December 2017 SFF Short Fiction Reading Part III

Hello! I’m mixing it up a little bit more this week. Some of these are from the Quick Sips Rec list, some are stories I had bookmarked, and some I chose on the spur of the moment. I want to make my own “2017 Recommended Short Fiction” list so I’ve got a lot of reading to do!

“The Şiret Mask” by Marie Brennan

Maybe my expectations were too high? I heard this was a fantasy heist story, and I got so excited. You guys know how much I love heists. But then I figured out the twist pretty quickly, and there wasn’t a whole lot else in the story to excite me.

“The Ache of Home” by Maurice Broaddus

Celeste, a community organizer, has powers over plants. She can sense them, make them grow, ect. But will it help her when she comes head to head with an older power who’s hell bent on putting an upscale grocery store in a neighborhood whose residents can’t afford it?

“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya

This is undoubtedly my favorite story I’ve ready by S.B. Divya. Kalyani is an autistic Indian girl who is given a boon by a passing sage. She asked for a friend, and he gave her a magic beetle. Forewarning, there’s some ableism in the sections told from Kalyani’s brother’s POV.

“Of Letters They Are Made” by Jonathan Edelstein

A story for people who love stories — so probably everyone reading this post! The main character is a magician and a story-seller. In the world of this short story, magicians can gather stories and give them vivid life in the telling.

“Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory

I got excited when I saw Daryl Gregory’s name, and I wasn’t disappointed. “Second Person, Present Tense” asks what is consciousness? What makes you you? I think it’s set in the same world as Afterparty. Regardless, it deals with the effects of drugs. Therese overdosed on Zen, which disrupts the connection between the conscious mind and the body. The neural pathways that made her Therese have been lost, and now a new person lives in her body. Terry is only about two years old, and she’s spent her entire life in a hospital. She has all of Therese’s memories, but she’s not Therese. Unfortunately, Therese’s parents insist on treating her like she is. Wonderful in both concept and execution, “Second Person, Present Tense” is a story I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.

“Water like Air” by Laura Grey

In this flash fiction story, a water nymph becomes fascinated with an elderly widower.

“Elsewhere” by Meera Jhala

When Mrs. Bhatia was a child, her father begun saving up money for her to immigrate to another planet and to escape the dying Earth. But when she’s grown, she’s still saving money for her son to immigrate. I liked the family focus of this story and how it had an older protagonist.

“The Stars that Fall” by Samantha Murray

For most of this flash fiction story, I was sort of “ho hum” about it. Then the ending happened. Oh, man that changed my mind real quick. In this story, every person has a doom — a rock in the sky that will someday crash to earth and kill them.

“The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer

“The Secret Life of Bots” is one of my favorite stories this round up. I may need to search out more tales from Suzanne Palmer. An old robot, 9, wakes up on a ship that’s in very bad condition. Despite the numerous structural difficulties, it’s given one task: to track and dispose of the Incidental, a biological infestation that has been causing problems on the ship.

“The Dragonslayer of Merebarton” by K.J. Parker

Wow, do I have complicated feelings about this story. I liked it, but at the same time I felt it was sort of sexist, which prevents me from whole heartedly enjoying the story. The most important female character is the narrator’s nagging wife, and none of the women in the story are named. Otherwise, it’s the tale of a knight past his prime who’s called out to deal with a dragon.

“Portrait of Skull with Man” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

After “Fandom for Robots,” I vowed to check out more of Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s work. “Portrait of Skull with Man” is a story filled with macabre humor. It starts with an ad for a male artist’s model. He’ll pose for free, but he has one condition: every piece of him must contain the skull he carries there with him.

“The Last Spell of the Raven” by Morris Tanafon

Another good story.  In this historical fantasy story, every magician has only five spells. Once they use all five, they die. The narrator, Galen, uses his first spell when he’s only five year’s old, and the story goes from there through each spell he uses.

“The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” (Part 1) by Cathrynne Valente

Cathrynne Valente’s work can be hit or miss for me. This one was a miss, for much the same reasons The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland was. If you liked that book, you might enjoy this short story about a girl who lives in a strange, colorful world.

“Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells

I’ve been meaning to read this story forever, and I’m glad I finally got to it. Nata’s a blind smuggler who pilots her own ship, the Goodluck Gray Pearl. When she’s asked to smuggle a mysterious container, the money’s so good she doesn’t ask what’s inside. While “Angel of the Blockade” has a lot of usual tropes, it puts a fresh spin on them.

“Her Last Breath Before Waking” by A.C. Wise

This definitely wasn’t my favorite A.C. Wise story, but I also think it improved as it went on. The architect dreams of remaking the city into a vision of glass and steel, everything new, because who needs history? The architect’s lover longs for the city how it is, and she reveals in connections to the past. As the architect’s vision unfolds, the two women grow apart from each other.

My favorite of these was “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory, and “Of Letters They Are Made,” “Angel of the Blockade,” and “The Secret Life of Bots” are all runners up.

Any stories I need to be sure to read before I make my rec list?

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