It’s “Best of the Year” season, and in addition to posting my own Recommended Reading List, I’ve started reading a lot of stories from “best of the year” lists from authors and readers like John Wiswell, A.C. Wise, and Maria Haskins. Suffice to say, there’s been plenty of good reading to be done. So let’s dive in.
I already posted my December magazine review, and I found “Reconciliation Dumplings and Other Recipes” by Sara Norja to be a delightful blend of food-centric cozy fantasy and an independently compelling forgotten history story. It’s just the sort of story the genre fandom seems to be yearning for these days, and I hope it gets the audience it deserves. I’ve also gotten a jump on some magazine reading for January and read Wole Talabi’s second collection, Convergence Problems. You’ll hear more about those in January. But for now, let’s hit some of the one-off reading I did.
- “Once Upon a Time at The Oakmont” (2023 short story) by P.A. Cornell. From Short Fiction Book Club and straight to my Recommended Reading List, it’s a time travel story that evokes a remarkable sense of place and delivers a touching interpersonal story with a strong ending.
- “Homewrecker” (2023 short story) by E. Catherine Tobler. A weird, found footage horror story about a home renovation show whose host gets more than he bargained for. The beats of horror storytelling just don’t resonate with me the way they do with some others, but I can certainly see why so many people love this one.
- “The Retcon Man” (2023 short story) by Cameron Fischer. A clever time travel story in which you can’t change the past, but you may be able to recontextualize it.
Others I Enjoyed in December
- “Fandom for Witches” (2023 short story) by Ruoxi Chen. This is a story about Tumblr-style fandom that’s a bit too far outside my strains of fandom to have resonated quite like some others (looking at you, “Fandom for Robots“), but it’s beautifully-written and generally hit its aims.
- “Homecoming” (2023 flash fiction) by Wen Yu Yang. A very pretty, very short, very disorienting flash about a skeleton pig and a dead butcher. Not sure it’ll break the “flash rarely sticks with me” rule, but it’s a fascinating little vignette.
- “Tuesday, June 13, at the South Valley Time Loop Support Group” (2023 short story) by Heather Kamins. What it says on the tin, with a number of time loop survivors sharing their stories and how they broke their loops.
- “Tell Me the Meaning of Bees” (2023 short story) by Amal Singh. A strange story about memory and language, in a city that often simply loses words, and with it the entire concept the words describe.
- “The Cursing of Herman Willem Daendels” (2023 short story) by A.W. Prihandita. An anti-colonial revenge story that’s emotionally intense and not quite as straightforward as I was expecting.
- “Adjective” (2023 short story) by Kristina Ten. A Mad Libs-style story about a woman of color starting an office job that gets darker and darker as the tale progresses.
- “Undog” (2023 short story) by Eugenia Triantafyllou. I’m too far outside the subgenre to say for sure, but this may be cozy horror? A woman moves out of her mother’s house and copes with the vitriol by developing a relationship with a ravenous ghostly canine that comes with her new place.
- “Crawling Back to You” (2023 short story) by H. Pueyo. A survival game story interspersed with lots of interpersonal flashbacks, featuring the good, bad, and ugly of family and romantic relationships.
Novels and Novellas
- Flora Segunda (2007 novel) by Ysabeau S. Wilce. An aggressively whimsical young adult novel from before the tropes calcified into dystopias and paranormal romances. Refreshing and fun, with a heroine who doesn’t know everything.
- The Changeling (2017 novel) by Victor LaValle. It’s a blend of fairy tale, horror, and literary fiction that’s exceptional in all three guises.
- The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi (2023 novel) by S.A. Chakraborty. A nautical adventure fantasy with a vibrant Arabian setting and a fantastic narrative voice.
- A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959 novel) by Walter M. Miller, Jr. A philosophical sci-fi novel about monastic practice after the apocalypse. Not plotty at all, lots of ideas.
- Children of Doro (2023 novel) by M.L. Clark. Another deeply idea-driven philosophical sci-fi novel with planetary destruction and a lot about the moral formation of the key figures. It’s inspired by The Brothers Karamazov, and it comes through.
Other December Reads
- Three Eight One (2024 novel) by Aliya Whiteley. A weird sci-fi about a mystifying archaic document that subverts the epic adventure and makes a point about the meaning of life. Full review to come.
- Chain Gang All-Stars (2023 novel) by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. An absolutely brutal, but equally gripping near-future sci-fi about the American prison system and the dehumanization of those inside it, told through gladiatorial games and reality TV. For those who liked both 13th and Squid Game. Full review to come.
I’ve been chugging along, reading four SPSFC quarterfinalists and posting a review for Stargun Messenger. Expect four more personal reviews to come in early January before the team scores come in the latter half of the month, leading up to the official announcement of the two semifinalists in early February.
I mentioned my Recommended Reading List already, but I worked really hard on it. It’s one of my favorite posts of the year, every year, and I hope it helps people find some stories to love. Another one I’m quite proud of was my Time Warp Bingo, where I read a set of 25 books that simultaneously satisfied the 2015 and 2023 Bingo reading challenges. It was a lot of fun, and I read some real gems.