Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction for May 2022

Themes? Who needs themes? The only connective tissue in my ten favorite short science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories that I read in May is that they’re all freaking great. Race into the future, sink into the past, and hope you don’t encounter a magical force that could squash you like a bug.

 

“E.I.” by Kola Heyward-Rotimi

Generations into the future, Earth has been reclaimed from violent capitalists. Prisca is in line to become the next “Soil delegate” for the Appalachia region, and with it comes a whole lot of work. This is more of a slice-of-life than a plot-heavy story, which I loved. We learn about Prisca, her job, her community, and even get snippets from the past. It was nice having a slower story, one that grew up around me and offered quiet contemplation rather than frantic action. This is my first time reading Kola Heyward-Rotimi, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Reckoning (May 2022, issue 6)

 

“Esther (1855)” by Juan Martinez

Oh! A weird west-ish historical fantasy story! A group of bedraggled “Saints” are slowly making their way West, searching for the promised land. Most of their party have died, their bodies left behind on the trail. Except one of those corpses isn’t quite dead. She calls to the remaining Saints using the words of their own Prophet to bewitch them. I loved the way this story was written. It’s unsettling and visceral.

Nightmare Magazine (May 2022, issue 116)

 

“The Many Taste Grooves of the Chang Family” by Allison King

A father with dementia acquires a device that can recreate tastes based on memories. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this story when I started it. Dementia in eldery relatives is something I have personal experience with, and I almost didn’t read this because of that. But I’m glad I did. Allison King didn’t write a sad story about loss or grief, not really. “The Many Taste Grooves of the Chang Family” is about what makes a memory worth remembering and how to find peace when the end is anything but peaceful.

Diabolical Plots (May 2, 2022, #87C)

 

“Master of Ceremonies” by Frances Ogamba

I always know I’m about to get a weird, creepy, and fantastic story when I see Frances Ogamba’s byline, and I was not disappointed with “Master of Ceremonies.” Obiajulu is the youngest in a long line of emcees. His ancestor found a magic microphone in the River Niger, and as long as they obey the rules of the mic they are guaranteed success and profit. Once Obiajulu breaks the rules, though, things get very bad indeed.

The Dark (May 2022, issue 84)

 

“The Mechanical Turk Has a Panic Attack” by Francis Bass

Sometimes you just need a quirky, humorous read about humans pretending to be robots. Gab works at what the public thinks is fashionable, upscale restaurant staffed entirely by androids, but in reality all the waitstaff and kitchen crew are exhausted, put-upon humans trying to get by in a near-future world where capitalism continues to run amok.

Unchartered

 

“Nobody Ever Goes Home to Zhenzhu” by Grace Chan

You know you want a thriller set on a distant space station. Calam, betrayed by his mother, is about to be murdered by enemies who have been hunting his family down for years. Good thing, then, his only friend is keeping a close eye on him. This is the kind of story I wish was longer. The worldbuilding is slight but enticing, and the characters are intriguing enough to make you want to know everything about them.

Lightspeed Magazine (May 2022, issue 114)

 

“One Day the Cave Will Be Empty” by K.J. Chien

How could I resist a mermaid story for MerMay? In K.J. Chien’s version, a fisherman’s wife unexpectedly gives birth to a scaly, sharp-toothed daughter. Li Shing cannot bring herself to love her only child, but she and her husband raise her in secret. But secrets are always exposed, and the decision Li Sheng makes when Pearl is revealed is one not even she could have anticipated. There is a lot of depth here about societal expectations of motherhood and what happens when a mother doesn’t meet those expectations.

Fantasy Magazine (May 2022, issue 79)

 

“Salt and Smoke” by Storm Blakley

I’m a sucker for ghost stories, especially ones with a character who can see the dead and isn’t happy about it. Storm Blakley adds a refreshing queer twist to their take on the trope. Riley took over the ghost business after her grandmother passed, but instead helping those who have passed on, she hides. From the living as much as the dead. Until she meets a cute ghost girl named Alia who reminds Riley what it’s like to really live.

The Future Fire (April 2022, issue 2022.61)

 

“Tulsi” by Dipika Mummery

I’d missed the announcement of Tasavvur’s first issue, but given the quality of the stories in the second, I’m thrilled I stumbled across this new magazine. All of the stories in this issue were great, but my favorite was “Tulsi,” about a woman who can hear the gods who is married off to an important man. The gods conspire against her and she finds herself facing the first real choice in her life. Dipika Mummery deftly explores the inner world of our nameless narrator.

Tasavvur (Spring 2022, issue 2)

 

“Void’s Mouth” by Marisca Pichette

“Nothing lures a constellation better than quicksilver.” On an empty, icy moon, our narrator casts a spell to summon a constellation. Marisca Pichette lingers on the ingredients and the process, luxuriating in the feelings and bitter thoughts of the narrator. Paragraphs, most of which are only a sentence long, give the story a “hurry up and wait” feel to it that I found appealing. A dark, shimmering story of betrayal and revenge.

Fusion Fragment (May 2022, issue 11)

 

Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).

citation

Back to the top of the page

2 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Comments must first be approved and published by the moderators before they appear on the site. If your comment does not eventually appear please review our Moderation Policy carefully before posting again.

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.