By Heather A.
As of late, I’ve been more and more interested in reading short fiction, specifically novellas and short stories. They work well for me in terms of time commitment, maybe I’ll read one before bed or during my commute. I wanted to share a few of my new favorites and expected favorites. Recently, Tor.com Publishing launched and will be releasing 10 new novellas in the Fall of 2015. I’m including two in this post, but be sure to check out the others. I’ve recently begun reading the short fiction Tor.com posts on their website (for free!) and I have enjoyed it immensely. My other favorite sources for short stories are Book Smugglers and Uncanny Magazine. As an added bonus, all of the stories featured here are diverse in some way.
Short stories are good “snack sized” escapes from reality.
The Merger by Sunil Patel (Book Smugglers Publishing) Paresh and Sita are a loving married couple who share a (mostly) pleasant and uneventful life. That is, if you don’t count Sita’s cooking experiments with turkey chili pizza (don’t ask). All that changes one evening, when Paresh is approached by a gelatinous, horned blob-alien from outer space who makes a lucrative offer that Paresh and Sita literally cannot refuse (or else the world is, well, kaput). Caught between a rock and a hard place, the couple learns that business negotiations with alien corporations are not so different from negotiations on Earth. And one should always, always read the fine print before agreeing to a merger.
In Midnight’s Silence by T. Frohock (Harper Voyager Impulse) The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind… Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can’t get to him directly, they do the one thing he’s always feared. They go after Miquel. Now, in order to save his lover’s life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world’s next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed. A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock’s In Midnight’s Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he’ll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.
Frohock has written many other short fiction stories, check them out here.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing) Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors’ artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing) Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.
Okorafor is also an accomplished novelist, her book Who Fears Death is available from DAW Books, among other novels.
Stay by Daniel José Older (Fireside Fiction) Families of immigrants come to the United States in hopes of building a better future. Our narrator, a ghost, watches over her nephew, Ramon–a hospital security guard– while she tries to understand her own future of the in-between. “They came in boats and airplanes, armed with false documents and holy terror and a cautious wariness of what they would find. They came and breathed sigh after sigh of relief, closed their eyes, and put trembling hands to foreheads. They came and settled into these flashy, suddenly modern digs, cursed at the atrocious weather, renamed streets — forgoing the sharp consonants of English — erected bakeries and memorials and three-star restaurants that reminded them just enough of home to not trigger nightmares. They came and they left behind family members clutching photographs and promises to send money and frequent letters and peanut butter or vacuum cleaners or whatever was impossible to find that year. They left behind true loves and mistresses and streets pulsing with memories. Each brought along a cord that stretched all the way back to the island, and when they slept each prayed the cord would send along news from home until slowly, each one came to call this place home and the cords wavered beneath the weight of the present tense.“
Shadowshaper is Older’s most recently published novel for young adults. His urban fantasy novel Half-Resurrection Blues was reviewed on Around the World in 80 Books.
The Oiran’s Song by Isabel Yap (Uncanny Magazine) “Winter will always remind you of three things: the smoke rising from the fire that burned your home; the cold floor you slept on as a pageboy in the teahouse; and the peculiar shade of your brother’s skin, the way his bruises grayed like melted snow. This color does not make sense in your mouth: spoken, tasted. But you see it every time you close your eyes. His body being folded like a paper fan, broken apart like ceramic. The few nights you could lean next to him, he smelled like wine and another person’s sweat. When you were twelve, at the onset of war, the teahouse sold you to some passing soldiers. You bundled up your clothes and stopped by Kaoru’s room. He held you, and you exhaled into his chest, where bruises were patterned delicately: stains of the floating world. You didn’t know it then, but the pleasure quarters were starting to crumble. “Goodbye, niisan,” you said. Your brother did not tell you to be happy, which would have been cruel. Instead he said, “Live well, Akira.” His eyes, when they rested on your face, were loving, sad, and afraid.“
Any other short stories or novellas you love? Post in the comments.