Whenever I put together my list of ten favorite short science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories, I go by what strikes me the hardest, what sticks with me the longest, and what makes me go “Oh!” Often, as I’m writing up the blurbs, a theme emerges, one I wasn’t aware of when I was picking the pieces but connects most of them. For August, I was apparently feeling contemplative about death and endings, not sad or grieving but processing. I hope you’re ready for some capital “F” Feelings.
“The bargain between a wisher and a shooting star seems too good to be true. Nevertheless, the benevolent stars seem to want nothing in return.” A little girl, Anet, wishes on a shooting star to become a grown-up. And gets her wish. Sui spends most of the story on the wish itself, the stars as they offer their gift, the magic of the experience. I love discovering new-to-me-authors. A.D. Sui is definitely one I’ll be watching for.
Etherea Magazine (August 2022, issue 13)
A sort of Filipino version of “Pinocchio” but way more interesting. After losing her husband, Maria is given a manika, or mechanical toy, this one sentient in ways the others aren’t. In her grief, she names him Julian and treats him as if he were her son. But the revolution calls and he longs to fight for his people. Despite being small and fragile, Julian finds purpose in resistance and Maria finds peace in letting him become the boy he longs to be. It’s a hopeful story built on community and empowerment.
Strange Horizons (August 29, 2022)
I will never not read a John Wiswell story. He has a way of telling such charming and emotional stories involving disabled characters that never falls back on the trappings of “inspirational” or wallowing. Just people living their lives with their disabilities part of their existence without becoming their entire personality. Here, two teens in an acespec queerplatonic relationship discover a way to fight climate change and an oppressive Evil Corp profiting off disaster. It’s light and snarky and full of heart.
Tordotcom (August 24, 2022)
After the “Collapse,” people start turning into meat-eating monsters. Some unlucky souls are paired to these Others, providing them sustenance to keep them alive or refusing to and letting them starve to death. Endria Isa Richardson gives glimpses of what life was like before for our narrator and why they choose to do brutal things to keep the people we care about alive. This story about an adult and man-eating child living in an apocalyptic hellscape was just on the edge of Too Much Horror for me, but I’m glad I read it.
Nightmare (August 2022, issue 119)
If “superheroes but queer and Asian American” is as much your jam as mine, this is the story for you. John Chu deftly blends real world anti-Asian racism into a clever story about superheroics. “Tom of Finland Guy,” what our narrator calls the handsome, well-built man flying around the city saving the day, is beloved for his bravery…that is until people realize he’s not the white American Dream. Chu does not pull his punches (pun intended), delivering an incisive story that deconstructs the contemporary superhero mythos.
Uncanny Magazine” by July/August 2022, issue 47)
Structured as a series of interviews for a podcast, Capes for Justice, with interstitials from various speculative fiction stories, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor’s story revolves around two queer men who are constantly smashed together only to be ripped apart. I don’t know if this was part of Wolfmoor’s intent, but the story got me thinking about how m/m romance is often used in an exploitive way and written for people outside those identities as sexual entertainment instead of an exploration of identity. An interesting and compelling read.
Lightspeed (August 2022, issue 147)
LP Kindred takes a well-worn plot device—time travel—and tweaks it into something new and Black and oh so queer. Alonzo meets Coco and is pleasantly surprised to find their relationship shifts immediately from casual hookup to long-term commitment. However, Coco is unusual, to put it lightly, always talking about pocket dimensions and cataloguing resonances. Alonzo accepts his lover is a liar, but has a harder time accepting that he might actually be telling the truth.
Anathema (August 2022, issue 16)
As I always say, I love an unconventional narrative structure, and “WE” has that in spades. Each paragraph begins with “WE”, like a proclamation, but the punctuation and length of each statement changes. This story feels almost like a poem, but there is a story structure within the visually fascinating layout. “WE” truly is one of a kind. Because it’s The Deadlands, the theme is death, but this is no tragedy. It is a welcoming and a coming together for what comes next, what comes after.
The Deadlands (August 2022, issue 16)
A new Cassandra Khaw story? Yes please! The dead return as spectres in this story, but only when the food is just right. Our narrator has struggled to keep up their restaurant after the loss of their cook, their love. Now the restaurant is covered in dust and the customers stay away, just like the spectre does. Until the narrator realizes it’s not about the food but about the story the food tells, about the memories and emotions that become a part of a beloved recipe. I’ve been dealing with the loss of a family member for a few months now, and this one hit me right in the feels. But I think I needed to read this story at this exact moment in my life.
Sunday Morning Transport (August 14, 2022)
A short and lovely short story about facing your truth. Our narrator meets an old woman at a bus stop who has a bird in her chest. She teaches the narrator how to free their own bird, how to feel and know and see even when you’re afraid.
Worlds of Possibility (August 2022)
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).