As 2014 comes to a close, we wanted to make sure that this year’s short fiction didn’t get lost in the shuffle of all the other year-end “best-of” lists. We took to Twitter to ask for your favorite short pieces of 2014, and as usual you gave us a wonderful list! We’ve compiled the stories below, and we encourage you to tell us about more favorites in the comments.
“Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable”—Cat Rambo, Clarkesworld
The cat was a small tortoiseshell kitten, “a clot of black and orange fur, tiny triangular face split between the colors.” Antony brought it home to his mother after his father died, and she loved it in her stolid way. But after Antony loses Mindy in an accident a, and he can find no comfort, he begins to wonder if a cloning kit might be the answer to both his mother’s sadness, and his own…you can read this lovely story in Clarkesworld Issue 89.
“The Color of Paradox”—A.M. Dellamonica, Tor.com
“The Color of Paradox,” by A.M. Dellamonica, is a science fiction story about one of a series of time travelers sent back to the past in order to buy more time for the human race, which in the future is on the verge of extinction. It was published in June, on this very website.
“Salvage”—Carrie Vaughn, Lightspeed Magazine
“You two ready?” I ask.
“Yes, ma’am,” Gert says with forced brightness, and Rally nods quickly, a shake of motion behind her helmet’s faceplate. She’s nervous, but she always seems to be a little nervous, so I’m not too worried.
And with that we’re dropped into a tense, grief-stricken story, terrifying in its small details, and emotionally true at all times. This story was included in Lightspeed Magazine #49, from their Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue, and you can read it on their site.
Sixth of the Dusk—Brandon Sanderson
“Death hunted beneath the waves. Dusk saw it approach, an enormous blackness within the deep blue, a shadowed form as wide as six narrowboats tied together. Dusk’s hands tensed on his paddle, his heartbeat racing as he immediately sought out Kokerlii.” Sixth of the Dust is a novella is set in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere (a universe shared with the Mistborn series, the Stormlight Archive, and other Sanderson tales) and you can read an excerpt here.
“The Fisher Queen”—Alyssa Wong, Fantasy & Science Fiction
Two prominent themes in “The Fisher Queen” are the effects of systematic violence against women and the costs of not speaking up in the face of injustice. These are issues that impact us, our loved ones, and everyone around us, every single day, and have the power to destroy us–sometimes slowly over a lifetime, sometimes in a burst of passion and hate. “The Fisher Queen” was published in Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May/June issue, and you can check out an interview with author Alyssa Wong here.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things—Patrick Rothfuss
In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters.
Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows…
“The Innocence of a Place”—Margaret Ronald, Strange Horizons
This is the sort of circular logic that I keep running into. There is no evidence that any of the students at the ostentatiously-named Braxton Academy for Young Girls were mistreated, but because they went missing, people assumed the school must have been the reason for it. The neighbors never reported even a peep of impropriety, but there must have been some unspecified depravity behind their innocence. Even a century later, justification after the fact has become what passes for history.
Granted, there isn’t much to work with outside of said justifications. Only a few shreds of material evidence survived the events: a few incomplete and water-stained notes in the school’s daybook, a broken rowboat lodged in a tree, water damage to the first story of Wilbraham’s house.
The photograph of fifteen little girls in navy blue smocks and white pinafores, staring out at the camera as if facing a judge.
And that’s just the start. Read it over at Strange Horizons!
“A Dweller in Amenty”—G.L. Valentine, Nightmare Magazine
The piano has been pushed aside to make room for a casket. The narrator sits across from a corpse. As the story shifts across first person in both the singular and the plural, and second-person address, the reader slowly realizes that we are hearing the story of a sin eater. But it isn’t until halfway through the story that we learn the true stakes of her dangerous career. You can find G.L. Valentine’s haunting story in Nightmare Magazine.
“If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White”—Maria Dahvana Headley, Uncanny Magazine
Amal El-Mohtar wrote about Maria Dahvana Headley’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” in her November 5th Rich and Strange. The story appeared in the inaugural issue of Uncanny Magazine. The story begins in the late ‘60s, when Mitchell Travene, reporter for a men’s magazine, is commissioned to write a piece about Jungleland, an animal theme park—except in this world, the animal’s are sentient (in a way humans recognize, we should say) and perform the plays of Shakespeare and Chekhov. Their park is bankrupt and on the cusp of closing, a fading echo of its glory days.
“Ogres of East Africa”—Sofia Samatar, Long Hidden
“Ogres of East Africa” features such a project. Alibhai’s employer (he is never named) is creating an index of ogres—for the purpose of hunting them, we’re told, though merely knowing them would be dangerous enough. Alibhai collects names and stories of ogres from a woman named Mary and records them in alphabetical order; then, in writing that the employer cannot read, fills the margins with additional information as well as his own reflections. This gleefully weird story was published in the anthology Long Hidden.
“The Principles”—Robert Reed, Asimov’s
Reed’s alternate history takes place in a world where the west have warred with the Mongols for 1300 years, and women run society while men head off to battle. However, rather than focusing on the “battle” aspect, Reed takes a look at intrigue back home, as an unassuming man (exempted from the military due to his father’s service) falls in love with a woman who may be involved in a dissident plot.
“Lorca Green”—Gina Ruiz, Lowriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories From the Chicano Soul
Editor Sabrina Vourvoulias blogged about some of her top picks of the year, but sent us a top pick: Gina Ruiz’ “Lorca Green.” This story was published in Lowriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories From the Chicano Soul, and delves into the lives of alienated kids, twisting a tale of sexual abuse and murder into a magical narrative.
“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”—Usman T. Malik, Qualia Nous
Midnight in Karachi host Mahvesh Murad cited “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by Usman T. Malik as a particular favorite this year. Initially published in the gorgeous SF/horror anthology Qualia Nous, you can now read Malik’s story, over at Medium. We’ll just quote Samuel Delany’s opinion: “It blew me away. I was crying like a baby at the end and I was very happy to be crying.” So, you know, go read it.
And since these thirteen stories probably aren’t enough to hold you over until 2015, feel free to suggest more short fiction in the comments!