Hello and welcome to another edition of Questing in Shorts, the sometimes-monthly SFF short fiction roundup where Adri (that's me) recommends some of her favourite recent reads!
The last couple of months have been quiet for me on the short fiction front, as I've been catching up on longer reading after a big burst in January. But the past two weeks have been good to me, reading-wise, and I sure have some stories to tell you about! Let's get to it:
Fantasy Magazine, Issues 75 - 78 (January - April)
There are some really experimental flash fiction pieces across recent issues of Fantasy Magazine, and I'm left with not much to say beyond "that was cool" about a lot of them. "isio" by Martins Deep in Issue 78 is kind of poetry, but also not, and it riffs off a night of stargazing to create some really interesting imagery about childhood wonder and the mundanity of real life. My notes for "I have reached into the quantum baskets" by Marie H. Lewis (Issue 77) read, in their entirety, "Hades + Persephone but weird quantum shit" and I don't feel I can improve on that (it's good!). "Collecting Ynes" by Lisa M. Bradley (Issue 77) is also firmly in the weird but good category, and I just don't know what to say about "The Mirror Test" by Moses Ose Utomi (Issue 75), which tells the story of a pet dog being forced to take a bath in a way that makes you go "sure, that's an interesting speculative take on the subject". I like the vibes of weird flash, but I struggle to put review words down for it (for the same reason as I very rarely review poetry), so thank you to Fantasy Magazine for the opportunity to expand my skillset!
A big recommendation also for "Christopher Mills, Return to Sender" by Isabel J. Kim, a very slice-of-life-y story about a teenage boy, murdered on prom night, who is brought back by his (now much older) twin sister so she can bring about justice for his murder. Christopher has become a demon and gone to hell, because he died in rage and pain, and what makes the story so fascinating is how his narration brings to life all the misery and unfairness and big feelings of dying a teenager and the circumstances of his murder, while portraying Christopher himself as relatively emotionless after his death. The challenging but satisfying resolution rounds off a great story.
Amazon Original Stories: Trespass Collection and Black Stars Collection
Despite having a Kindle e-reader, I very rarely buy things directly from the Kindle store and so it took a while for me to notice that Amazon has had two short story "collections" out in the last year: The Trespass Collection, out February 2022, features six animal-focused horror and fantasy stories, while the Black Stars collection from August 2021 features six science fiction stories from Black authors. The stories are packaged individually, but are free if you have a Prime subscription (guilty), so I read two thirds of them over the last week.
In short, if you're still plugged in to the Amazon ecosystem, I recommend checking these collections out: the fact that they come individually packaged also makes them a great way to jump into short fiction without committing to a whole magazine or anthology (and they come with blurbs, so you know exactly what you're getting). I can't wait to catch up on the stories I haven't read yet.
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories") but it's great to see this sequence come to a satisfying end. Yoon Ha Lee's "Bonsai Spaceships" is also excellent (it does what it says on the tin, with a plucky young apprentice protagonist leading the show), and "Rich Growth" by Aliya Whiteley is a beautiful story of death, growth and gemflowers.
Finally, in FIYAH 21, I had a great time with "From Earth to Io, With Love" by Adelehin Ijasan, in which a man teleporting across the solar system for work gets caught up in a nightmare-inducing system glitch which exposes the grim realities of the technology. Ijasan's tone is light and wry throughout the horrors being narrated, which really drives home the capitalist bureaucracy Idris finds himself in.
Adri (she/her), Nerds of a Feather co-editor, is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy