I can’t tell you how to while away the long summer days and hot, sweaty nights, but reading some short speculative fiction is an excellent use of your time, if I do say so myself. You could read a story about a faerie market or a murderous enslaved girl or little green aliens or robots or a ton of other intriguing premises. There were a lot of great stories this month, and choosing only ten to feature was quite the challenge. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in July.
Advice For Your First Time At the Faerie Market by Nibedita Sen
This whole issue of Fireside was wall-to-wall with fantastic short stories, but this one had to be my favorite. Nibedita Sen writes beautifully and intricately. There are moments when you think she might take the easy way out, but she always goes for another twist of the knife. In this story, a woman being abused by the father of her unborn child stumbles upon a faerie market. There she discovers fantastical foods that can save a life as easily as they can kill. “There was a price, of course. There’s always a price… They could have collected their payment right then, but they gave me sixteen years. Not forgiven—just deferred.”
Fireside Magazine – July 2019, Issue 69
Ahura Yazda, the Great Extraordinary by Sanaa Ahmad
What happens when beings from Persian mythology move to a small farming town? At their farm, tourists come to gawk at the legendary creatures like the shadhavar and karkadann. But all is not peaceful. The creatures and their master Ahura Yazda chafe at their life in the New World. In this sweet yet sad story, we see the emotional toll that comes from having to leave your homeland. You can find a new home, but you can never forget where you came from.
Lightspeed Magazine – July 2019, Issue 110
Blood Is Another Word for Hunger by Rivers Solomon
Sully is an enslaved girl in the South shackled to five cruel women and a man. When the man dies, she finds a chance at freedom. Instead of running, she kills the women and settles into the house—her house. But her acts of violence crack open a doorway to the spirit world from which bloodthirsty creatures emerge. Rivers Solomon is one of those authors you just have to read. Everything that spills from their pen is breathtaking and shocking, and this short story is no exception.
Tor.com – July 24, 2019
Gert of the Hundred by L.S. Johnson
Spiders freak me right the hell out. I live in a woodsy area and my apartment is constantly being invaded by spiders as large as my palm. It’s distressing and disconcerting and I hate it and I hate them. By all accounts, I should also hate this story by L. S. Johnson. It’s all about a woman and the spiders who talk to her and work magic through her. But somehow I found it deeply moving instead of cringe-inducing. Gert is a stranger settled into a community that distrusts her. She befriends, rather unintentionally, the young son of some builders brought in to construct a massive tower. As the builders and their families begin dying from a mysterious ailment, Gert is compelled to intervene. It doesn’t go as planned.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies – July 18, 2019, Issue 282
Little (Green) Women by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s story had me smiling the whole way through, and not just because I wholeheartedly agree with the protagonist that Little Women sucks. (Don’t @ me.) Written as a high school English paper about Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, the essayist is a girl named JoAnne. While hanging out at her parents’ Oregon tavern one afternoon, a tiny green alien drops into her soda. He’s joined by a small (ha!) crew of other little green aliens, all of whom are desperate to see, of all things, Louisa May Alcott’s house. Yes, you read that right—Oregon is invaded by aliens who are Little Women fans.
Galaxy’s Edge – July 2019, Issue 39
Mighty Are the Meek and the Myriad by Cassandra Khaw
If Cassandra Khaw’s name is on the author line, you know the story is going to be good. She is a master at crafting difficult and unpleasant characters; you just can’t wait to see what happens to them next. Harold, the First Secretary to the American Ambassador in London, and Henrietta, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, are easy to dislike but wholly captivating. It’s a few years after peace was declared between the robots and humans, but discontent simmers beneath the surface. Many humans like Harold and Henrietta don’t care for their metallic comrades and the robots, well, all the robots really want are their corgis back. You can’t give a robot a corgi, then take it away and expect everything to be fine…
Fantasy & Science Fiction – July/August 2019
The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor by Maurice Broaddus
“I believe all our journeys are to be celebrated, mourned, and remembered.” If you aren’t already familiar with the great Maurice Broaddus, let this story be your introduction. Broken into five stanzas, this science fiction-tinged tale tells of the movement, both willing and unwilling, of Africans and their descendants. We see glimpses of their lives from the first people to slave traders to runaway slaves to those who moved from the South to the North to those who left Earth entirely. Broaddus writes worlds that feel eerily similar to ours and uses them to expose the harsh truths we don’t want to see. “The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor” is a distillation of the best of Broaddus.
Uncanny Magazine – July 2019, Issue 29
No Other Life by Isabel Cañas
In 16th century Istanbul lives a young Sephardic Jewish woman. One dark night she lets a vampire into her home and is surprised to find herself entranced rather than frightened. As much as I was hooked by the plot, it was Isabel Cañas’ descriptions that landed this story a spot on this list. Her text is as rich and thick as a tapestry and as evocative and vivid as the scent of fresh grass in the summer. “No Other Life” read like a song or a poem. It was just… wow. Someone get her a book deal ASAP.
Nightmare Magazine – July 2019, Issue 82
One Day in Space Too Many by Michael Sherrin
By the end of “One Day in Space Too Many,” I was cackling at the absurdity. The story starts off pretty out there and gets weirder and weirder with every sentence. Here’s what happens: A guy named Gerry is the only person on the spaceship the Rotor. Until one morning he’s not. There’s another Gerry making eggs in the kitchen. The ship then explodes. The next thing Gerry knows: He’s awake and there’s now a third Gerry walking around. Every day the ship explodes and every day there’s a new Gerry until there are thousands of them and life descends into chaos. Nope, that’s all I’m going to tell you. Just go read it.
Metaphorosis – July 2019
Spectrum of Acceptance by Nyla Bright
What a refreshing change of pace! Nyla Bright posits a world where neurodivergence is the norm and neurotypical people are the odd ones out. A man named Leon immigrates from Earth to the space colony of Acceptance and meets Ada, the teen daughter of his host family. Ada’s mother is ND but Ada and Leon are NT. Leon struggles in Acceptance as he comes face to face with his own entitlement. As Ada realizes, it’s Leon who refuses to change, not the people of Acceptance. Bright highlights the everyday challenges and frustrations of ND people in an NT world. Acceptance isn’t a perfect society, but it works well for its inhabitants. Ada has a choice to make: Leave a world that isn’t made for her or stay and find her place in it.
Escape Pod – July 18, 2019, Episode 689
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.