July 2022 Short Story Reading Post

Photo of handwritten notes — key sections extracted below

This post is a roughly tidied version of my July 2022 tweets about short stories. It was curtailed by travel, but is still quite long, so I’m putting the rest of it below the cut. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post.

Also a warning: I was either in transit or badly jetlagged for a lot of this. Coherency may vary.

Parts of this will very likely end up in other posts in the future, when the ideas gather enough weight (see, for example, Purgatorial stories). A few of the themes emerging this month include:

  • authorial confidence
  • the edges of what feels like a story
  • futurist vs narrative stories
  • the surface tension of a short story, and open vs closed story-shapes
  • the different ways an author builds out a big idea into a story
  • variant shapes of grief and loss
  • the effect of a repeated/apparently unvarying mood
  • variations on the “logical” progressions of moods
  • what we write about when we write about bees
  • salvation from/through/vs the machines
  • realism vs enchantment; loss of the wondrous
  • the effect of many scene breaks (baroque, here, strobing elsewhere)
  • what is second-person really

Background and related posts:

So, to begin…

  • The Travel Guide to the Dimension of Lost Things” — Effie Seiberg (Podcastle, 2022 — the protagonist, dealing with depression, arrives in and must make their way through the (helpful) dimension of lost things) 4,542
    • meh – ugh — fine
    • exhausted — put upon — brave
    • beginning — doubting — keeping on
    • effort — plateau — climb
    • stay — incremental —return

The trajectory here appears more upward than in some of the chronic illness stories, although in an Escherian fashion. But “The Travel Guide…” belongs to that process>goal set of stories.

Big fan of the hamster.

  • The Crooked House” — Jonathan Lethem (The New Yorker, 2021 — an academic specialising in “environmental analysis” explores a collapsing tesseract structure built to house the unsheltered) 4,680
    • oddity — purpose — distraction
    • observer — investigator — observed
    • inside — outside — inward
    • curiosities — ‘problems’ — puzzles
    • observing — objectifying — acted upon
    • maze — prison — choices

This story has an interesting structure, folding in on itself with questions of conflation and practical equivalencies and observation vs implication. The structure passes judgement, and yet within the story it is doubtful whether anything is learned.

These two stories (“The Travel Guide…” above and “The Crooked House”) present quite different takes on a central idea: that of navigating a constantly resetting, didactically-reshaping dimension which exists to house the disregarded.

  • The Very Pulse of the Machine” — Michael Swanwick (Clarkesworld, 2016 reprint; Asimov’s 1998 — after an accident, an astronaut towing her dead companion’s body across Io towards safety finds that corpse eager to begin a conversation) 6,570
    • despair — connection — possibility
    • determination — calculation — temptation
    • human — abject — glory
    • doubt — truth/proof — trust
    • stir — power — offer
    • contact — communication — dealing

The very clear, coherent, smooth-arcing shape suits several aspects of the story: the straightforward progression of the narrative (after the initial very brief flashforward), the confidence of the voice and — particularly — the themes and allusions that emerge. And that aura of confidence in turn gives power and a degree of certainty to the ambiguous ending — there are two ways this could go, and one way to find out, and how you read it perhaps depends on your relationship to the themes, but how the character will act is not going to be in doubt.

Every so often I read a story with a peculiarly confident tone — often that comes from the author’s experience and skill, but sometimes it is very much of a mode or era. “The Very Pulse of the Machine” won a Hugo, of course, and has been adapted. But it also has something I associate with sweeping late-90s/early-2000s SF in particular, and which Lauren Ring’s much more recent “One Hundred Seconds to Midnight” (see here in the April notes) tapped into rather satisfyingly. Anyway, that’s something to chase down in more detail later. But it is a mode that, while efficient (or perhaps in its efficiency) makes me as a reader feel that even if this isn’t my home sub-genre, I am in very safe authorial hands.

  • E.I.” — Kola Heyward-Rotimi (Reckoning Press, 2022 — in a world monitored by sensors, where the earth has a vote in decisions, a soil delegate proposes to raise an ancient building) 4,824
    • (new) everyday — so it goes (now) — next steps (daily)
    • extra-human — human — increments
    • new — practical — trajectory
    • strange hope — striving — strive again

“E.I.” borders on future slice-of-life, and comes close to the futurist-exploratory mode of e.g. “Shared Data” (see here in the June post).

However, that slice-of-life-adjacent story shape (everyday — so it goes — next steps) pulls it more into a familiar narrative shape. (The little side-vignettes keep it anchored in the broader future speculative).

The story has some elements in common with more futurist stories: it deals with the trajectory of future solutions not being smooth, there’s a pattern of attempting something not being eased by technology but undertaken within that framework (the human reactions remaining human)… I’m intrigued by the border between the futurist-exploratory examination mode vs stories working with similar material and questions that feel inherently more story-shaped.

  • Esther (1855)” — Juan Martinez (Nightmare Magazine, 2022 — a dead child follows a dying caravan of Saints towards their promised land) 1,713
    • grim — eerie — ghastly
    • bleak — bleaker — unredeemed
    • faith — holding to it — dawn (potentially negative)
    • keep on — too unwavering — change
    • persistence — driven to edge — desperate

This story starts well after its beginning, and ends before a conclusive end, and yet (a) it is indubitably story-shaped and (b) that close-cropping adds to the endless, unrelieved feeling of the setting and experienced: this might always have been/will be happening.

There’s a great interview here, by Devin Marcus, which touches on aspects of the writing and the uses of titles: Author Spotlight — Juan Martinez.

“Esther (1855)” has a very different shape to the last Martinez story I read, but like “A Subscribers-Only Sneak Peek Into the Preliminary Report on the Conditions of the Camps” (see here in the January notes) it is a story told in motion, and which derives much of its narrative power from certainty of a viewpoint (challenged or unwavering).

  • The Many Taste Grooves of the Chang Family” — Allison King (Diabolical Plots, 2022 — siblings hesitantly agree to order a biotech/data device to help their father access his memories) 3,510
    • weary — reminiscent — pleased
    • intrigued — worried — reassured
    • distaste — overlays of memories — depths of reality

This has a different shape to what I’m used to from coming-to-terms stories, and although it skates close to magical-food story shapes (which I sometimes take issue with: (see Food as magic and other quibbles), it doesn’t quite go there. And the little engine of the story is not what it appears/feels on the surface. It could be described equally well as: “the players in the game — the first round — the rematch”. That’s largely concealed, but it brings a lot of joy, and isn’t a common shape for a story of illness and memory loss.

  • Master of Ceremonies” — Frances Ogamba (The Dark Magazine, 2022 — the inheritor of a blessed (or cursed) microphone knows it should not be used for funerals, and yet…) 4,359
    • pride — folly — fate
    • myth — choice — sinking
    • gamble — fear — certainty
    • risk — loss — depth
    • failure to really learn — inkling — pursued

Those first two shapes (pride — folly — fate / myth — choice — sinking) were what first occurred to me. But they were too obvious — it was the long history of pride-fall stories imposing itself on what I was reading. While those moods are definitely in this story, the first two (pride-folly; myth-choice) are so compressed they really become one mood: a story you know, the pride-fall, the old story of treating something mythic too casually.

But the full story becomes about the consequences, drawing them out and leaning on them until they separate into two variations on that mood — like drawing out a short word until it breaks into two syllables:

  • The loss and what that really means.
  • The fear shifting into certainty.
  • The knowledge of a bad choice hardening as that choice keeps playing out.

It’s an interesting way to adjust the impact of what could be a standard deployment of a classic story shape. (It could also perhaps be applied to an outright retelling.)

Also, I love the specificity of the mythic power and object in this — the master of ceremonies and the microphone.

Finally, while “Master of Ceremonies” is nothing like the “Old Gangsters Never Die” song, in setting or era or story, it fits into the same sort of 20th-century-mythologising space in my head.

  • The Mechanical Turk Has A Panic Attack” — Francis Bass (Uncharted Magazine, 2022 — waitstaff impersonating androids struggle to cope with the pressure and dehumanisation) 2,373
    • pressure — ratchet — abrupt
    • dehumanise — mounting demands — humans
    • trick — panic — trick

There’s a little… not sleight-of-hand, but a quick-step at the end of this story. It is neither utterly grim nor presenting a solution, but keeping space for the humanity within a situation.

The story pairing that leaps to mind is Meg Elison’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Served With Fries” (see here in the February notes) where the relief is sympathetic but external to humanity.

  • Nobody Ever Goes Home to Zhenzhu” — Grace Chan (Light Speed Magazine, 2022 — the protagonist uses data to pursue their absent mechanic to his home planet, and into a deeper understanding of the system’s historical records) 3,591
    • puzzled — answers — strands
    • pursuing — observing — coordinating
    • exasperation — crisis — cleanup
    • intellectual — emotional — visceral

The last mood of the last dot-point (“visceral”) in fact loops through visceral & emotional back into the mind, but the emotional and mental aspects have gathered a lot more visceral impact by then.

The Author Spotlight at the end of the story’s also interesting. The last of Chan’s stories I read, while also based on a big idea the author wanted to play with, built the idea out differently. Quite clear in “As Though I Were a Little Sun” (see here in June notes), more action-submerged in “Nobody Ever Goes Home to Zhenzhu”.

  • One Day the Cave Will Be Empty” — KJ Chien (Fantasy Magazine, 2022 — after a woman gives birth to a mermaid child, she and her fisherman husband keep their growing daughter a secret) 4,800
    • revulsion — resentment — release
    • fear of — fear for — realisations
    • secrets — suppression — losing hold
    • hold — grip — fracture

The moods in this story have a beautifully fluid and integrated progression. The story is also a study in the effect a final note of a story can have on a mood — it’s easy to characterise that last part negatively (fracture, losing hold), but the last few sentences transform its impact.

  • Salt and Smoke” — Storm Blakley (Future Fire, 2022 — a woman who grimly resents her inherited ability to sense and aid spirits is followed home by a beautiful ghost) 3,226
    • weariness — attraction — blessing
    • reluctance — drawn in — gifts
    • spark — gleam — glow
    • dispirited — longing — exchange

This is a ghost story and a love story, but also beneath that it’s a coming-to-terms-with-loss story. That shape isn’t the immediately obvious one, but it is distinctly there in an under-layer: “grieving — holding — opening” (and/or maybe: “self — others — amalgam“).

There are also some interesting echoes between the shape of this story and “One Day the Cave Will Be Empty”, immediately above — a different sort of grief, but a story overcoming resistance to what has happened by incorporating the reactions of others.

  • Tulsi” — Dipika Mummery (Tasavvur, 2022 — a chaste and pious woman is tested and targeted by the gods) 2,528
    • fear — grim — free
    • duty — preservation — defiance
    • consequences (unjust) — consequences (of others’ actions) — consequences (choice)
    • acted upon — fallout — stand

I’m always interested in stories that can be read as leaning into the same mood repeatedly. The “consequences x 3” shape suits a story about a character who is acted upon by external forces despite her continual best efforts, until she is finally driven into a corner.

Both this and “Salt and Smoke” (immediately above) follow characters who are apparently passive vs the plot, or who are at least doing their best to fly under the radar. I have a soft spot for characters who are weary, evasive, put-upon, and otherwise unfairly pursued by the narrative.

  • Void’s Mouth” — Marisca Pichette (Fusion Fragment, 2022 — after constellations are rationalised and consolidated, a beautiful trap is laid for a newly powerful constellation) 2,134
    • craft — gather — power
    • lyrical — purposeful — ravening
    • beauty — grief — revelling
    • plan — comfort — reveal
    • material/practical — metaphysical/literalised-metaphor — terrible glory

Of course, to refer back to comments above, I also like characters who set out to do a thing and do it — particularly when there’s an element of kicking-the-door-down at some point.

I think “Void’s Mouth” would pair nicely with Yoon Ha Lee’s “Nonstandard Candles” (see here in the March notes). And, more distantly, with Cooper Shrivastava’s “Aptitude” (January notes) and Tashan Mehta’s “Rulebook for Creating a Universe” (April notes).

“Void’s Mouth” also has a lovely clear short story shape: a stated intention, a following through, a revelation of what lies behind the initial plan. It’s a story shape that relies on surface tension to hold together — all the wider world-building is reflections on its surface.

That use of an aesthetic/vibe to contain a miniature story is something Pichette also did in the last of her stories I read: “At the End of Purple Meadow Road” (see here in the April notes).

  • Between the Island and the Deep Blue Sea” — Jaxon Tempest (Podcastle, 2022 — the seas of risen, and the protector of an impossibly floating island is confronted by the curiosity of a scientist) 3,103
    • ominous — alarmed — relax
    • jealous — vicious — generous
    • predatory — justifications — communication
    • cameo — jostle — meet
    • guard — reasons — secrets

Regarding that last shape: it would be easy to rearrange the order of disclosures in the story into the more ‘logical’ “secrets — reasons — actions to guard“. I can certainly imagine a different story being told that way. Rearranging this story (as an exercise) drains its mood and power.

It’s also worth noting the width of the view in this story — a broad present/recency; a day-width present; an immediate anxious present; a long view of the past; a moment-by-moment present. There are better terms to describe that. But “past” and “present” can be close and wide and variously paced, just as even first-person point of view can be nebulous or close or distant.

  • The Daily Commute” — Sarah Gailey (The Sunday Morning Transport, 2022 — as a bee-powered bus slows down, its passengers get impatient) 3,013
    • worry — tension — relief
    • itchy — angry — smooth
    • anxieties — pause — reset
    • individuals — gathering — peace
    • spiky — restless — gentle
    • irritant — exacerbation — reconciliation

Something neat, here, is that the final mood and the final note are threaded humming through the whole story — below or behind the more visible and anxious moods, but very present and often exacerbating them, until everything is reconciled.

(A weird and lovely story)

For fun, consider the last two thematically-connected Sunday Morning Transport stories, Kat Howard’s “Telling the Bees” (here in the January notes) and Sarah Pinsker’s “Now is the Time for Expansion and Growth” (here in the March notes).

Screenshot of linked tweet
Screenshot of linked tweet

The three use very different story shapes for different purposes, but it’s interesting to see some of the echoes: enchantments, building and unsettlement, wonder and an external source of course-correction.

There’s also a question to pursue in there — something about the way we write about bees. What we are writing about when we write about bees.

Kat Howard replied to that comment with what she is writing about when she writes about bees:

Tweet from Kat Howard: This is not in any way meant to be a complete or full answer, but part of it, for me, is that I am fatally allergic to them. So I am writing about death when I write about bees. And also, about the resulting fascination. The desire to look closely at the deadly thing. Reply from KJennings: That is fascinating, and I think the ripples of that are there in the way you write about them — guide/companion, yes, but also an element of the psychopomp
  • Company Town” — Aimee Ogden (Clarkesworld Magazine, 2022 — in an oppressive near-future company town, a woman prepares for industrial action while her girlfriend fights in fantastic wars beyond a magical portal) 5,930
    • exhaustion — tension — (weary) decision
    • follow — waver — lead/build
    • jealous — angry — purposeful
    • waiting — realising untenable — taking action

This story represents an interesting middle-point in the spectrum of salvation-comes-from-outside-the-human stories. Here, the tool is other-worldly but the wielder is human. (See comments after “The Mechanical Turk Has A Panic Attack”, above.

This story pairs magic with near-future-industry, but the role of magic is not dissimilar to how AI & general digital technology often function in stories about untenable situations. Which makes me think back to Nicole Brandon‘s paper at the Glasgow University Once and Future Fantasies Conference: “Let’s Set a Dragon on the Robot Dogs: Using the Fantastic to Explore Our A.I. Imagination”.

I feel like there’s some connection to B Pladek’s “All Us Ghosts” in this conversation (see here in the February notes) — resistance and the digital and fantastic lives.

  • The Owl and the Reptiloid” — Ian Tregillis (The Sunday Morning Transport, 2022 — when aliens arrive over Chicago, they bring three types of dreams and improve Edy’s life… maybe) 3,231
    • spacey — peaced-out — resignedly content
    • encounter openly — yield — consider temptation
    • receive — accept — trade
    • observe — change — remain
    • distant — detached — integrated

This is an interesting story to do the moods on, because the viewpoint character is slightly dissociated/detached/accepting for much of it (indeed, the story is largely about that), so what objectively would be “grand drama — eerie currents — peeling back” becomes muted.

There’s also a shift of some of the “obvious” progressions. For example, “encounter — yield — temptation” feels like the last two moods could be reversed. And “receive — accept — trade” could also be rearranged. An interesting mental exercise is to try those rearrangements. In these cases, rearranging the moods would compress both the story and its effects, shutting off some of the questions and impacts that spin off the edges.

  • The Failing Name” — Eugen Bacon and Seb Doubinsky (Fantasy Magazine, 2021 — a girl is sent from Kinshasa to Paris tries to recreate with enchantment a connection with a boy she once helped) 5,200
    • glimmer — grime — grown
    • pushed — far — too far
    • hope — held down — final reaching
    • promise — cost — mirage
    • saviours — exploiters — sides of coins

There are two threads of magic glimmering through this story — a flickering power, and the mirage of the glamour of a city, and both always not quite in reach.

It’s a story which feels very intricate in the reading, although it progresses fairly linearly. The many short scenes give it an almost beaded texture.

Bacon and Doubinsky talk about the process of collaboratively writing it here: Author Spotlight.

This is also the first of (at least) three stories in a row I read in which enchantment will not save you. Very different stories, points, settings, etc, but a definite series of… if not downbeats then equivocal ones.

  • Hurricane Season” — Avi Burton (Cast of Wonders, 2022 — a girl falls for a storm-girl, who warns that she will one day blow away) 2,234
    • awed — immersed — letting go
    • bashful — enamoured — bereft
    • attracted — floored — clinging •sceptical — confronted — resisting
    • told — shown — played out

This is a much shorter story than “The Failing Name” (above), but also the longer, fewer scenes make the simpler shape even smoother. And it uses a straightforward shape, which helps both keep it short and give a fair bit of room to the atmospheric effects it wants to concentrate on.

It’s a story which is shaped like what it’s about: being told something, being shown it, and then how you’ll react when things happen as you’ve been warned.

While very different to the last Avi Burton story I read (“Six Steps to Become a Saint” — see here in the June notes) which was beaded, ornate and redirected, both stories do feature the taste of salt.

  • “In the Stillness of Bone and Sea” — KT Bryski (Lackingtons #25, 2022 — as a child, the narrator finds escape from family distress in the company of the museum’s mosasaur, until the situation becomes untenable) fairly short
    • enchanted — excluding/hiding — bereft
    • admiring — emulating — torn away
    • follow — further — too far
    • escape — dissociate — harsh light
    • solace — dubious benefit — unwelcome good

The shapes of this story have an echo in AC Wise’s “Jenny Come Up the Well” (see here in the March notes), although the benefit of the fantastic is considerably more equivocally presented in “In the Stillness of Bone and Sea”.

Screenshot of linked tweet

Like Avi Burton’s “Hurricane Season” (above), Bryski’s story involves an approach to the wondrous and a sense of loss. But like Wise and unlike Bryski, Burton presents the wondrous as a definite good (dangerous, but natural & loving) and the final distance as inevitable and therefore not a bad thing.

The three stories have related contours, however: the approach of/to the wondrous, the deepening connection, the tearing away.

Compare this to Eugen Bacon and Seb Doubinsky’s “The Failing Name” (above), which starts with an approach of/to the wondrous, followed by the tearing away, and then a *loss* of connection. The “approach — deepening — loss” structure feels like more of a closed (and therefore potentially shorter) shape, whereas “approach — loss — greater loss” is more open-ended, potentially longer.

Immediately following all these with ANOTHER story about the loss of something wondrous, but with a rather different shape…

  • Objects of Value” — Anamaria Curtis (Strange Horizons, 2022 — a transferrer of memories works through the final days in a beloved floating city on the verge of collapse) 4,672
    • love — love — love
    • businesslike affection — more specific — outspread
    • expectation — anxiety — anticipation
    • focus — out — beyond
    • exist/accept — linger — purpose

This is very different (elegaic, hopeful) story to the last Curtis story I read, the gruesome “Component Parts of a Belated Apology” (see here in the May notes), but both are about following through, completing a self-set task (with some interesting approaches to autonomy).

And I love how the “love — love — love” shape informs everything in this, pressing on it like a good pain, creating elegaic tone and actions. You can see from some of my other attempts to describe the story’s shape how that repeated mood changes, widening and deepening.

It would be interesting to read this story against Soyeon Jeong’s “Ensign” (see here in the April notes) — also about choices to stay or leave in the last era of a city (and also textiles?) and love. But Jeong’s story traces the effects of choices on love — Curtis’ does the opposite, and looks at the effects of love (in various shapes) on choices.

  • Serenissima” — E Lily Yu (The Sunday Morning Transport, 2022 — a sacred seagull pursues her kind’s ancient calling over Venice) 3,105
    • moving — restless — settled
    • purpose — discontent — peace
    • expectations (one source) — expectations (second source) — private acceptance / satisfaction
    • demands — pursued — gift

It’s fairly common for stories to deal with someone breaking out of a role, or finally growing to fit one. Less for a character to gradually fit into their role (although this story is as much about the world as the character, so that works well). But there’s a charming addition in this story of the character keeping her achievement of others’ expectations a comfortable secret.

“Serenissima” is not at all like the last of E Lily Yu’s stories I read (“Small Monsters” — see here in the January notes) — there’s far less abuse and exploitation, for one thing — and yet…

Screenshot of linked tweet

…there is an echoing shape there: demands — demands — establishment. A character wading or gliding or fleeing through a landscape of others’ expectations of them, towards a satisfactory maturity.

  • The Demon Sage’s Daughter” — Varsha Dinesh (Strange Horizons, 2021 — the daughter of the demon sage wants to discover her father’s resurrection spell, and so do the gods) 7,828
    • reworking — frustration — machination
    • considering — reliving — succeeding
    • script — play — trick
    • dependent — independent — … all along
    • stories — emotion — truth
    • visceral — bewitching — purposeful

As a retelling, “The Demon Sage’s Daughter” is one that picks up a story and spins it around to look at several ways to tell it, before settling on one. (It also belongs to that group of retellings that specifically invokes retellings, and calls the possibility of a true tale into doubt.) It takes a doubled tale-behind-the-tale shape: the ‘real’ story behind the known ones, and then the story behind that.

I’m interested in the 2nd-person point of view here. I’ve recently taken issue with some strictures on the “correct” way to write 1st person, so I’m chewing over that — the way certain 1st-person pov can be the functional equivalent of 2nd person; 2nd person as a faceted/emotive 1st/3rd, etc. I’m fully aware that does not yet make sense when written down.

And that’s the end of the July 2022 short story reading notes.

All stories read in this post (with internal links to the first place they’re discussed)

  • The Travel Guide to the Dimension of Lost Things” — Effie Seiberg (Podcastle, 2022 — the protagonist, dealing with depression, arrives in and must make their way through the (helpful) dimension of lost things) 4,542
  • The Crooked House” — Jonathan Lethem (The New Yorker, 2021 — an academic specialising in “environmental analysis” explores a collapsing tesseract structure built to house the unsheltered) 4,680
  • The Very Pulse of the Machine” — Michael Swanwick (Clarkesworld, 2016 reprint; Asimov’s 1998 — after an accident, an astronaut towing her dead companion’s body across Io towards safety finds that corpse eager to begin a conversation) 6,570
  • E.I.” — Kola Heyward-Rotimi (Reckoning Press, 2022 — in a world monitored by sensors, where the earth has a vote in decisions, a soil delegate proposes to raise an ancient building) 4,824
  • Esther (1855)” — Juan Martinez (Nightmare Magazine, 2022 — a dead child follows a dying caravan of Saints towards their promised land) 1,713
  • The Many Taste Grooves of the Chang Family” — Allison King (Diabolical Plots, 2022 — siblings hesitantly agree to order a biotech/data device to help their father access his memories) 3,510
  • Master of Ceremonies” — Frances Ogamba (The Dark Magazine, 2022 — the inheritor of a blessed (or cursed) microphone knows it should not be used for funerals, and yet…) 4,359
  • The Mechanical Turk Has A Panic Attack” — Francis Bass (Uncharted Magazine, 2022 — waitstaff impersonating androids struggle to cope with the pressure and dehumanisation) 2,373
  • Nobody Ever Goes Home to Zhenzhu” — Grace Chan (Light Speed Magazine, 2022 — the protagonist uses data to pursue their absent mechanic to his home planet, and into a deeper understanding of the system’s historical records) 3,591
  • One Day the Cave Will Be Empty” — KJ Chien (Fantasy Magazine, 2022 — after a woman gives birth to a mermaid child, she and her fisherman husband keep their growing daughter a secret) 4,800
  • Salt and Smoke” — Storm Blakley (Future Fire, 2022 — a woman who grimly resents her inherited ability to sense and aid spirits is followed home by a beautiful ghost) 3,226
  • Tulsi” — Dipika Mummery (Tasavvur, 2022 — a chaste and pious woman is tested and targeted by the gods) 2,528
  • Void’s Mouth” — Marisca Pichette (Fusion Fragment, 2022 — after constellations are rationalised and consolidated, a beautiful trap is laid for a newly powerful constellation) 2,134
  • Between the Island and the Deep Blue Sea” — Jaxon Tempest (Podcastle, 2022 — the seas of risen, and the protector of an impossibly floating island is confronted by the curiosity of a scientist) 3,103
  • The Daily Commute” — Sarah Gailey (The Sunday Morning Transport, 2022 — as a bee-powered bus slows down, its passengers get impatient) 3,013
  • Company Town” — Aimee Ogden (Clarkesworld Magazine, 2022 — in an oppressive near-future company town, a woman prepares for industrial action while her girlfriend fights in fantastic wars beyond a magical portal) 5,930
  • The Owl and the Reptiloid” — Ian Tregillis (The Sunday Morning Transport, 2022 — when aliens arrive over Chicago, they bring three types of dreams and improve Edy’s life… maybe) 3,231
  • The Failing Name” — Eugen Bacon and Seb Doubinsky (Fantasy Magazine, 2021 — a girl is sent from Kinshasa to Paris tries to recreate with enchantment a connection with a boy she once helped) 5,200
  • Hurricane Season” — Avi Burton (Cast of Wonders, 2022 — a girl falls for a storm-girl, who warns that she will one day blow away) 2,234
  • In the Stillness of Bone and Sea” — KT Bryski (Lackingtons #25, 2022 — as a child, the narrator finds escape from family distress in the company of the museum’s mosasaur, until the situation becomes untenable) fairly short
  • Objects of Value” — Anamaria Curtis (Strange Horizons, 2022 — a transferrer of memories works through the final days in a beloved floating city on the verge of collapse) 4,672
  • Serenissima” — E Lily Yu (The Sunday Morning Transport, 2022 — a sacred seagull pursues her kind’s ancient calling over Venice) 3,105
  • The Demon Sage’s Daughter” — Varsha Dinesh (Strange Horizons, 2021 — the daughter of the demon sage wants to discover her father’s resurrection spell, and so do the gods) 7,828

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