After a mad scramble through various “Best of the Year” lists in February, March slowed down a little bit, with one more magazine and bit less miscellany. That said, I still found some really fantastic short fiction, even outside my normal sources. And I read a pair of novels that read very outside the norm, but very well. So let’s get to the March round-up!
I posted my monthly magazine review, including three stories–“Zeta-Epsilon” by Isabel J. Kim, “Piggyback Girl” by M.H. Ayinde, and “The Weremouse of Millicent Bradley Middle School” by Peter S. Beagle–that earned the title of monthly favorites and a whole lot more that I really enjoyed. “Zeta-Epsilon” in particular felt like the whole package and will doubtless be near the top of my annual favorites (well, not if I arrange them in alphabetical order again, but near the top in spirit). But outside my usual magazines, I found one true gem:
- “Your Space Between” (2022 short story) by Marie Croke. The sort of emotional, deeply personal story that often hits hard for me, this tells of a space-saving technology that folds storage into some strange other place–and of the aftermath of a tragic malfunction.
- “The Tree at the Edge of an Unknown Land” (2022 short story) by Miyuki Jane Pinckard. A quiet piece with a long timeline, told from the perspective of a tree observing as refugees travel through–and to–its out-of-the-way place. A nice job balancing the short-term and long, and there’s meaningful character development on the part of the tree.
- “The Last Stand of the E. 12th St. Pirates” (2022 short story) by L.D. Lewis. A story of package delivery in a near-future flooded city, and the mercilessness with which major tech companies pursue the neighborhood kids who have become literal pirates. The combination of emotion and social commentary makes it easy to see why it’s on so many “Best of” lists, though I’d like to see a bit more resolution.
- “A Conspiracy of Cartographers” (2022 novelette) by Barbara A. Barnett. A “magic has strings attached” story well-done, with a privileged main character looking so hard to find meaning in life.
- “The Historiography of Loss” (2022 short story) by Julianna Baggott. A woman abandoned by her parents uses a new technology to generate a reconstruction of her father and sees the heartache stretch back farther than she knew.
Others I Enjoyed in March
- “A Timely Horizon” (2023 short story) by Karen Lord. There are seeds that, when planted and grown, can show a person potential ways their life could have gone. But one person isn’t really interested until she finds she’s dying. And then she wants more.
- “The Destination Star” (2022 short story) by Gregory Marlow. A piece about making repairs–and more importantly, finding meaning–on a generation ship. A bit of a quieter story than I expected, but not lacking for power.
- “When There is Sugar” (2022 short story) by Leonard Richardson. A baker working in a time of rationing tries to figure out what to do with a robot oven. A very short piece that only has room for so much, but is nicely done.
- “On the Way Home” (2022 short story) by Laine Perez. A daughter, a friend, and a bot figure out how to move on–separately and together–after the death of a woman who meant so much to them.
- “It Happened in ‘Loontown” (2022 short story) by Lavie Tidhar. A pretty straightforward “hardboiled detective investigates gang violence” story, except that all the characters are balloons.
- “My Future Self, Refused” (2022 novelette) by Adam Troy-Castro. A partially-autobiographical and clearly deeply personal story about the author dealing with the unexpected death of his wife and fighting through the subsequent depression. With a little time travel thrown-in. Very compelling thematically.
- “Little Gardens Everywhere” (2022 short story) by Avra Margariti. A changeling and her twin–still working through their own fraught history with the world of the Fae–set out to help another still trying to break free.
Novels and Novellas
- Infinity Gate (2023 novel) by M.R. Carey. The opening book in an epic trilogy telling of a multiversal war between organic beings and robots, through the eyes of a scientist, a rogue, and an adolescent. Exactly what I want from the first entry in an epic, with three compelling characters and enough plot movement to satisfy while still setting up the next two books.
- Rose/House (2023 novella) by Arkady Martine. Pitched as a locked room murder mystery featuring an AI house, it reads more like a fever dream, with less time spent on finding a murderer and more spent reflecting on consciousness and toxic relationships.
- And Put Away Childish Things (2023 novella) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. A jaded television host finds out that the portal world that served as the setting for his grandmother’s children’s books is actually real. And it’s terrible.
- The Gallant (2019 novella) by Janny Wurts. This Wars of Light and Shadow prequel provides an excellent, bite-sized glimpse into Wurts’ distinctive epic style.
- One Hand to Hold, One Hand to Carve (2022 novella) by M. Shaw. It’s weird horror, but it’s more a study of toxic relationships than anything, as two halves of a cadaver wake up on a mortuary slab and set about building a life together–before realizing they have wildly different conceptions of the good life.
- The Whitefire Crossing (2011 novel) by Courtney Schafer. Part sword-and-sorcery in a stunning mountain setting, part epic fantasy, with an ending equally satisfying as a standalone or a series-opener.
- Dead Silence (2022 novel) by S.A. Barnes. A haunted house in space. Not especially hard to predict, but extremely atmospheric, with more than a few Alien vibes.
- March’s End (2023 novel) by Daniel Polansky. Another dark portal fantasy, this one with a non-sequential narrative and plenty of family drama.
Other March Reads
- Three Grams of Elsewhere (2023 novel) by Andy Giesler. A slow-paced sci-fi featuring a geriatric protagonist set in an America torn apart by polarization. Captures the folksy narrative voice perfectly, and the thematic work hits like a hammer. Full review to come.
- The Three Armageddons of Enniscorthy Sweeny (1977 novel) by R.A. Lafferty. A deeply weird epistolary novel set either in an idyllic 20th century where the World Wars were only figments of the lead character’s imagination, or else they were real and the world collectively pretended to ignore them. Full review to come.
- The Blue, Beautiful World (2023 novel) by Karen Lord. A pop star works tirelessly to build a coalition of Earth-based leadership that will stand up to the inevitable first contact. Full review to come.
I love r/Fantasy Bingo, and I completed an entirely unplanned card this year. The 2023 card was released this weekend, so keep an eye out for another post with recommendations and rec solicitation.
Still chugging along on semifinalists, and I got one review out, for Rory August’s The Last Gifts of the Universe, which has immediately become my favorite of the competition so far. Keep an eye out for more soon.