Monthly Round-Up

March 2024 Round-up and Short Fiction Miscellany

What a whirlwind of a month! The old Bingo year wrapped up, a new Bingo started, the Hugo finalists were released, and the SPSFC semifinals wrapped up. My miscellaneous reading wasn’t as extensive as in some other months, but there were a couple I really liked, and there’s plenty of other bookish things to recap.

Despite the March roundup coming halfway through April, I will be limiting the short fiction section to things I actually read in March, with the rest coming in the April recap. I also have a couple Bingo posts planned that will be recapped at the end of April. But for those who haven’t heard the announcement of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, that information will be included here in the penultimate section.

Short Fiction

As always, I published a review of this month’s Clarkesworld and GigaNotoSaurus issues, which I will not repeat here.

March Favorites

  • Lemuria 7 is Missing” (2023 novella) by Allen M. Steele. This novella uses an oral history format to piece together information about an ill-fated lunar expedition. There’s perhaps not quite as much mystery as I’d prefer, but the oral history style works really nicely to build the anticipation through a series of side trails and red herrings.
  • Shadow Films” (2024 novelette) by Ben Peek. What starts as a novelette about secret films embedded within other films expands into a tale of aliens, internment camps, and conspiracy theories. The fascinating premise is enough to immediately grab the reader’s attention, and the story progresses with enough twists and turns to keep it.
  • A Black Spot Among the Chaos” (2024 short story) by A.T. Greenblatt. Sitting somewhere between a smuggling story and a price of magic story, this science fantasy delves deeply into themes of hunger and longing while only slowly revealing its ultimate direction.
  • Everything in the Garden is Lovely” (2024 short story) by Hannah Yang. This opens with an outstanding first line (“Now that I’ve failed as a woman, my punishment is to become a garden.) and only keeps going from there, telling a story that’s as maddening as it is lovely. It’s not especially hard to predict what’s happening under the surface, but it’s plenty powerful regardless.

Others I Enjoyed in March

  • The Death Hole Bunker” (2023 novella) by Kristine Katheryn Rusch. An engaging story of excavating a bunker to find something more valuable and more dangerous than even a veteran explorer had expected.
  • An Infestation of Blue” (2023 short story) by Wendy N. Wagner. I’m not much for dog stories, and so may not appreciate this dog’s-eye perspective as much as other readers, but it’s a short and compelling portrait of human grief explored from an unusual point-of-view.
  • This is How We Stay Alive” (2024 short story) by L. Chan. A strange alien incursion replaces one percent of the world’s population with ghosts strangely tied to the places where they died. A quiet and personal story about accepting the inexplicable and wondering how to move on.
  • Do Not Waver, My Heart” (2024 novelette) by Shanna Germain. Another story from the Beneath Ceaseless Skies science fantasy issue, this is a fairy tale in space. There are tricks and betrayal aplenty, but I didn’t connect to the main character quite as much as I’d prefer for a work of novelette length.
  • The Ghost Tenders of Chornobyl” (2024 short story) by Nika Murphy. The second story I read this month of ghosts tied to a particular place, this uses the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone as the setting for a story that’s less about the infamous disaster than it is about trans acceptance, the war with Russia, moving on from hurts and building for the future.
  • Cold Ruin in Cantomir” (2024 short story) by Drew McCaffrey. I tend toward sci-fi more than fantasy in my short fiction, because secondary-world stories seem better suited for longer formats, but this is a wonderfully bite-sized epic fantasy. It alludes to background about a siege and an occupation, but the heart of the story is about making choices when a new threat comes and options are limited. Just the kind of fantasy I find engaging, and one that eschews the urge to do too much to outgrow the constraints of a short story.

Novels and Novellas

Reviews Posted

  • Nothing But the Rain (2023 novella) by Naomi Salman. This is so deeply my brand, but it’s also a fantastic novella that flew way too far under the radar. It’s an epistolary novel told as a series of diary entries from an elderly woman trying to survive in a town where the rain literally washes away memories. The setup got me invested, and the story only escalated from there. Tremendous stuff.
  • Those Beyond the Wall (2024 novel) by Micaiah Johnson. The sequel to The Space Between Worlds keeps the multiverse setting, but uses it to tell an angry story of class warfare instead of the more character-driven story of the first book.
  • The Siege of the Burning Grass (2024 novel) by Premee Mohamed. A fascinating thematic novel about a pacifist being used by the military in hopes of stopping a war. The prose is excellent, and the themes are compelling, though there’s plenty of characters repeatedly butting heads over the course of a long journey.

Other March Reads

  • Warchild (2002 novel) by Karin Lowachee. A really tremendous character study wrapped in a military sci-fi. It’s heavy, with a child raised and groomed by the pirates who killed his entire family, but it’s excellent. Full review to come.
  • Wise Child (1987 novel) by Monica Furlong. A classic, slow-paced middle grade novel that I read aloud to my 2nd grader. It’s a throwback to a quieter story where much of the danger–though not all–was self-inflicted, but the rhythm of the prose made it a real delight to read. Full review to come.
  • Alif the Unseen (2012 novel) by G. Willow Wilson. An entertaining technothriller in an Arabian security state blended with tech and djinn. Full review to come.


The semifinals are over, and my team has posted reviews of our two hand-picked semifinalists and the four given to us by other teams:

Together with Edpool and Peripheral Prospectors, we selected Thrill Switch and Kenai as our finalists. These will join with two finalists each from two other semifinal groupings, leading to this finals lineup:

  • Thrill Switch by Tim Hawken
  • Kenai by Dave Dobson
  • Three Grams of Elsewhere by Andy Giesler
  • Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record by Leigh Saunders
  • Children of the Black by W.J. Long III
  • Dark Theory by Wick Welker

My team will have just over two months to read, review, and score these books, so watch our socials for reviews. For the first time in my own history with teh competition, I have been assigned a book I’d already read, so my Three Grams of Elsewhere review is ready to go (spoiler: I liked it a lot).


The Hugo finalists were announced, and I’m leading a Readalong on Reddit. It’s a lot of fun. April also marked a new Bingo season, and I have a couple posts in the works for that. Stay tuned!


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