Cool stories I read in January and February

Iona Sharma, “Refugee; or, a nine-item representative inventory of a better world.” (Strange Horizons, January 8.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a utopia before that so cleverly acknowledged the sacrifices that would be needed to build one – or wove acknowledgement and thanks for those sacrifices right into the characters’ daily lives.

Stephen Graham Jones, “Why I Write.” (Stymie, January 13.) This is not spec fic, but it’s just MFing brilliant. For a while, some of my friends were playing “tag yourself” with this essay. Feel free to tag yourself in comments. I’m 50% “I write because I lost all my action figures long ago” and 50% “I don’t write because I want to live forever. I write because I want to live now.”

Brandon O’Brien, “The Metaphysics of a Wine, In Theory And Practice” (Arsenika, Issue 2, February.) What I love most about this is the juxtaposition of an academic voice (complete with citations!) and the more immediate, urgent, colloquial voice of someone who is actually experiencing the transcendence that the academic tries to describe.

Alex E. Harrow, “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies.” (Apex, Issue 105, February.) OMG. THIS STORY. MY FEELS. This is delightful and heartbreaking. It may be a somewhat idealized (or overly binary) depiction of librarians, but it’s an amazing depiction of the help and escape that books offer people, especially the most vulnerable people among us.