Cool Stories I Read in November and December

Jess Barber and Sara Saab, “Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” (Clarkesworld, September). I love so much about this. The setting is a beautiful, careful, solarpunk. But what I really like most is the polyamory in the story. The way that the relationships are given space to be difficult, to be complicated, not because they’re poly or because anyone is behaving badly, but because life itself is complicated. The way the characters get something approaching a happy ending, even though the complications, for them, will never go away. This was what I needed to read, relationship-wise, in November.

Melissa Moorer, “end at the skin” (Strange Horizons, October 23). Um. Wow. This is WEIRD – delightfully weird. It’s cosmic in scale and disorienting in a way that reminds me of Lovecraft, but it’s really not Lovecraftian fiction at all – not even horror. Just a very, very weird extended science fiction prose poem from a very, very tripped out perspective. I love it!

Carlie St. George, “Three May Keep a Secret” (Strange Horizons, November 20). A genuinely scary, emotionally gutting YA ghost story, with teenage characters who feel realistically confused and angry and sweet. This one, like many good ghost stories, is about what it means to be haunted, and how natural and supernatural hauntings can mimic each other. (Take the Content Warning seriously, please.)

Hayley Stone, “Caesura” (Fireside, November). I mean, my job description is literally “teaches computers to write poetry”, so I am all over this. The AI in this story is a tropey SFnal AI, not a realistic one. But it’s a super cute and sweet tale of overcoming grief with the help of a poetic AI friend, and is well told. (Although I wish that the award-winning poem at the end had been shown on the page! 😀 )

Shannon Connor Winward, “Archaeology” (Abyss and Apex, Issue 64). This one goes on the list mostly because I keep hearing that you can’t tell a proper story with a villanelle; but Winward’s is told quite neatly.

John Wiswell, “The First Stop Is Always The Last” (Flash Fiction Online, November). I mean, we’ve all read time-loop stories before, but the connection between time loops and anxiety here is so neatly made. The kind of thing that seems so obvious in retrospect, but that I’d never thought of.