As I mention in the relevant recommendation, I belatedly discovered that the SFWA had added the flash zine Grievous Angel to its list of pro markets, so I caught up on it. Even with its intermittent microfiction help, this was a light month in which I read about 135K words from thirty-five of thirty-seven November stories. This month’s recommendations and honorable mentions, especially for science fiction, are also fairly light. There were still several good stories, though, and the 238th number of Beneath Ceaseless Skies was especially noteworthy.
- “The Şiret Mask” by Marie Brennan, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, short story (rec)
- “Three May Keep a Secret” by Carlie St. George, Strange Horizons short story (rec)
- “An Unexpected Boon” by S. B. Divya, Apex, short story (rec)
- “Candont” by Deborah L. Davitt, Grievous Angel 2017-05-29, short story
- “Last Long Night” by Lina Rather, Daily Science Fiction 2017-04-07, short story
- “Those Who Favour Fire” by CB Droege, Nature, short story
- “Who Won the Battle of Arsia Mons?” by Sue Burke, Clarkesworld, novelette
- “The Faerie Tree” by Kathleen Kayembe, Lightspeed, short story
- “His Wife and Serpent Mistress” by Gillian Daniels, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, short story
From the backlog of Grievous Angel stories, “Candont” stuck out, which I discussed in the “Odd Hours” rec. I don’t ordinarily read reprints but Flash Fiction Online had the Lina Rather, who’s impressed me before and it was a quick flash from 2017, so I gave it a try and it’s worth a mention. (She also had a story published in The Arcanist which was fine, too, but a shade below “Night.”) “Night” is about a starship survey mission becoming a colonization mission when Earth wipes itself out but they don’t have much of a chance until an astronomical coincidence occurs. This story works on a symbolic level much more than a literal one but is evocative. “Fire” is an “if this goes on” which takes us to the ultimate conclusion of asteroid mining and is nicely bittersweet. “Arsia Mons” starts with the spectacularly unpromising premise of battlebots on Mars and makes a story of it which reads very quickly despite its length.
“Faerie” is the second Kayembe story I’ve read this year which is very good in many ways yet has a very damaging hole in it. The protagonist calls on supernatural aid but what ultimately occurs could have been done more cheaply without it. As a horror story, it’s also better suited for Nightmare than Lightspeed. All that said, it has compelling characters and situations and is well-written, much like her earlier “idiot-plot” “You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych” (which was published in Nightmare). This one also deals with a family: a little girl, her parents, her sister, and the sister’s very disturbing new husband. As “The Siret Mask,” recommended from the same BCS issue, had thievery and identity revelations, so “Serpent” has scam artists and revelations of motivation. The characters aren’t as appealing, the plot is somewhat simpler, and the style is a bit more Victorian but it’s a solid read.
(Postscript: Tor.com would have ordinarily released a story today but apparently ended its year, if not its life, about three weeks ago. Terraform may release a story tomorrow but hasn’t for a couple of weeks, so I’m not holding my breath, or this post.)
Edit (2017-12-01): update number/word count of stories read to reflect that Terraform did release that story.