My ten favorite speculative fiction stories I read in June are full of magical cooks, floating cities, futuristic technology, and strange monsters. I’ve got all the adventure, drama, and queerness you could want.
The first of two stories on this list about floating cities, this one on the back of an ancient giant living under the sea. The being under the island kills anyone who seeks them out, to protect itself and the islanders. Which becomes a problem when one of the island scientists decides to see for herself what’s really under her home. I’d never read anything by Jaxon Tempest before, and this was a fantastic introduction. The worldbuilding here was fascinating and compelling.
PodCastle (June 28, 2022, #741)
Cass and Maya live together in a city dominated by an all-powerful corporation, complete with surveillance and company dollars. Cass works at the warehouse packaging meals. Maya, on the other hand, travels to other dimensions to battle zombies, goblins, and other monstrous creatures. Their lives smash together when Cass’ colleagues, who are planning a strike, get a hold of one of Maya’s magical weapons. “Company Town” is a bit of a Frankenstein story, mixing science fiction and fantasy, but it worked for me. Aimee Ogden has a keen eye for finding interesting takes on dystopian futures.
Clarkesworld (June 2022, issue 189)
Sarah Ramdawar takes a baking show competition and mixes it with magic. Molly is competing on Sweet Memories: World Bake Competition, whipping up dishes with “The sound of greens, smooth coconut, and sea crab with the slight grittiness of sand were bright and cheerful. They talked of days at the beach, back when they were cherished for their horizons rather than their encroaching prisons.” There’s little plot here, mostly just Molly making a currant roll, but it feels rich and expansive, like fresh bread rising.
Augur (June 2022, issue 5.1)
Ella, new to a Florida beach town, meets Amaya, a young woman who always smells of the ocean. As they grow closer, Amaya reveals a secret: the women in her family turn into storms. Ella is thrilled by their power and performance, but Amaya knows their time is limited. One day she, too, will return to the ocean as a storm. Relationships are about the journey, not the destination. Their love is no less meaningful just because it’s brief.
Cast of Wonders (June 18, 2022, #497)
Eight-year-old Megan and her older sister spend the summer wandering the Royal Ontario Museum while their father works the ticket booth. Megan seeks solace in the hall of dinosaur bones, avoiding the issue of her sister’s eating disorder and her father’s increasing frustration over it. As heavy as the topic is, KT Bryski keeps the focus on Megan, blunting its edges as a way to delve into the underlying emotions. “Mosasaurs never show fear. Mosasaurs roar with full-throated self sufficiency. Mosasaurs grasp and grasp, and they promise never to let go.”
Lackington’s (Spring 2022, issue 25)
Keth can move memories from one object to another, thereby changing a person’s own memories and connections to that object. Her floating city is also collapsing, and as people flee on airships and parachutes, Keth does brisk business. Her home is dying and she’s not ready to let it go. There is something about this story that I can’t let go of. It’s a bittersweet story about memories and meaning, a tune mournful yet joyous. It’s not the objects that are important but the ties to friends and family.
Strange Horizons (June 9, 2022, issue 9)
Adam runs a “sinnery” established by his late Aunty Ghita. The restaurant serves samosas spiced with wrath, gluttony vindaloo, greed gulab jamun, and other wicked delights, emotions fresh from the worst of the worst in the local prison. When he discovers an innocent Afghani man was framed for murder, Adam has to choose between doing the right thing or saving his business. Sin eaters have been done to death, but I appreciated the twist T.M. Hurree put on them. Had me hooked all the way through.
khōréō (June 2022, issue 2, volume 2)
“The first man who purchased me loved me like a rainstorm over the moors. And I loved him too—for that is what I was built to do—sublimely, splendidly, like the slanted golden rays of the misty evening love the dewy grass.” What an opening paragraph! C.M. Fields brings us a story of an android created to love, but as the droid soon eventually realizes, it can’t really be love when one end is programming and the other is ownership. With the chance of freedom comes the opportunity for retribution.
Inspired by a Mexican folktale, Isabel Cañas’ new story is delightfully eerie, the kind that sends a shudder down your spine and gives you goosebumps. Antonio is obsessed with Rosario, the woman his cousin is with. Sick to death with him chasing after her “as a coyote stalks the chicken coop,” Rosario takes matters into her own monstrous, skeletal hands.
Nightmare (June 2022, issue 117)
Rennie and her team hunt witches in a fantasy world. These witches aren’t like what you think. They’re terrible monsters who warp time, meaning when Rennie goes into fight, days, weeks, months, even years may pass before she emerges. When a firewitch threatens her only child, she must choose between doing what’s right and doing what’s needed. “Witchbreaker” is one of those great short stories that feels more like an excerpt from a larger novel. I want more in this world, more with these characters, more with these fearsome witches!
Beneath Ceaseless Skies (June 30, 2022, issue 359)
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).