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"The Great Detective," Delia Sherman;, February 17, 2016

Steampunk and spiritualism, in an alternate literary universe where noted mechanical inventor Sir Arthur Cwmlech and his apprentice Miss Tacy Gof turn to colleague Mycroft Holmes and his masterwork the Reasoning Machine to solve a mysterious theft. A young Doctor Watson, recently returned from Afghanistan, seeks a new life as an inventor. All that is missing from the tale is the Great Detective himself - and if he does not yet exist, then surely someone will have to invent him. A light and witty tale that should appeal to fans of Holmes and the steampunk genre alike.

"Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies," Brooke Bolander; Uncanny magazine, November 2016

This was a short piece, essentially flash fiction, a stunning gut-punch. Hard to read, hard to breathe afterward. Searing and powerful indictment of male entitlement and rape culture.

"Seasons of Glass and Iron," Amal El-Motar; first published in The Starlit World (2016), reprinted online at Uncanny Magazine

There are many fairy tales about women. Women who must do impossible things, or accept impossible circumstances, because of men. Men who say they love them, men who want to test them, men who want to woo and win them. Sometimes, though, these women walk out of those tales and live their own lives instead, creating new kinds of tales.

"Lullaby for a Lost World," Aliette de Bodard;, June 8, 2016

De Bodard has said that of this story that it is "a sort of answer to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (one of my absolute favourite short stories)." It is very much a story about the prices paid for security, stability, and the like - and who makes the decisions on what prices are acceptable, and who pays those prices. A worthy counterpart to the story that inspired it.

"Things with Beards," Sam J. Miller; Clarkesworld, June 2016

A meditation on monsters and how they walk undetected in the world, both the monsters and evil aliens of speculative fiction (the backstory of the protagonist evokes the classic sf/horror film The Thing), and the monsters that have always been a part of the human race, the callous, the cruel, the killers of those who are labeled less than human.

"You'll Surely Drown Here if You Stay," Alyssa Wong;
Uncanny Magazine, May 2016

A young boy with an uncanny heritage to communicate with, and control, the dead is forced to use his powers for the greed of others. A supernatural Western with a deep friendship that survives dead and retribution at its heart.

"An Ocean the Color of Bruises," Isabel Yap; Uncanny Magazine, July 2016

Five young people, former college friends, take a vacation together to a second-class resort with a tragic past. When that past awakens, the quality of their own lives is called into question.

"A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflower," Alyssa Wong;, March 2, 2016

A story about two sisters with unimaginable power, the depth of grief and guilt, and the futility of trying to change the past. Deep truths about grieving, accepting and moving on - and the tragedy of refusing to do so.

"Red in Tooth and Cog," Cat Rambo; originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2016, republished online February 21, 2017

A young woman frequenting a park has her phone stolen by an unlikely culprit, leading her to discover a new ecosystem in development. An interesting perspective on the definitions of life.

“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories”, Jason Sanford; Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 17, 2016

Sanford's novelette is set in what seems to be a far distant future, long after the ecological disasters of pollution and the exploitation of natural resources have resulted in massive social change and, one infers, biological engineering on a vast scale. The land is infused with "grains" - semi-sentient beings, possibly organic, possibly cybernetic, it's never made clear - that infect people thereafter known as anchors - who are responsible for protecting the land and its ecosystems. Anyone not part of an anchor's family is doomed to a nomadic existence, destroyed by the anchors and other beings created/controlled by the grains if they tarry to long in one place, or injure the land in any way. Frere-Jones is an anchor dissatisfied with the way the grains control the anchors and limit the lives of the nomadic day-fellows. Her husband, who shared her opinions, was killed by the grains, and if they could replace her, Frere-Jones suspects the grains would kill her too.

I was both intrigued and dissatisfied with this novelette. I enjoyed the themes of rebellion and of sacrifice, but I was frustrated at knowing so little about the grains, the biomorphing of the anchors, and how it all came to be that way. Perhaps a longer format might have allowed more worldbuilding.

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Some very good stories here, at least one will likely end up on my Hugo nominations list.

"Those," by Sofia Samatar, March 2015, Uncanny Magazine

A lyrical, haunting, many-layered story with distinct contrapuntal echoes of The Heart of Darkness, Heningen and the Ants, and other colonial literature. An aging man, once part of the Belgian colonial project in the Congo, tells his daughter stories about his life on the plantation, careless of how they sound to her ears.

"Steve Rogers: PR Disaster," ideopathicsmile, April 23, 2015, Rearranging The Alphabet (tumblr blog)

Yes, fanfic counts. When it's as flat-out funny and as pertinent to my interests as this, anyway. All-American war hero Steve Rogers, otherwise known as Captain America, was brought forward to our time. The hero game hasn't changed much, but as far as social issues are concerned, he's got a lot of catching-up to do. But not in the way you might think. Our boy Steve, it seems, was quite a progressive back in the Depression days. And it's driving his publicist up the wall trying to keep him in line.

"Monkey King, Faerie Queen," Zen Cho, Spring 2015, Kaleidotrope

Another very funny short story, in which Sun Wukong, the Monkey King from classical Chinese literature and folktales, finds himself in the European land of the Fae, and has a right royal dust-up with the Faerie Queen. This entertaining fusion of two different and ancient cultural mythos makes for a pleasant read.

"Milagroso," Isabel Yap, August 12, 2015,

In a future where "natural" food no longer exists, a miracle during a religious festival in The Philippines calls the value of the synthetic substitutions into question. To me, this reads as a serious critique of the whole issue of food engineering, the loss of native strains, and the way that our food is industrially grown and processed. A vividly written story that evokes both an artificial and corporatised future and a rich past that delights the senses.

"Ambiguity Machines: An Examination," Vandana Singh, April 29, 2015,

This novelette left me breathless, in awe. Framed as an examination paper on the topic of machines that may or may not be possible, the text is a theoretical discourse on the permeability of boundaries that we all believe immutable - time, space, reality, sentience, the self - limned in stunning, lyrical prose. Three vignettes, each telling the story of human experience with a technology that bends the laws of what we think is possible - ambiguity machines - are presented for the consideration of the student-candidate. A theoretical physicist by trade, Singh embeds the most transcendent thoughts about the physical nature of reality into an exploration of the power of imaginative creation.

"Elephants and Corpses," Kameron Hurley, May 13, 2015,

Hurley's work is often grim, and this story is no exception. Nev is a body-jumper. He survives by inhabiting and reanimating corpses. His companion and body-manager Tera can talk to the dead. When they buy a reasonably fresh body, they stumble into more than they can handle, and it will take all of Nev and Tera's unusual abilities to survive. Hurley adds depth to the story by considering the emotional complexities of living on as a succession of corpses while those around you die.

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More short fiction from the vast corners of the Net.

"Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters," by N. K. Jemisen (originally published 2010, The Company He Keeps, reprinted 2015 Uncanny Magazine Issue #6)

A good man and a family of miniature dragons face the evil that grows in the heart of the city drowned by hurricane Katrina. Powerful and painful.

"The Oiran's Song," by Isabel Yap, September 2015, Uncanny Magazine

Akira, a former pageboy in a pleasure house is taken as a soldier, trained to fight but also used with casual brutality as a servant and sex slave. When they buy an unusual oiran (courtesan), Ayame, to serve them as well, a strange bond forms between the two victims of war. The subject matter is painful, but the story is both powerful and beautiful.

"September 1 in Tblisi," by Irakli Kobiashvili, Summer 2015, One Throne Magazine!september-1-in-tbilisi/ccw8

A strong and discomfiting story about the often violent policing of gender norms, set in post-revolution Tblisi, Georgia. (Not sff.)

"Security Check," by Han Song (translated by Ken Liu), August 2015, Clarkesworld

At first, this story seems to be a typical dystopia. Louis, the protagonist, lives in New York, in a future America that has given up everything for security. People travel only by subway, and everyone must pass through a thorough security check to get to the subway system. The goal is to make everything - and everyone - completely, constantly safe. But to read further is to see each previous assumption about the country, the world, and ultimately the universe in which this is happening - and what is responsible - rendered an illusion, an experiment in reality. Thought-provoking, but ultimately not quite satisfying.

"City of Ash" by Paolo Bacigalupi, July 27, 2015, A Medium Corporation

In an America devastated by climate change, where only the wealthiest have access to fresh water or greenery, a young girl dreams of a better future for herself and her father. As emotionally devastating to read as the future it describes.

"The Midnight Hour" by Mary Robinette Kowal, Uncanny Magazine Issue #5

A royal couple agree to pay an almost unbearable price for the wellbeing of their kingdom, and will do anything to keep their promise. The tragic elements - and they are many - are thankfully relieved by the strength of their love for each other and their people.

"In Libres" by Elizabeth Bear, Uncanny Magazine Issue #4

This is a wickedly funny story about a student of sorcery who needs just one more source citation to complete her thesis - but to get it, she must face the perils of the Special Collections Branch of the Library. To make clear the nature of the threat, the epigraph is from Borges, and the one essential thing needed to navigate the Library is a ball of twine.


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