June 2018 Short Story Reading Part II

I’ve been listening to a ton of short story podcasts lately! Mostly Apex, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I’ve fallen a bit (okay, more like a lot) behind on my short story updates, but this post should help get me back on track.

“Cold Blue Sky” by J.E. Bates

There’s a ton of stories out there about robots becoming sentient, but there’s always room for more. “Cold Blue Sky” follows a robot who’s been impounded by the police, who think a mysterious buyer used her to commit a crime. They think she can’t remember her former owner… but she can. I enjoyed this story a lot, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good robot tale.

“The Goddess Has Many Faces” by Ashok K. Banker

I’ve got some conflicting feelings about this story.

In “The Goddess Has Many Faces,” a group of Indian woman have created their own nation, announcing their sovereignty. The Indian government finds this embarrassing and sends an assassin to take care of the problem. I don’t want to give away the entire story, but… (highlight to read spoilers) the woman of the nation follow Kali, and she inhabits the body of their leader. Each time the assassin slays the leader, Kali goes into a new body. The assassin kills hundreds of women and then nukes the entire nation. He thinks he’s finally defeated Kali… but then she inhabits him. (end spoiler)

I know this story is supposed to be commentary on violence against women, but in the end it just feels like an abundance of violence against women.

“A Different Kind of Place” by Tobias Buckell

Anti-vaxers really annoy me. They’re selfish, short-sighted, and anti-science. My mother works at a children’s hospital, and so many of the immune-compromised kids there are endangered by parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids.

“A Different Kind of Place” is a story about the dangers of anti-vaxers… with zombies. The protagonist is one of the only brown people in a small California town that is only about a hundred miles away from a major zombie breakout. The CDC has created a vaccine for zombism, but so many people in this town refuse to get the vaccination. They insist that they and their town are different and better than those that have zombie problems and that they don’t need it.

“A Different Kind of Place” is one of the few science fiction stories I’ve read that deals with the anti-vaxer movement, and it also has some underlying thoughts about how racism plays into it.

“The Moon Over Red Trees” by Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard writes some beautiful short stories, and “The Moon Over Red Trees” was one of these. Clarisse is determined to reclaim her family possession stolen by a colonizer. Her sister was likewise determined, but her path led her to a jail cell. Clarisse has a different plan.

“Violets on the Tongue” by Nin Harris

Okay, this story was really strange. It sounds like Earth is basically dying, but some people are able to escape to another planet where they start metamorphosing in strange ways? It wasn’t a bad story, but it might not have been the best to listen to on audio.

“She Who Hungers, She Who Waits” by Cassandra Khaw

Mei Huang peels back her clients skin and roots around inside them to find their deaths. She removes what she finds, giving her clients the chance for a better death and a longer life. But this time, she’s made a mess of the operation, and she may have to accelerate her plans.

“Clap Your Hands” by Andrew F. Kooy

Five’s abusive father is a traveling preacher, whose revivals claim he can preform miracles. But it is Five who actually causes a miracle.

This story ended sooner than I thought it would. I suppose I expected some sort of redemption for the protagonist, but the ending was a lot more ambivalent. But it was a strong image to go out on.

“A Green Moon Problem” by Jane Lindskold

I had some issues with this story.

Tatter D’MaLeon solves problems, for a price. But her solution may not be what you want or expect. Jurgen Haines’s problem is a woman: he’s in love with a scientist (Rita) who cares much more for her pursuit of alien existence than him. Here’s the description:

“It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with Rita Lathrop, rather that while she loved very well, in the way Jurgen Haines wanted her to love, she was incapable. Although she was capable of enjoying intimacy with men or women or any mixture of the types, her burning passion was reserved for her quest.”

This was when the story began to rub me the wrong way. Rita’s lack of romantic interest in Jurgen is not a problem to be solved. It’s not a problem at all! The real problem is Jurgen’s unwillingness to acknowledge that she doesn’t share his feelings.

Of course, Jurgen’s wish is granted in a way he wouldn’t want, so there’s that. But I’m still sort of salty over the whole thing.

“Graveyard Girls on Paper Phoenix Wings” by Andrea Tang

My feelings towards “Graveyard Girls on Paper Phoenix Wings” are a lot more positive. If you want a cute, queer story than this one is for you.

Magdalisa is a groundskeeper at a cemetery for wayward woman when a sky-sailor crashes into the cemetery. He belongs to an oppressed religious minority, but Magdalisa is able to use her scant authority to protect him. But what sort of life is it to be stuck within the grounds of a cemetery?

“The Weaver and the Snake” by Blaine Vitallo

“The Weaver and the Snake” is one of those beautifully-written, original fairy tales I enjoy. A giant snake has begun eating cities… the buildings of cities. All settlements and cities are in danger, and our protagonist begins to realize that her life’s work may not live past her.

“Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud” by Fran Wilde

I enjoyed Fran Wilde’s Updraft, and I’ve always meant to read the sequels. I just haven’t gotten around to it. Anyway, this story is set in the same world. Calli is the daughter of a wingmaker, who makes the silk and bone wings people use to fly between the towers. Only, he has two problems: his gambling addition that leaches all of his funds, and the customers’ growing questions as to why his own daughter won’t fly. They take it as a sign that his wings may not be safe, but actually, Calli is just afraid of the heights. Over the course of the story, she’ll have to face her fears.

Out of this roundup’s stories, my favorite was “A Different Kind of Place.” Runner up would be “Graveyard Girls on Paper Phoenix Wings.”

Have you read any good stories lately? Know of any short story podcasts I should listen to? Let me know in the comments!

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