October 2017 SFF Short Fiction Reading Part I

It’s been a while since I’ve last done a short story update, but I promise that I haven’t forgotten about short fiction!

Influence Isolated, Make Peace

“勢孤取和 (Influence Isolated, Make Peace)” by John Chu

In this sci-fi story, a group of cybogs on a military base try to pass as human, plotting their eventual escape. And they may have an ally — Tyler figured out Jake was a cyborg right away, but something’s growing between them. Unfortunately, I found this story pretty similar to a lot of other stories by John Chu. He seems to really like cyborgs, and this story failed to make much of an impression.

“Tumbledown” by Kameron Hurley

When I was a kid, I remember learning about a time in Alaska where there was a sickness and the only way to get medicine to the town was by sled. This story is a science fiction variation on that idea, with a disabled woman racing across an alien tundra.

“The Death of Paul Bunyan” by Charles Payseur

Johnny Appleseed’s been told that Paul Bunyan, his former lover, is dead, and he’s heading North. I know only the vaguest outlines of the tall tales this story is drawing on, but I was still intrigued by the reflections of an immortal legend contemplating the end of a story.

“The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery” by Catherynne M. Valente

The narrator of this story is rather odious, but at least he’s memorable. At first, I was uncertain if I’d enjoy this story, but over a week later I can still clearly recall some lines and images that stuck with me. Catherynne M. Valente is a true master of her craft.

“Toad Words” by Ursula Vernon

In this flash fiction story, Ursula Vernon retells the fairy tale “Diamonds and Toads” through the perspective of the stepsister cursed to drop toads and frogs whenever she speaks. But a curse may be an unintentional blessing.

“Five Stages of Grief After the Alien Invasion” by Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim goes through the five stages of grief and five different POV characters to depict humankind’s reaction to an alien invasion that killed many. The aliens claim it was an accident, but I wonder if it really was.

If I had to choose one of these stories to recommend, I’d go with either “Toad Words” or “Five Stages of Grief After the Alien Invasion.” I loved Vernon’s characteristically charming take on this fairy tale, and I admired how Yoachim used different perspectives to craft her tale.


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