August 2017 SFF Short Fiction Reading Part One

I’ll admit, I read most of these stories in July, but my posting schedule didn’t leave me with a free day for short stories any sooner. Many of these are from the recommendations for queer short stories I received on Twitter (I’m still going through them!), although I’ve been exploring other stories as well.

“Terminós” by Dean Francis Alfar

In this story, time can be bought and sold. One day, a man goes to Mr. Henares, a merchant of time, wishing to sell all that he has remaining.

“The Bridgegroom” by Bo Balder

Alois is a university student who’s returned for the summer to help his family on the farm. Then the old bridgegroom dies, and Alois is (against his will) appointed as the new guardian of the ancient bridge.

“A Thing with Teeth” by Nino Cipri

If hope is “a thing with feathers,” than what is grief? After the death of her loved one, a woman begins consuming the possessions she left behind.

“Children of Thorns, Children of Water” by Aliette de Bodard

Thuan is a member of the imperial dragon family, but he’s of a minor branch… and therefore disposable. He and his friend Kim Cuc are sent to infiltrate House Hawthorn, one of the houses of Fallen angels that control this magical, post-apocalyptic Paris. This story is set in the same world as Aliette de Bodard’s novel The House of Shattered Wings.

“Last Chance” by Nicole Kornher-Stace

This story is set in the same world as her novel Archivist Wasp (which you really should read) but has an entirely different cast of characters and takes place in a different local. Basically, think Mad Max but with the occasional ghost. The protagonist of this story is the young child of the king’s torturer who gets caught out on the road by scav raiders and taken as a slave. It’s not a happy story, but there’s a note of hope at the end.

“The Queen’s Aviary” by Yoon Ha Lee

This is a flash fiction fairy tale, about a queen with a prophecy that her death will be caused by a bird.

“How to Remember to Forget to Remember the Old War” by Rose Lemberg

There’s a claustrophobic element to this story, which is deeply enmeshed in the mind of a psychologically (and physically) scarred narrator, who is still haunted by memories of an interstellar war. TW: self harm, suicide.

“Written on the Hides of Foxes” by Alex Dally MacFarlane

This story takes place in the harsh world of the taiga and follows a woman who’s family is cursed. During winter, all animals flee from them, and to survive they must carve dolls to put into the cooking pot.

“The Wish-Giver” by Ana Mardoll

This short story is available on author Ana Mardoll’s blog. I’ll admit I’d never read anything else by Mardoll prior to this story, but that may have to change. In this adorable transgender fairy tale, a dragon grants wishes to all who defeat her in battle.

“The Witch in the Tower” by Mari Ness

This re-vamped “Rapunzel” focuses on the witch. The length is flash fiction, a really quick read.

“Melioration” by E. Saxey

In this flash fiction sci-fi story, a scientist invents a device that can make someone forget a word, but the narrator worries about the ethics of it. Even if someone is unable to vocalize a slur, it doesn’t change the thought process that made them try and reach for it.

The Lily and the Horn by Catherynne M. Valente (art by Goñi Montes)
Art by Goñi Montes

“The Lily and the Horn” by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente can sure write! This story is beautifully told with gorgeous imagery. In this world, battles are no longer fought on fields but instead at the dining tables. The Lily constructs a meal of poison, and the Horn seeks to provide her family’s proxies with protection from the deadly substances.

“Wendy, Darling” by A.C. Wise

She’s the only one of her siblings who can remember, and her brothers think she’s crazy. It was decades ago, but she still remembers the boy who took them to Neverland. So she recognizes him when he comes for her daughter.

“Cold Hands and the Smell of Salt” by J.Y. Yang

Anja’s husband died years ago, but an apparition of him has shown up at her front gate. This flash fiction fairy tale is both romantic and spooky.

“Dancing with Fire” by Caroline M. Yoachim

What happens when a water spirit falls in love with a fire spirit? This flash story tells of their love story.

If I have to chose a favorite, I think I’m going with “The Lily and the Horn,” with “Written on the Hide of Foxes” as a runner up.


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