Monthly Round-Up · Uncategorized

March 2021 Round-up and Short Fiction Focus

No five-star novels this month, but an absolutely incredible month of short fiction. Last month I had one story on my favorites list. This month I have five, including one all-timer. I highly recommend taking a long look at a few of these.

Short Stories

March Favorites

  • STET” (2018) by Sarah Gailey. A fascinating experimental format, compelling near-future social commentary, and a serious emotional punch. This story has everything–it has immediately reserved a spot on my all-time favorites list, and I’m honestly baffled that it didn’t win any of the major genre awards.
  • Mist Songs of Delhi” (2020) by Sid Jain. A really strong exploration of death, purpose, and memory. This was one of my nominations for the Hugo for best short story of 2020.
  • Man vs. Bomb” (2021) by M. Shaw. A future in which deer rule the world and men are forced to compete in survival games. A really fascinating story that will be worth keeping in mind for 2021 awards.
  • Mr. Death” (2021) by Alix E. Harrow. A heartbreaking and sweet story about ushering a child into the afterlife. Another one to keep in mind for 2021 awards.
  • Search History for Elspeth Adair, Age 11” (2019) by Aimee Picchi. An experimental story told entirely via search queries. The message about sexism is a bit on the nose, but it really works.

Strong Contenders

  • AirBody” (2020) by Sameem Siddiqui. A story about renting bodies that isn’t about abuse. Food, culture, family, and love in a really compelling short.
  • The Eight-Thousanders” (2020) by Jason Sanford. The toxic elements of climbing culture and vampires on Mt. Everest. This one is a 2020 Nebula Finalist and strikes me as well worthy.

Other March Reads

  • Distant Stars” (2020) by P.H. Lee. Relativity and difficult relationships.
  • Silhouette Against Armageddon” (2017) by John Wiswell. A very grumpy gay skeleton at the end of the world. This one’s both sweet and fun.
  • A Hench Helps Her Villain No Matter What” (2020) by Izzy Wasserstein. A seriously thirsty hench who knows what her villain really needs.
  • To Look Forward” (2020) by Osahon Ize-Iyamu. Growing up and making choices and magical realism, which usually isn’t my speed, but take a look if that’s your style.
  • Comments on Your Provisional Patent Application for an Eternal Spirit Core” (2021) by Wole Talabi. An experimental format about loss and tech.
  • We Are Not Phoenixes” (2021) by John Wiswell. Hospice in a fantasy world.
  • A Pale Horse” (2020) by M. Evan MacGriogair. A bilingual story with songs for the end of the world.
  • Advanced Word Problems in Portal Math” (2020) by Aimee Picchi. Another experimental format with an on-the-nose message about sexism from Aimee Picchi. This one is well done, but it doesn’t have quite the magic of “Search History.” That said, it is a Nebula Finalist this year, so I suppose that may not be the majority opinion.
  • Winter Solstice, Camelot Station” (1988) by John M. Ford. A long poem that won a World Fantasy Award. I tend to have a better time with prose.
  • Cat Pictures Please” (2015) by Noami Kritzer. A Hugo-winner with a benevolent AI. It’s a sweet one, but I think the creativity may’ve shown a little better when it was published than when I read it–we’ve seen a lot more benevolent AI lately.

Novels

Reviews Posted

  • Amari and the Night Brothers (2021) by B.B. Alston. A new middle-grade release with clear Harry Potter and Men in Black inspiration. It’s a whole lot of fun.
  • Transformation (2000) by Carol Berg. A strong early 2000s epic about a broken man who must move past his own trauma to fight evil–featuring a striking redemption arc and a an excellent friendship between the leads.
  • A Song Below Water (2020) by Bethany C. Morrow. An engaging and clean YA with deep relevance to current events.
  • Black Girl Unlimited (2020) by Echo Brown. A memoir-style coming-of-age dripping with magical realism. Powerful at times and also deeply connected to the real world.
  • The Goblin Emperor (2014) by Katherine Addison. A political fish-out-of-water story with a sympathetic protagonist who has to learn to overcome an unknown and hostile ruling class.

DNFs

  • The Woven Ring (2017) by M.D. Presley. DNF at 49%. A short fantasy novel with clear inspiration from the American Civil War. The upfront infodumping is pretty rough, and the prose seems to be in an awkward middle between the colloquial style of the characters’ own voices and the more formal style typical in third-person narration. It’s a very short book, and I like to give extra leeway to debut novels, but I had a couple library holds come in and put this one back on the shelf. I may return to it and see if the last ~130 pages can pull me in further.

Other March Reads

  • Spirit Gate (2006) by Kate Elliott. A quality opener to a big, chunky epic fantasy trilogy.
  • They Mostly Come Out at Night (2016) by Benedict Patrick. A dark fairy tale that doesn’t capture the atmosphere of Patrick’s novelette “And They Were Never Heard From Again,” which was published two years later and takes place in the same universe. I’ll be back for more Yarnsworld books, but I think “And They Were Never Heard From Again” is a much better introduction than They Mostly Come Out at Night.

Miscellaneous

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