Cool Story, Bro: My Favorite Short Works From July and August

Megan Arkenberg, “The Night Princes” (Nightmare, Issue 81)

This is a story about war, trauma, helplessness, and the stories that one young woman tells, Scheherezade-like, in order to make it through the night. But what really fascinates me about it are the intricate ways that the world of the story and the “real” world echo each other, sometimes obvious and poignant, sometimes resisting easy interpretation.

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Isabel CaƱas, “No Other Life” (Nightmare, Issue 82)

This is everything I want in a vampire short story: romantic, darkly sensual, wistful, and queer.

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Theodora Goss, “The Cinder Girl Burns Brightly” (Uncanny, Issue Twenty-Eight)

I have seen a lot of twists on the story of Cinderella before, but I hadn’t yet seen THIS one. Nicely done.

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Ali Trotta, “The Magician Speaks to the Fool” (Uncanny, Issue Twenty-Eight)

A powerful Tarot-themed poem about life lessons, complexity, and courage.

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D.H. Kelly, “The Furious Chisel” (The Future Fire, Issue 2019.50)

I really like this novelette about a disabled woman who reprograms her caregiver robot, and the robot who may be slowly gaining self-awareness as a result. I like the way the human and the robot have a helpful and respectful relationship instead of being pitted against each other, even when they’re faced with difficult conflicts of interest. I like how it resists easy answers about what sentience and personhood mean, what rights accompany them, how you can tell they’re there, or what should be done as a result – but how the narrator is deeply thoughtful about these things, and respects the robot’s ability to choose in the limited ways available to her.

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