- “Missed Connections” by Alena Flick, Strange Horizons, November 12, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “Say It with Mastodons” by Marissa Lingen, Nature, November 14, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “The Word of Flesh and Soul” by Ruthanna Emrys, Tor.com, November 14, 2018 (fantasy novelette)
- “The Coal Remembers What It Was” by Paul R. Hardy, Diabolical Plots #45B, November 16, 2018 (fantasy short story)
The sole SF story in this batch, “Mastodons,” is a cute short-short (perhaps better published in February) about a geneticist in love. It’s also a not-so-cute short-short about diseases arising from climate change and wiping out current herd animals.
The fantasies also include a couple with romance among their themes, “Missed Connections” is a story in which we watch a wallflower play with her phone. She spoofs ads on a website pretending to be looking for someone even though she’s really looking for someone. There’s a gratuitous ghost in this mainstream story. “Word” is about a female student of a professor of an ancient magic occult language studying outside the box with her autistic girlfriend as they fight the Man. Despite some effort at distinguishing them, the “old men” keeping the women down are fairly cardboard. The language and its effects on the “flesh and soul” has a bit of the fantasy version of handwavium to it but also has some Lovecraftian niftiness and, while the climactic scene before the review board of metamorphosed men isn’t very climactic, it is effectively creepy.
The best story of the batch is notable and I was tempted to fully recommend it. “Coal” is the first-person story of a very old woman as given to an inquisitive neighbor or reporter. The main point revolves around her complaint that everyone asks about her dead coalminer father when she’d rather talk about her mother but both figure in the tale of a fantastic coal mine disaster in an otherwise realistic England. The fantasy element is imaginatively conceived, though it’s preceded by a slow start and is followed by a relatively weaker denouement. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the dialect which is strong but readable. The vigorous voice and personality of the narrator is as effective as the central fantasy element.