Cool Story, Bro: My favorite short work from March and April

For some reason, all of the fiction and poetry that I enjoyed most, this time around, was about love. Though not necessarily a romantic one!

Marissa Lingen, “Flow” (Fireside, March). This is about humans who have a special connection to naiads, and about acquiring a disability and learning to live with it, and it’s so good. I love the connection between the father and daughter, and I love the way it ends, full of hope.

Toby MacNutt, “Green Thumbs” (Liminality, March). This is just so full of smell and taste and touch and hesitance and tenderness and slow-building desire. I love it.

Arkady Martine, “Object-Oriented” (Fireside, March). A short, bittersweet tale about disaster workers who stay invested in their job with empathy pills. What I really like about this one is the thoughts it raises about affective empathy. So often empathy in SF is described like it’s just an emotion detector. In a small space, Martine focuses on another aspects of empathy – the *caring* aspect – and makes some very poignant points about both its purpose and its costs. (As a side note, I also like that the narrator feels empathy for inanimate objects and buildings – this is a common quirk of autistic people, though it’s not exclusive to us, and I don’t think the narrator is autistic, but it IS nice to see nonetheless.)

Emma Osborne, “Don’t Pack Hope” (Nightmare, Issue 67 April). I’m not normally one for zombie apocalypse stories, but this is one of the ones that does it really right. By focusing on a single scene – one of preparation and planning, not of violence – the story gets to really zero in on a study of its trans man protagonist. As he packs his bags to find his family and survive, we see in a unique way what he is attached to, what he hopes for, what he fears. Lots of feels are available here!

Hester J. Rook, “Across the anvil and burning” (Liminality, March). This came immediately after “Green Thumb” in the same issue, and they are a wonderful pair – both vividly sexy and sensual in the best ways. But where MacNutt’s poem is tender and exploratory, Rook’s contrasts it with a powerful undertone of dominance.

Fran Wilde, “The Sea Never Says It Loves You” (Uncanny, Issue Twenty-One, March). UggghHHHHhhh. Sometimes being in love is exactly like this, and makes you feel exactly this small.