Some of my favorite short stories from Nov-Dec 2022
Plus a few thoughts, reviews, and announcements
Some favorite stories
This year, I made a push to try to read more stories from November and December, because these stories at the end of the year and often overlooked for awards and reviews. In the end, I could not read as many as I liked, but I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites regardless. Please go read them, enjoy them, and share them with others! Also, please consider them for awards (if you’re that type.)
For the impatient who would rather not read reviews first, here’s a linked list of the stories:
The Last Caricature of Jean Moulin , by Andrea Kriz
The House at the End of the World, by Ashley Deng
A Living Planet, by Benjamin Kinney
Coiffeur Seven, by Kiran Kaur Saini
White Rose, Red Rose, by Rachel Swirsky
Dreamports, by Tlotlo Tsamaase
Centaurworld, by Megan Nicole Dong, et al.
The Year’s Best Fantasy Table of Contents Announced
The marvelously talented editor Paula Guran is starting a “Year’s Best Fantasy” anthology series. The table of contents was recently announced and it includes my story Frost’s Boy. I love this story, and I’m thrilled that Paula did as well. I’m so happy to be included together with other amazing writers such as Fran Wilde, Varsha Dinesh, E. Lily Yu, and everyone else on the table of contents.
Recommended Review in Locus
My story The True Value of an Artist is His Patriotism got a lovely review and recommendation from Rich Horton in Locus. This was quite a nice pick-me-up since I’m working on a longer story in the same near-future-space-colonization setting right now. If you’re interested in the story, you can find it in Issue 6 of Cossmass Infinities.
A Stray Thought About Fiction, Escapism, and Tone
There is currently an ongoing shift in the SFF zeitgeist towards stories that are lighter, happier, fluffier, and lower conflict. I don’t think that this is by any means a definitive or permanent shift, but it’s a reaction to the hard drive towards fairly bleak depressing work in the early part of the 21st century. I think that the pandemic accelerated this shift for a lot of readers; I’ve seen a lot of people saying “right now I don’t want to read anything but light stories where everyone is okay” or similar.
Historically, I’ve written both fairly light, happy stories (like Five Courses on Ganymede or Just Enough Rain) as well as bleak heart-renders like Leaving Room for the Moon or The Garden Where No One Ever Goes. I probably tend a bit more towards the bleak. Perhaps not surprisingly, my attitude has usually been “both of these things are good; I like both of them; I wish people would stop trying to set them up as a binary or frame dark stories are morally bankrupt.”
But during the pandemic, this has changed for me, and interestingly it’s changed in the opposite direction from the sentiment expressed above. I have completely lost my ability to enjoy or even read through stories that are light, happy, and conflict free. My whole mind just rebels against it. Without a minimum level of conflict or suffering, I can’t create any sort of emotional connection to the characters or the narrative.
This has, of course, affected my writing as well. I’m producing a lot less happy and a lot more bleak.
It’s an interesting feeling, to be moving in the exact opposite direction of the zeitgeist. Hopefully there will still be plenty of room for both types of stories in the future.
A Favorite Novel
For no particular reason, other than that sometimes I replay my favorite books in my head, I have been thinking for the last few days about A Woman of the Iron People, by Eleanor Arnason. It’s a wonderful book, does space anthropology better than anyone, a fascinating exploration of alien culture and gender systems, as well as human colonial practices.
I have two stories coming out soon: An Ill-Fated Girl Meets and Ill-Fated Man in F&SF and The Honest Fox, or, a Truth Shared is Not a Truth Lost in Lightspeed. The former is my tribute to the Chinese author Cao Xueqin, and particularly his novel The Dream of the Red Chamber (translated into English as The Story of the Stone.) The latter is another entry into my Tales From the Great Sweet Sea series, this time a classic-style talking animal fable.
There are several more stories in the pipeline but I don’t yet know their publication dates. I will let you know when they’re available.