Cool Story, Bro: favorite spec fic from January – April

In January and February I was exhausting myself with work-related reading and didn’t have a lot left over for enjoying speculative fiction. But in the two months since, I’ve found myself drawn to stories about identity and self-discovery. Here are a few good ones:


John Wiswell, “Gender and Other Faulty Software” (Fireside, April)

This is a story about a genderqueer space explorer and a spaceship with gender dysphoria and it is completely freakin’ hilarious.


Brendan Williams-Childs, “The Wedding After the Bomb” (Glitter & Ashes anthology; I read it in Catapult)

For those of us who want stories of hope, in the form of imperfect, organic, adaptable carrying-on in the face of apocalyptic events, this story hits the spot. It tells the story of a genderqueer person who braves the Canadian wilderness to travel on foot, on a route that skirts the edge of a nuclear explosion, to their lesbian friends’ wedding. The depictions of queer community and its complexities in this one are just really good, and what the protagonist learns about themself and their place in the world is very satisfying.


Maria Romasco-Moore, “The Moon Room” (Kaleidotrope, Spring 2020)

This is the story of Sasha, a strange amorphous being disguised as a human, who doesn’t remember her own origins and is obsessed with uncovering them. There’s also a lot of fun stuff about analog photography and drag shows. Sasha’s quest to understand herself is an obvious metaphor for being trans, and the story works really well on that level, but it’s also written vividly enough to work on a surface level – or to serve as a metaphor for other, less obvious hidden identities. The last line is utter perfection.


Millie Ho, “Hungry Ghost” (Uncanny, Issue Thirty-Three)

I have tried and failed several times now to put into words what I feel about this poem. It’s good? It’s about death and letting go, but it’s much more than that.


C.S.E. Cooney, “For Mrs. Q” (Fireside, December 2019)

This is top-tier sapphic love poetry, passionate and specific, drawing a sharp portrait not only of the charismatic woman who is loved, and of the effect she has on the narrator, but of where that love fits into so many other things. It bursts out like the bright red cardinal from its own first line. I’ve liked Cooney’s poetry for a long time, but she’s outdone herself with this one.