I’ve got some short pieces, some creepy pieces, some cute pieces, and some unconventional pieces for all your November short speculative fiction needs. It may almost be the end of the year, but there’s still a ton of great fiction out there for you to read.
A story in the shape of a glossary? Color me intrigued! M.J. Pettit’s time travel tale is built around eighteen definitions in a glossary, some brief and formal, some meandering and poetic, all fascinating and compelling. “Humans decide first then rationalize later. Hurtling back in time, you realize this journey may have been a terrible idea.”
Kaleidotrope (Autumn 2022)
“On every continent, mid-meal, mid-shower, mid-work, mid-fuck, right out the door of a pulled-up car in the middle of a freeway—ordinary people turned their backs on their ordinary lives and walked.” Tania Fordwalker’s latest in Lightspeed gave me big Wanderers feels. It’s thirty years in the future and humans are evolving once more. A researcher watches the change take the people he loves until he’s the only one left.
Lightspeed Magazine (November 2022; issue 150)
I am not a cat person, but, as it turns out, I am a “The Cat of Lin Villa” person. Set from the perspective of a stray cat who has taken up residence on the estate of the Lin family, Megan Chee deftly balances the aloofness of our nameless feline protagonist and the human woman it watches over. The wife only wants to be loved and the husband is cold and cruel. The Cat tells itself it only wants the person who feeds it treats to keep indulging it, but there’s more to this tale than the Cat lets on.
Cast of Wonders (November 15, 2022; #516)
I’m a huge fan of Elsa Sjunneson’s nonfiction (check out Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism, if you haven’t already). It’s been over a year since we were blessed with her last piece of short fiction, so of course I gobbled this up. A blind oracle is locked in a cell, stripped of her position but not her power. She gave the Queen an answer she didn’t like, and now the Queen is planning her murder and replacement. The Oracle must summon all her wisdom and piece together every secret she holds in order to fight back.
The Sunday Morning Transport (November 6, 2022)
In Amanda Song’s world, jokes are physical, egg-like things. Crack them open and out comes the fun. Mitch is a famous comedian using humor to process his childhood trauma. 7-year-old Cassie is his biggest fan with a secret small joke of her own. At Mitch’s marquee show, Cassie witnesses his final putrid joke and cannot tear her eyes away. It was almost too creepy for me, but very good.
Nightmare Magazine (November 2022; issue 122)
Simo Srinivas offers readers a short yet enticing tale of a lieutenant and a witch and an unexpected deal. It takes the lieutenant a century to reach Lao Po’s home at the top of an enchanted hill, so long that the men who sent him up there to make their deals are long dead. What follows is a lovely hint of better things to come and a truth worth living.
Fantasy Magazine (November 2022; issue 85)
“My favorite stories of all were the deals with the devil.” Mala Auntie heads up to a peak of a mountain in the Himalayas seeking to make a deal with a powerful supernatural force (a trend this month, it seems). She’s lost the love of her life and is willing to trade the only thing of his she has left to get him back. Rhea Roy’s story is short yet impactful, the kind of story that makes you yearn for more.
khōréō (November 2022; volume 2, issue 3)
It’s been a while since a story from Daily Science Fiction made my shortlist. Although this site will be going on indefinite hiatus in December 2022, I count myself lucky that I found this compelling piece from F. Brett Cox before it did. This second person POV story features our protagonist crawling to the stop of a flight of holy stairs. It’s structured into twenty-eight sections, one for each step, each getting more and more difficult. I always love it when a story leaves me feeling unmoored.
Daily Science Fiction (November 4, 2022)
The Norns—basically the Norse version of the three Fates—are summoned to an empty parking lot in preparation for Ragnarok. There are only two ways the end of days can come about: at the hands of the frost giants or Loki’s children. In an odd twist, neither group is much interested in the apocalypse nowadays. Verðandi, Verdi to her human friends, can choose to let Ragnarok happen and destroy everything she loves about the world or carve a new fate out of the old one.
Hexagon SF Magazine (Winter 2022; issue 11)
Arielle Cole reimagines Dora Maar, a French artist and sometime muse of Pablo Picasso, through a speculative lens. A young woman fascinated by her eccentric neighbor manages to get hired by Dora to catalogue her photographs and paintings. Each one is unique in strange ways. The more she discovers about her employer, the more enigmatic she becomes. A story of questions that refuse to be answered.
Fusion Fragment (November 2022; issue 14)
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).