Hello everyone! Here is a long-delayed selection of short stories I’ve read this summer. I may have read some of these in June! So most of my commentary will be brief, as I want to get this out of the way.
“When You’re Ready” by M. Ian Bell
I liked this story a lot. The narrator is constantly regenerating a computer simulated boy, raising him from infancy to adulthood, looking for a slim but necessary outcome by subtly changing the input stimuli. What is the narrator looking for, and what is the narrator’s relationship to the boy?
“Say, She Toy” by Chesya Burke
TW: sexual assault, racism
This story is very dark, but I’m not going to forget it anytime soon. It combines the familiar narrative of sexually abused female robots with the hatred America has for black women. In this story, a black female robot is rented out for white men to act out there sexist and racist frustrations on. The story takes its hope in identity and community, and ultimately adds a note of light to the bleakness.
“The Huntsman’s Sequence” by Octavia Cade
I was not a huge fan of this one. It combines the tale of “Snow White” with the real life of Alan Turing, which is an interesting idea… it just didn’t jive for me.
“Heron of Earth” by Vajra Chandrasekera
In contrast, I did enjoy this next story. In a far future, post-human intelligence is revitalizing an abandoned Earth and have created a small group of humans to act as caretakers. Only one remains, wandering among the Eden of an Earth with no other humans.
“The Heaven-Moving Way” by Chi Hui
It’s impressive that a short story can be this epic! It’s got vast, sweeping expanse of some of the best space operas, and it’s only 4,300 words.
“The Bells” by Lyndsie Manusos
This one’s sort of like Pinnochio crossed with all those aforementioned stories of sexually abused female robots. Obviously, it’s a dark story. It was compelling enough to get me to read all the way through it, but ultimately it’s using ideas I’ve seen frequently… “Say, She Toy” has similar aspects but felt like it was saying something. “The Bells” does feel like it has commentary on sexism, but it’s still not really working for me.
“Not Now” by Chelsea Muzar
I found this one interesting. It’s clearly dealing with racism and xenophobia through the use of robots. The main character is an Asian American girl who has a giant robotic hand fall out of the sky and punch a hole in her bedroom. She’s trying to create a sense of normalcy for herself when her parents are both depressed and distant and reporters crowd her front lawn.
“Vault” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires
In a future where water is scarce, two surveyors are sent out across an abandoned planet. Of course, they find something unexpected.
“Intro to Prom” by Genevieve Valentine
“Intro to Prom” is another story that’s lingered with me, even though I read it almost a month ago. Four teenagers endlessly reenact prom, trying on different variations and storylines, trying to distract themselves from this knowledge: they are trapped in an abandoned bubble city where the glass dome is cracking.
“Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon
Ursula Vernon never ceases to delight. In “Pocosin,” one of Vernon’s familiar character types (a wise, magical old woman) finds that the god of possums has crawled under her porch to die.
“A Sister’s Weight in Stones” by JY Yang
Wow, this story packed an emotional punch. Little Phoenix’s sister was stolen by a dragon on the way to Hong Kong, and she’s determined to get him back. Be warned, this doesn’t follow the path of most fantasy stories.
“The No-One Girl and the Flower of the Further Shore” by E. Lily Yu
E. Lily Yu crafts an original fairy tale. It’s beautifully told, but I didn’t find it as impactful as some of the other stories this roundup.
Choosing a favorite this time is hard! The ones that had the biggest impacts on me were “Say She Toy,” “The Heaven Moving Way,” “Intro to Prom,” and “A Sister’s Weight in Stones.” I can’t narrow it down any farther!
What short fiction have you been reading lately?