko, in Strange Horizons (February)
A fascinating vision of a world where humans and hippocampi collide over the nature and the truth of intimacy. I loved this story when I read it. The biology and world building are stunning but the two main characters take the cake.
Girl Oil, by Grace P. Fong, in Tor.com (February)
This is a gutting story about trying to fit in a world that very few people actually do. Usually those who have the power. And what the desire to fit in seamlessly can do to bodies.
When We Were Gods, by Isha Karki, in Lightspeed (February)
Isha’s stories are latticeworks of prose. They have texture and thickness and demand all your senses to be experienced. This was one of the most mind-bending stories we read during the workshop.
Douen, by Suzan Palumbo, in The Dark (March)
A heartbreaking story of a child ghost that asks for the same thing every child does: to be loved and accepted. The sadness of this piece is palpable. It’s a gut-punch of emotions.
Embroidery of a Bird’s Heart, by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, in Strange Horizons (March)
This story is like a warm hug, or a favorite relative returning from the dead to have lunch with you every Saturday. Heartbreaking and yet quietly hopeful, and full of love.
How to Make a Spell Jar, by EA Crawley, in Xenocultivars: Stories of Queer Growth (March)
I love this story so much. It gave me the warm feeling only stories with so much empathy do. Every character here is deeply understood and loved for who they are. Just a perfect comfort read.
Small Offerings for a Small God, by Virginia M Mohlere, in Luna Station Quarterly (March)
A beautiful and poignant story about the meaning of spirituality and the possibility of redemption. This is a nuances and complex story and I love, love, love the ending.
The Alternity of Dead Universes, by Monte Lin, in Kaleidotrope (April)
The ideas in this one are mind blowing. The combination of lyrical language and funny dialogue make for a moving, heartwarming story about fitting in and finding home, even when you are a sentient dead universe.
An Urge to Create Honey, by Martin Cahill, in Clarkesworld (April)
Bee-like aliens who can consume and change you but for your own good? I bow to Marty for managing to create a really alien perspective while also infusing it with great compassion and making it really feel like homecoming. Like a parent’s love.
Beginnings, by Kristina Ten, in Fantasy Magazine (April)
This story broke me in the most subtle way. If you want a shot of fairytale heartbreak, but before that a beautiful beginning then read this.
A Sword Has One Purpose, by Phoebe Barton, in Lightspeed (April)
This was such a fun story full of turns and excitement, and (possibly) a very happy ending. It also featured fighting Nazis!
The Travel Guide to the Dimension of Lost Things, by Effie Seiberg, in Podcastle (April)
Effie just stepped on my heart while also melting it. A wrenching and yet hopeful story on living with depression.
Coming Through in Waves, by Samantha Murray, in Strange Horizons (April)
This story examines the themes of memory and adaptation and self from different perspectives. Samantha is giving each expression of the theme the love it deserves.
Me and Seed Sheself, by Celeste Rita Baker, in Khōréō (May)
Celeste is one of those authors who can infuse as story with warmth and life and make anthropomorphic inanimate objects have the depth and the personality of fully-fleshed out human being. This story is not exception and I love it for that exact reason.
Your Eyes, My Beacon: Being an Account of Several Misadventures and How I Found My Way Home, by C.L. Clark, in Uncanny (May)
This story fed my current OFMD withdrawal and I am so thankful for it. A sapphic story about a pirate with commitment issues and a selfless but guarded light keeper. C.L. is a master worldbuilder and I just love all the elements they seed throughout and how well the characters are sketched. So good!
The Fruit of the Princess Tree, by Sage Tyrtle, in Apex (May)
Another one that wrecked me. A tree heavy with princesses blooms every spring and dies every winter. This story did not hold back on the gut punches. It went all the way and examined femininity as a performance and a survival tactic in every which way. Including the really bleak ones.
The Grief Portal, by Aun-juli Riddle, in Apparition Lit (May)
And after all the heartbreak it would be wonderful if there was a secret portal with a guide to help you find your self again. This story is meditative and calm and before you realize it, you are already feeling more hopeful by the end. Beautiful!
Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold, by S.B. Divya, in Uncanny (May/June)
This is an amazing retelling of Rumpelstiltskin! It feels so original, fleshed out, and real. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful and most of all it’s a whole journey!
The Bones Beneath, by Vanessa Fogg, in Podcastle (June)
Vanessa has a talent for creating great emotions in very short spaces and this is no exception. How does it feel when your neighbor has done horrible things that you were too afraid to stop? How can the victims of a civil war move on when they live side by side with the oppressor? How can you honor old friends, who died a horrible and unfair death? Vanessa does an amazing job of navigating all of these with nuance.
Feeding on the Thamirabarani Metro, by M. L. Krishnan in Fractured Lit (June)
This is a very short story that’s filled to the brim with rage and hurt and hunger and all wrapped up in gorgeous prose.
An Old Man Cometh and He Is Overgrown, by Lyndsie Manusos, in Lightspeed (July)
I love this story! Such lush worldbuilding and deep characterization. The ending crushed me.
Serenissima, by E. Lily Yu, in Sunday Morning Transport (July)
A rich story about the importance of legacy and finding a place in the world away from others’ expectations. Also sacred gulls and the taste of sun itself.
The Morning House, by Kate Heartfield, in Podcastle (July)
What does it mean to draw strength from your own self on bad days, when there is nothing else to reach for? This is what this story is exploring and it does so wonderfully. It’s quiet story that drips melancholy and love with every phrase. It leaves you warm inside and reminds you to be a little kinder to yourself. Especially on bad days.
Whole, by Somto Ihezue, in Cossmass Infinities (July)
Such a gorgeous prose, like seriously amazing prose that you feel in your bones. This story is mythic and intimate, raw and tender and has just the perfect ending.
Migratory Patterns of The Modern American Skyscraper, by Derrick Boden, in Clarkesworld (August)
I love a flash that can pack so much in such a small space. This is a fable about migrating skyscrapers, a sharp critique on late-stage capitalism and gentrification, but also a hopeful story of community where marginalized people find a way to build their own unique culture between the cracks.
The Green Man’s Wife, by Archita Mittra, in Tasavvur (August)
This story packed so many emotions and lush worldbuilding as the protagonist descends to the world of the Fay and the Green Man. There were so many turns to this story and the prose didn’t let me put it down.
Wanderlust, by LP Kindred, in Anathema Magazine (August)
This is such a warm and lush love story that spans multiverses. It comes for your heart and doesn’t let go.
D.I.Y., by John Wiswell, in Tor.com (August)
This was one of the most hopeful stories I have read in quite a while. Loved the two protagonists and the ending left me cheering. Treat yourself with it!
Raindrop Doughnuts for Women Raining Inside, by Jana Bianchi, in Translunar Travelers Lounge (August)
I would call this story soft sci-fi. This is a kind of ghost story and a kind of time travel story. Reading old recipes written by generations past is a type of time travel. The trick is always what we are going to add to the recipe for the generations to come. Just lovely!
Elsewhere, Elsewhen, by L. Chan, in Giganotosaurus (August)
Is there a way to colonize and exploit the concept of time? The sheer ingenuity of the premise blows my mind. This story is only around 6k and it feels like I just read a whole novel. A lesson on the interplay of worldbuilding and plotting.
A Dervish among the Graves of Ghazni, by Tanvir Ahmed, in The Deadlands (September)
This is such an original story of love that beats death! If you like the tale of Orpheus and Euridice, you will find much to love in this completely fresh story that has a bittersweet ending. Just spellbinding!
The Weight of It All, by Jennifer Hudak, in Fantasy Magazine (September)
This story by pulls exactly zero punches when it comes to talking about ED. It’s also very tender and hopeful in a way that feels real and possible.
The Inheritance of Dust and Leather, by Jenny Rae Rappaport, in Lightspeed (September)
This is a heartbreaking, yet unexpected retelling that contemplates what happily ever after really means when looking like monster was never really the curse.
The Probability of One, by Jen Brown, in Fantasy Magazine (September)
A mind-blowing and time-bending story. It’s doing so much in such a little space. Builds up and brings crushing down empires, somewhere, somewhen…
12 Things a Trini Should Know Before Travelling to a Back in times Fete™, by R. S. A. Garcia, in Strange Horizons (October)
This story was such a journey! I love time travel stories that also say so much about the realities of the past and our society and still manage to be hopeful and full of humanity.
Sharp Things, Killing Things, by A.C. Wise, in Nightmare Magazine (October)
This is another example of how A.C. Wise makes the reality disintegrate around you so fast you never know what hit you. Heartbreaking and unforgettable, like a haunting.
This Excessive Use of Pickled Foods, by Leora Spitzer, in Khoreo (October/November)
A sweet (and salty!), funny, yet melancholic story about diaspora, anti-assimilation, empathy, and finding a new place and new way to be yourself.
What Are We If I Stay, by K.S. Walker, in Baffling Magazine (October)
This is a story about portals and the sudden change they can bring. Sometimes that change might be hopeful and sometimes there might be something else going on. That ending had me looking for more!
The Black and White, by Aigner Loren Wilson, in Fantasy Magazine (October)
This story doesn’t hold back when it comes to messy family relationships, identity, and the slow healing that comes when people face the past together, pick up the pieces and create something new.
Rabbit Test, by Samantha Mills, in Uncanny (November)
This story wasn’t just a gut-punch. It was several gut-punches. Sam knows how to take a story to lengths and depths few writers can. It’s an amazing skill to have. Go read it!
Rapunzel House, by K.C. Mead-Brewer, in The Rumpus (November)
When KC read us the first part of this story, we were left hungry for the rest. I finally got to read the whole story and all I have to say is: don’t miss on this wildly imaginative descent into the Rapunzel House. You won’t be able to put it down.
Immaculate, by Avra Margariti, in Seize the Press (November)
This is a great example of how Avra can write the type of body horror that feels delicious and beautiful, but hides under your skin like a splinter.
Sister, Silkie, Siren, Shark, by M. A. Blanchard, in Strange Horizons (November)
This story is sharp and threatens to break your heart from the start. It’s melancholy in all the right places. It comes from the salt of the ocean with a breath of hope for wind.
Last Stand of the E. 12th St. Pirates, by L.D. Lewis, in Lightspeed (December)
What a gut punch at the end! A powerful story about people trying to survive in a world that’s drowning literally and metaphorically by injustice.
Our Heartstrings Howl the Moon, by Eleanna Castroianni, in Strange Horizons (December)
Read this story if you want to cry today and also learn about the kid-grabbing practices in Greece during the civil war and afterwards. It captures the freedom and helplessness of the children group perfectly.
Skin, by Isha Karki, in khōréō (December) This story is so, so tactile in the way is shows how sometimes we peel the many layers of ourselves, in the fear that the wrong people might see the truth of us. Just a lovely heartbreak.
L’Homme de Houbigant, by Jonathan Louis Duckworth and Joe Koch, in The Deadlands (December)
This was a weird as hell (pun intended) story, with prose so baroque and exquisite, you can almost ignore the perfumed man’s wax mask. Almost. Read it and travel to a surreal and beautiful nightmare