Monthly Round-Up

May 2024 Round-up and Short Fiction Miscellany

A few really long books this month prevented me from reading in volume, but I had a wonderful short fiction month, with a few stories that I expect will stick with me all year, and a truly absurd number of stories demanding discussion even outside the top of my favorites list. So lets’ dive in!

Short Fiction

May Favorites

My May trip through Clarkesworld was truly fantastic. As always, I’m not going to reiterate my magazine review, but “The Brotherhood of Montague St. Video” is my favorite novelette of the year so far, “Our Father” was excellent, and “The Weight of Your Own Ashes” had so many things I loved to read. Click the link to read more about these, or just pull up the May Clarkesworld issue and read them for yourself. I also reread “Old Seeds” by Owen Leddy, “Any Percent” by Andrew Dana Hudson, “Nextype” by Sam Kyung Yoo, and “The Year Without Sunshine” by Naomi Kritzer as part of the Hugo Readalong. I talked about all of those on my favorites list last year. I still like them. But did I love any new reads outside Clarkesworld this month? I sure did.

  • The Patron Saint of Flatliners” (2024 short story) by K.A. Wiggins. I was digging through some fairly obscure magazines to see if anything caught my eye, and this one did from the very first line and didn’t let up from there, delivering a tale of overdose, emotional isolation, and being there for others in a way no one was there for you. It’s touching, but in a way that never feels like it’s taking the easy way out.
  • The Robot” (2024 novelette) by Lavie Tidhar. It’s a series of slices of life for a robot whose centuries see it through caregiving, war-making, friendship, and isolation, from Neom (of Tidhar’s Central Station universe–no prior knowledge required) to the Moon, and farther into space. A lovely and touching story that’s among my favorites of the year, highly recommended to anyone who enjoys slice-of-life sci-fi.
  • Between Home and a House on Fire” (2024 short story) by A.T. Greenblatt. Returning from a portal world and trying to figure out what your life looks like isn’t a unique concept in fantasy, but this story takes a refreshingly different tack than some of the more popular examples. It’s an engaging tale that shows a side of the trope that feels honest and needed.

Strong Contenders

This section is ridiculous this month. I read so many stories that were attempting something fascinating, that were engaging the whole way, but that just didn’t quite embed themselves in my mind the way some others did. None of these will be on my Hugo ballot next year, but there are a few here that might be on somebody’s ballot. “In Which Caruth is Correct” from Clarkesworld fits here, along with:

  • We Will Teach You How to Read|We Will Teach You How to Read” (2024 short story) by Caroline M. Yoachim. An usual format tells the story of an alien species passing their story along to the reader, but trying to translate their typical multi-threaded narrative into something humanity can understand. The format is the eye-catcher, but there’s real heart behind it.
  • In the Museum of Unseen Places” (2024 short story) by Marsh Hlavka. A museum curator reads notes written to themself as they try to recover the memory lost during an excursion to one of the ephemeral saltations that deliver strange artifacts at the cost of memory. In it there’s a story of plans and companionship and the true priorities of leadership–it’s intriguing throughout, and there’s plenty to chew on.
  • Three Faces of a Beheading” (2024 short story) by Arkady Martine. A cyclical narrative with second-person perspective and plenty of academic asides, this reminds me a bit of “Day Ten Thousand,” my favorite story of 2023. I don’t think the theme comes together quite as well, but there’s plenty of fascinating meditation on historiography and who gets to tell the stories, and it had me engrossed the whole time.
  • Mother’s Day, After Everything” (2024 short story) by Susan Palwick. More meditative than narrative, with the last humans reflecting on life and motherhood in a world where there are no more human children and thus no new mothers.
  • Stitched to Skin like Family Is” (2024 short story) by Nghi Vo. This is at least the third period piece I’ve read from Vo, and the woman can write a period piece. This story is perhaps a bit more straightforward than some of my favorites, with a Chinese-American seamstress hitchhiking to her brother’s last known location to find what’s become of him, but it’s certainly no less gripping.

Others I Enjoyed in May

Just because my first two lists are long doesn’t mean I didn’t read other good stuff. Like these:

  • The Coffin Maker” (2023 short story) by AnaMaria Curtis. A wonderful juxtaposition between title and story, as a maker of spacesuits tries to reckon with the impossibility of achieving sufficient quality with the materials available.
  • A Soul in the World” (2023 short story) by Charlie Jane Anders. A story that feels like it’s not quite sure whether it wants to focus on infertile woman being given the opportunity to care for an alien child or on the unusual mother/daughter relationship that ensues, and the corresponding difficulty in knowing when to tell the truth, but one that’s engaging even if it doesn’t have the length to sufficiently address every plotline.
  • I’ll Be Your Mirror” (2023 short story) by Rebecca Schneider. AI stories aren’t unusual at this point, but this does a nice job of focusing on the day-to-day life of the AI lead even as it delves into the broader legal politics involved.
  • Mirage in Double Vision” (2024 short story) by Tia Tashiro. There’s a messy Hollywood relationship at the center of this one, where the speculative elements are understated enough to almost feel like magical realism. It may not have blown me away like Tashiro’s previous work, but I really enjoyed this one.
  • A Cure for Solastalgia” (2024 short story) by E.M. Linden. A story of using magic for environmental purposes. Perhaps not an especially surprising story, but a good read nonetheless.
  • Driftwood in the Sea of Time” (2023 short story) by Wendy Nikel. As you can imagine from the title, it’s a time travel story, but one with an endearing foray into community-building.

Novels and Novellas

Reviews Posted

  • The Brides of High Hill (2024 novella) by Nghi Vo. The fifth Singing Hills Cycle novella features the customary excellent storytelling, but turned in a much more Gothic direction.
  • Refractions (2023 novel) by M V Melcer. A story about hunting down a saboteur in space, with a strong underlying theme of the importance of cooperation across international and religious lines.
  • Girl Squad Volta (2023 novel) by Maya Lin Wang. A magical girl young adult novel, sticking pretty close to the tropes, but pretty fun regardless.
  • Navola (2024 novel) by Paolo Bacigalupi. A low-magic historical fantasy heavily inspired by Renaissance Italy, full of scheming and betrayal. Not genre-defining, but an excellent read for fans of the subgenre.
  • Warchild (2002 novel) by Karin Lowachee. An engaging military sci-fi with a stunning character study within.
  • Alif the Unseen (2012 novel) by G. Willow Wilson. A technothriller full of magic and djinn in a nameless Arabian security state.
  • The Mimicking of Known Successes (2023 novella) by Malka Older. Something of a cozy murder mystery with a slow burn sapphic romantic subplot.

Other May Reads

Honestly, it’s been mostly SPSFC reading, plus a reread for IRL book club and The Saint of Bright Doors for the Hugo Readalong. I should have a review of that up shortly. As for SPSFC. . .


June is the last month of the third annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. There are six finalists, four of which I’ve reviewed here already. Expect my last two reviews and four more team scores in the next couple weeks.

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