Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: June 2019

Summer is officially upon us, and with it comes a whole new set of amazing short speculative fiction stories. There’s a little something for everyone in June, from a horror-filled family beach vacation to a sinister fairy tale to the perils of Martian exploration to marine biology in the age of climate change, and everything in between. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in June.

 

Beach People by Joanna Parypinski

At first glance, the premise of Beach People feels reminiscent of the horror movie Us — a family returns to their beachside cabin and encounters horrible things — but it soon takes on a horrible life of its own. Camilla’s parents are trying to repair their fractured family after the tragic death of their son. But something awful is watching them, haunting them, stalking them, infiltrating them. Joanna Parypinski is a visceral writer with a real talent for horror fiction. Y’all, I still have chills.

Black Static — May/June 2019, Issue 69

 

Black, Like Earth by Jordyn Blanson

In a fantasy world where invaders called the Usha have conquered and oppressed a native population, a teenager named Eratu must hide their special abilities. In the years before subjugation they were called “misha’ra,” but now they are chained and enslaved to Usha nobility. At the festival honoring the Usha conquest, another set of invaders attack, slaughtering miska and Usha alike. Saving their city means exposing their true nature. Is it worth the risk? Are the people of Ushadel worthy of being saved?

Beneath Ceaseless Skies — June 20, 2019, Issue 280

 

The Coven of Dead Girls by L’Erin Ogle

A haunted house story from the perspective of the ghosts? YES PLEASE! The ghosts of murdered girls haunt an old house. Families come and go, but this new one seems different. The girls focus in on one person in particular, tormenting them with nightmares and hallucinations. In between the vignettes of spectral torture, the narrator ghost recounts how she and her fellow inmates were murdered by a sociopath and sealed into the walls of the house. They hate the newcomers and need them at the same time. They want to move on but are afraid to leave. “If I could free my fingers, I would gouge your eyes out.” *shudders*

Pseudopod — June 7, 2019, Number 651

 

Fugue State by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

Last month I ran out of room in my roundup and had to cut this short story, but it’s so good that I couldn’t stand not featuring it. Besides, it might be the last Apex story we’ll get for a while; the magazine is on long-term (but hopefully not permanent) hiatus. If this is the note the magazine goes out on, at least it’s a good one. Charlotte Berry is worried about her husband’s rapidly declining mental acuities. Ever since he became an adherent of Reverend Pike, he’s stopped being the engaged and active man she married. So when Charlotte has the chance to see this Reverend for herself, so attends his service…and things go horribly awry. I don’t have to tell you how well-written and strongly plotted this story is—it’s Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes for Hera’s sake. Just read it and love it.

Apex Magazine — May 2019, Issue 120

 

Fairy-Tale Ending by Beth Goder

This story crawled under my skin like a burrowing insect. It’s painfully beautiful and intensely evocative. While written like a fairy tale, it isn’t the happily ever after kind but dark and sinister, where creatures of magic leaves a trail of blood and bones in their wake and arrogant humans think they can conquer the gods with willpower and a sharp sword. I can’t really describe the story without spoiling it, but I’ll say this: I can’t wait to read more fiction from Goder.

Flash Fiction Online — June 2019

 

Hunting the Viper-King by Kathryn Harlan

What happens when a downtrodden man falls for sham fortuneteller’s tarot reading? In this disquieting story by Kathryn Harlan, what happens is he drags his daughter on the road in a weathered old RV on a winding, wandering search for the possibly mythical Viper-King. According to legend, the first person to eat part of the slain Viper-King will become omniscient, a lure too tempting for Dot’s father to ignore. Harlan dips in and out of Dot’s childhood and teen years as they hunt the Viper-King. There’s a darkness around the edges as if too much pressure would crack their fragile existence. Her father needs the Viper-King to exist to make his life meaningful and Dot needs it to exist because if it doesn’t what will become of her father?

Strange Horizons — June 3, 2019

 

Las Vegas Museum of Space Exploration by Marilee Dahlman

I’m a sucker for unusual or experimental formats in short fiction, so it’s no surprise Marilee Dahlman’s story is on this list. Written as if it were a welcome pamphlet handed out at a museum – the fictional Las Vegas Museum of Space Exploration – we learn the story of how a “businessman, philanthropist, and explorer,” Rupert Hammer (who was also a human trafficker and failed politician) set about stripping resources and artifacts from the Martian landscape. We also learn the terrible consequences of capitalism run amok in the galaxy.

Metaphorosis — June 2019

 

Mother Ocean by Vandana Singh

Paro is lost. After her grandmother’s death her mother fled with her young daughter from their coastal hometown to landlocked Delhi. Remembering little from her early childhood and given no stories from her mother, Paro throws herself into her work. Out in the Indian Ocean she is learning to communicate with a blue whale. The mainland is wracked with revolution and purges and concentration camps and climate change, but freediving in the ocean she discovers who she really is. Vandana Singh portrays a near-future version of our world and the things we willingly do to our world. But ultimately it’s a story of hope, of a wish that we will be better than what we are.

Xprize — June 2019, Current Futures: A Sci-Fi Ocean Anthology

 

Risk by Rachel Hylton

Marnie Vega is a lobster. She wasn’t always a lobster. One moment she was a teenager, the next a lobster. This isn’t a story about how a girl transformed into crustacean but of a lobster girl who loved who she became. Her classmates aren’t so accepting at first. This short little short story could be about any teenage girl bullied by her peers. Yet Marnie doesn’t need to get revenge or punish those who hurt her. No, all she needs to do is be herself, her true self.

Foreshadow — June 2019

 

Therein Lies a Soul by Osahon Ize-Iyamu

“There is always a veil, and a smile, and a nail, but there is never anything else. You will never see a face. One day, I looked too closely, and I saw an eye.” On their way home from choir practice, the narrator is stopped by the veiled woman who lives under a bridge. The Brothers who run the choir believe the narrator is special for surviving the encounter, whether their specialness is good or bad is another matter. The narrator eventually returns to the bridge but this time they find something they don’t expect.

The Dark — June 2019, Issue 49

Alex Brown is a high school librarian by day, local historian by night, author and writer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her on Twitter and Insta, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.

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