It’s been a big month of short fiction reading, with a lot of volume and a lot of really good stuff. On the long fiction side, it’s been a successful month as well, though mostly limited to SPSFC and Hugos. So what were my favorites? Let’s get to the roundup.
- “Seen Small Through Glass” (2022 short story) by Premee Mohamed. It has the creepiness of the first chapter of a disaster story and the urgency of a frantic search for a missing child, with a messy relationship at the heart of it all. Excellent work.
- “You, Me, Her, You, Me, I” (2022 short story) by Isabel J. Kim. The “AI learns to be human” subgenre gains another powerful entry, with a deep dive into the visual arts along the way.
- “The Comet” (1920 short story) by W.E.B. Du Bois. Who knew Du Bois wrote a sci-fi story? Some of the language is a bit dated, and I’m not sure the plot all comes together perfectly, but the tension is absolutely top-notch, and the social commentary is both fascinating and powerful.
- “The Girl Who Drew the World” (2022 short story, forthcoming in Metaphorosis) by L.D. Oxford. Growing up, being bullied, and discovering the magical in those tucked away places. The writing brings the magic alive, and it’s one of those that ends at a beginning.
- “The Law of Take” (2022 novelette) by Isabel Cañas. It’s not especially hard to see where this story is going, and it’s not always the easiest to slip into the mind of the extraordinarily selfish protagonist, but the storytelling is excellent, and the ending feels like the only way it could’ve gone.
- “Advice From the Civil Temporal Defense League” (2022 short story/flash fiction by Sandra McDonald). A fun short with a list format that will be entertaining to anyone who has read a whole bunch of time travel stories. To those without an interest in the subgenre, it’s skippable.
- “The Wrong Side of the Sky” (2022 short story by Raymond Roach). A beautifully-written story about a society of winged desert-dwellers, their contact with space-faring humans, and those who refuse to give up their old way of life.
- “This Is Our Get-along Brainship” (2022 short story by Kristen Koopman). Another friendly AI story, with a fresh-faced spaceship AI trying deal with a ghost while learning to relate to its new humans.
Others Notable June Reads
- “The Eight Hundred Legs of the Rio-Niterói Bridge” (2022 short story) by Renan Bernardo. A story about the human costs swept under the rug by a government desperately seeking acclaim–a speculative story about an actual public works project in Brazil.
- “Markets: A Beginner’s Guide” (2022 short story) by Shalini Srinivasan. A “deal with supernatural powers that don’t have your best interests at heart” story in an Indian setting. Intriguingly told, played pretty straight.
- “Dreamports” (2021 novelette) by Tlotlo Tsamaase. A “white people renting out Black bodies” story, so you know it’s going to get ugly. Told with the outstanding and urgent prose I’ve already come to expect from Tsamaase, but spiraling into something that feels almost like a fever dream.
- “Hiraeth Heart” (2022 short story/flash fiction) by Lulu Kadhim. A very short tale of immigration and longing.
- “The Book of the Blacksmiths” (2022 short story) by Martin Cahill. A short-lived people searching for purpose and memory.
- “An Important Failure” (2020 novelette) by Rebecca Campbell. A Sturgeon Award winner about woodworking after climate change has destroyed so much wood. Well-written, but not one to drop its conclusions in your lap.
- “The Eye of the Goddess” (2022 short story) by Samuel Parr. A Norse warrior seeks a goddess to show him his true self, but afraid of what he will find. No shocking twists, but well-written and with a well-fitted ending.
- “The Lost Library” (2022 short story, forthcoming in Metaphorosis) by Mahmud El Sayed. A dying AI serving as a librarian for all star-faring species asks for help finding its makers.
- “By the Scars Shall You Know” (2022 novelette, forthcoming in Metaphorosis) by Daniel Ausema. A second Metaphorosis coming-of-age story about a man forced to come to terms with the unanswered questions of his society.
- “NeuNet” (2022 short story) by Sharang Biswas. A chilling story on a culture of disposability that offers vignettes more than a driving plot.
Novels and Novellas
- The Past is Red (2021 novella) by Catherynne M. Valente. A post-apocalyptic novella with a strikingly optimistic narrative voice in the midst of literal garbage.
- The Sanctuary Duet (2014-15 duology) by Carol Berg. Berg returns to Navronne for a series that takes place at the same time as The Lighthouse Duet but can be read in either order. This one involves Berg’s typically excellent first-person narrator and a fascinating investigation into corruption in the magical establishment.
- Light From Uncommon Stars (2021 novel) by Ryka Aoki. An ambitious novel of a trans runaway violinist, a deal with the devil, and interstellar refugees with a flying donut shop. It wraps up a bit more neatly than I thought made sense, but the setting and the lead are tremendous and make it well worth the read.
Other June Reads
Can you tell it’s Hugo reading season?
- A Psalm for the Wild-Built (2021 novella) by Becky Chambers. A low-stakes novel in an idyllic world where one character travels the world in search of purpose. Review to come.
- She Who Became the Sun (2021 novel) by Shelley Parker-Chan. A historical fantasy of peasant rising to power, with fascinating exploration of gender and a treasure trove of compelling antiheroes. Review to come.
- A Spindle Splintered (2021 novella) by Alix E. Harrow. A feminist retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale that stays fun despite the weight of the themes. Review to come.
- The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (2021 novel) by Becky Chambers. Five aliens from four different species trapped together at an interstellar waystation. Character-driven, but the characters are good enough to carry it. Review to come.
- A Memory Called Empire (2019 novel) by Arkady Martine. A Hugo-winner about an ambassador trying to navigate politics of a sprawling empire and keep her tiny home from being subsumed under it. A fish-out-of-water story carried in large part by the culture-building. Review to come.
- Fireheart Tiger (2021 novella) by Aliette de Bodard. A toxic relationship story that brings the tale to life but could use a hair more fleshing out. Review to come.
We have seven finalists–In the Orbit of Sirens from my team’s semifinal batch and six more–and I posted reviews of the six that were new to me:
- Iron Truth (2018 novel) by S.A. Tholin. Military sci-fi, horror, romance. . . a genuine space epic that has a bit of everything.
- Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire (2019 novel) by G.M. Nair. Comic sci-fi with parallel universes and absolutely everything turned up to 11.
- Monster of the Dark (2021 novel) by K.T. Belt. A dark coming-of-age story about a clairvoyant being crafted into humanity’s best weapon against alien foes.
- Steel Guardian (2020 novel) by Cameron Coral. A high-stakes road trip novel with a pair of unlikely compatriots trying to survive the aftermath of an AI uprising.
- A Star Named Vega (2021 novel) by Benjamin J. Roberts. A young adult sci-fi about a pair of teenagers on opposite sides of a life-or-death conflict.
- Captain Wu (2021 novel) by Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. A space opera with strong echoes of Firefly, featuring a ragtag band of smugglers trying to keep ahead of the law and figure out just what it is about their last job that has made them such a target.