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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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More short fiction from here, there and everywhere.

"Never Chose This Way" by Shira Lipkin, July 7, 2016, Apex Magazine

Powerful and painful story about surviving the ways our culture tries to police conformity and learning to live comfortably beyond the definitions of acceptable gender roles, in which a group of non-conforming girls use the tropes of fantasy snd science fiction to create their own identities.

"All in a Hot and Copper Sky" by Megan Arkenberg, September 2015, Lightspeed Magazine

Dolores is a survivor. Many years ago, she and her lover Socorro were part of an experiment, a simulation of a Mars colony biosphere gone horribly wrong - and rightly or wrongly, it was Socorro who took action in the crisis, and Socorro who paid the price with her reputation and her life. Yet, as the story of what happened, and of how Dolores' life has unfolded since, is revealed in a series of reminiscences and letters never sent, it becomes clear that Dolores has paid the price as well, her life becalmed in hell just as the ship of the Ancient Mariner referenced in the title, Socorro and her deeds - and Dolores' love for her - hung like an albatross around her neck. Powerful story.

"The Body Corporate" by Mark Pantoja, September 1, 2015, Giganotosaurus Magazine

In a universe where corporations own everything, the settlers of an unterraformed world struggle to maintain some kind of freedom. When a wounded, genetically altered Corporate soldier is found by a backwoods farmer after a battle with rebel forces, she faces a dilemma - kill the Corporate and bring down the full force of the Corporation on her, or help the Corporate and betray her people? Thought-provoking.

"And the Ends of the Earth as Thy Possession" by Robert B. Feingold, July 1, 2015, Giganotosaurus Magazine

In an alternate universe, anti-Semitism has resulted in the expulsion of Jews from the planet after a bloody religious war that destroyed most of the Jewish communities of Palestine. The survivors are being transported to a new planet, when a series of unexplained deaths among the crew bring to the surface old fears and prejudices. A deeply moving story of guilt, revenge, and the nature of the soul.

"The World in Evening" by Jei D. Marcade, September 14, 2015, Strange Horizons

Harley is a taxidermist; the monster that lives inside him is something else altogether. Mouse is his newly moved in neighbour, a young girl with her own inner secrets. A chilling story about monsters, hunters, and the games they play.

"And We Were Left Darkling," Sarah Pinsker, August 2015, Lightspeed Magazine

All over the world, people are dreaming about children they have never known, but who they feel are unquestionably real, and their own. And then one day, those children appear. Haunting and moving piece.

"When Your Child Strays from God," Sam J. Miller, August 2015, Clarkesworld Magazine

A pastor's wife believes her son is lost to them, and will do anything to find and save him - including taking the illegal, mind-linking drug she believes him to be addicted to. But in the end, it is not so clear who is truly lost, and who most needs to be found and saved.


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