Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Short Fiction Round Up: May 2021

May was a pivotal month for German seasons; our days stretched long, our cold spring gave way to warmer moments, the swifts returned. I don't think it's a coincedence, then, that all my favorite stories of the month deal with our environments. These stories ask important questions: how we affect our environment, and how does our environment affect us. I loved the thoughtful, nuanced, and messy answers this selection provided. Please, enjoy!

To Hear Them Sing by Rebecca Burton (Fireside)
This story about a young magical practitioner taking her final exam to graduate into magic scholarship is tender, beautiful and well-crafted. The epic world-building on a small scale gives this story an excellent hook, and the language and pacing are excellent. Stories that tackle not how much we affect our environment, but how much our environment affects us always have a special place in my heart, and I highly recommend this one! 

Not all environments are natural; Chan’s tiny little flash story is told from the perspective of an automated house whose owner was taken away by the authorities in a technocratic dystopia. Again, Chan manages to render a whole world in the observations of a house; the third line of the story simply states “Most of the coffee sloshes over the jagged edges of the half-shattered mug.” The tone of the house -- factual, but revealing just enough cruel and unnecessary damage to establish an anti-Government façade – is the thing that makes the story. 

CL Clark writes the best contemporary military fantasy. This short story takes place in the middle of a revolution; the captain and the quartermaster of an army fall in, and out, of love over the course of a campaign. As always, this short story is precise, with elegantly complex characters and an emotional arc that makes sense, even as it feels tragic. 

Clocking in at about 450 words, this flash piece still manages to balance three separate levels: it details five rules of magic, it details the second person narrator’s first interaction with magic, and it details the second person’s narrator’s biggest interaction with magic. I was fascinated at the apparent-ease with which all three elements braided together. 

T Kingfisher’s newest short story, which is also featured in EscapePod’s Anthology, is about pregnancy, animals, feminism, and space. Like many Kingfisher stories, this story is hilarious, in large part because of how well Kingfisher can juggle a dozen character voices so well. The drama is high-stakes, the ending is happy: this story felt like an amazing episode of All Creatures, Great and Small but in spaaaaaace.