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"A Trump Christmas Carol," by Roz Kaveney, Laurie Penny, John Scalzi and Jo Walton; Uncanny, December 25, 2016
http://uncannymagazine.com/article/trump-christmas-carol/

A brilliant piece of political fiction, a solid reworking of the ideas of Dickens' classic as the ghosts of 2016 teach the President-elect the true meaning and proper use of political power.



"The Orangery," Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam; Beneath Ceasless Skies, Issue #214, December 8, 2016
http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-orangery/

Using the myths of Apollo and Daphne and Apollo and Dryope as central images, Stufflebeam gives us a powerful look at the responses evoked in women when confronted with men's desire and sense of entitlement to women's labour, bodies and love. When confronted with all the women, including Daphne and Dryope, who have chosen transformation into trees, Apollo asks “Why do you women fear men so much that you would rather be tree than give a kiss?” It's a question answered by this novelette, though perhaps not in any way that one who must ask can understand.



"The Evaluators: To Trade with Aliens, You Must Adapt," N. K. Jemisin; Wired, December 13, 2016
https://www.wired.com/2016/12/nk-jemisin-the-evaluators/

A brilliant and truly terrifying cautionary tale told in modern epistolary style (excerpts from emails, reports and other documents) about the dangers of making assumptions and rushing first contact.



"Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0," Caroline M. Yoachim; Lightspeed, March 2016
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/welcome-to-the-medical-clinic-at-the-interplanetary-relay-station/

Having spent way too much time dealing with medical personnel and institutions lately, this grim little story about the futility of getting any real healthcare from a bureaucratic and underfunded system hit close to home.



"My Grandmother's Bones," S. L. Huang; Daily Science Fiction, August 22, 2016
http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/religious/s-l-huang/my-grandmothers-bones

A short and moving story about generational relationships and cultural changes, seen through a series of funerary behaviours.


"17 Amazing Plot Elements... When You See #11, You'll Be Astounded!," James Beamon; Daily Science Fiction, May 3, 2016
http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/religious/james-beamon/17-amazing-plot-elements-when-you-see-11-youll-be-astounded

An interesting approach to the retelling of a very old tale. Short, but worth reading for the way it's told.



"The Right Sort of Monsters," Kelly Sandoval; Strange Horizons, April 4, 2016
http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/the-right-sort-of-monsters/
Powerful story about need, sacrifice and how humans deal with difference. A strange and alien grove - the Godswalk - appears mysteriously beside a village, leaving most of the inhabitants unable to have children of their own. In the forest are the blood trees, whose flowers produce children in return for human blood, children that are not quite human, but human enough. But when Viette enters the forest to seek a child to fill the void left by a series of miscarriages, she learns that the Godswalk hides deeper secrets than she realised.

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I've decided that I need to read more short fiction, and so I've begun poking around the net for short stories available online, since I can't read paper magazines any more. And I want to keep a record of what I'm reading, so welcome to the first in an ongoing series of posts sharing brief thoughts on the short fiction (primarily spec fic) I'm finding of interest on the net. My intention is to make notes as I read and then post my thoughts when I have five or six stories to put into a post.

I'm going to be reading material that's been around for a while, and material that's new. I'll be including date of net publication and website/URL along with my thoughts.



"Kia and Gio," Daniel Jose Elder, Jan 6, 2015, Tor.com

Atmospheric story about a young Hispanic girl who can't let go of a lost love. The closure that comes to her when she must help someone else face the ghosts of his past to be free of them works, and is a solid conclusion to her story, but the question of just what happened to Giovanni and his lover Jeremy leaves me unsatisfied. Are we to assume their mysterious disappearances (both are presumed dead, and Kia comes to believe this is so) are a result of violent homophobia, aliens seeking heaven knows what, or something else altogether?


"How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps," A. Merc Rustad, Scigentasy Issue 4, March 1 2014
http://www.scigentasy.com/how-to-become-a-robot/

For anyone who has ever felt really, really different - so different you're not sure you are actually human or capable of "normal" human emotion - this story hits home, and hits it hard. A woman, in a pleasant platonic relationship with a gay man, finds that her deepest sense of emotional fulfillment comes from her regular contact with a somewhat out-moded service robot. A story about alienation, gender, sexuality, and the true meaning of family - it's the people who love you no matter what you are or love - that really hooked me.


“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere," John Chu, February 2013, Tor.com

So, yes, I have only just now gotten around to reading last year's Hugo winner in the short story category. And it is indeed a very moving and thought-provoking story, dealing as it does with family, love, gender, sexuality, coming out, sibling relationships, culturally defined familial expectations, the importance of communication, and all that good stuff. I know that some critics have said that this isn't science fiction - and they are probably right to a degree. But the unexplained water falling from the sky whenever one lies is the mechanism for a very profound what-if: what if in all our relationships, our friends, family, lovers, could tell if we were being truthful. This story may not be science fiction, or fantasy, but it's definitely not realistic fiction either.


"Headwater LLC," Sequoia Nagamatsu, Jan 2015, Lightspeed Magazine
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/headwater-llc/

A dying people possess the ability to change water into a restorative, healing liquid. Discovered and ultimately betrayed by a naive young woman, these people are enslaved and forced to use their gift for the profit of their captors. Drawing on Japanese folklore, Nagamatsu has created a powerful and moving story that is, at its heart, about the damage caused by the heedless exploitation of nature and indigenous peoples, and the tragedy that results when we acquiesce in and are co-opted by those whose only thoughts are about greed and power.


"He Came From a Place of Openness and Truth," Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Jan 15 2015, Lightspeed Magazine
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/came-place-openness-truth/

This is a very different coming out story. A young man finds himself strongly attracted to a classmate, only to discover that his new lover is an alien who has come to Earth and selected him as a lover for a very specific reason. Closeted sex slowly evolves into deep affection, the protagonist learns his lover's secret, but there's still a chance that love will prevail. I was not fully satisfied with the story - tye protagonist's psychological journey was well delineated, but his alien lover remained somewhat of a cypher throughout, which frustrated me.


"i Can See Right Through You," Kelly Link, Dec 2014, McSweeney’s Quarterly 48.
http://www.mcsweeneys.net/pages/i-can-see-right-through-you

An aging actor famous for an early role as a vampire, his career in decline, visits his former co-star, now the host of a successful ghost-hunting TV series, on location in Florida, only to become part of a tragedy. Or an entity first encountered by a young girl via a Ouija board follows her for decades and eventually claims her for his own. Or fame and fortune and the unrealities of Hollywood life lead to mental breakdown and a desperate, violent, attempt to regain past glory. Or something else. Link is known for creating tales that are ambiguous, or that can be interpreted in many ways. This story certainly fits that category. Its structure is non-linear and episodic, but tells a fascinating story - no matter how you interpret it. The main characters - Will, the aging actor, and his former co-star and lover Maggie - are vividly drawn. I'm still trying to make up my mind over which interpretation I favour.

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