Welcome to the latest iteration of In Short, my short fiction review series. I’m changing things up a little bit from the first part of the series where I limited myself to two stories and published substantial reviews weekly. That wasn’t sustainable for me, for a lot of different reasons, but mainly because my workload at day job increased to the point where I simply couldn’t keep up. So I’m switching to a monthly post, with more stories featured per post and shorter reviews.
I’d also been struggling with how to read the short fiction in question—I can’t read fiction on a computer screen unless it’s very short, so I had been converting the web pages to mobi and sending them to my Kindle. That worked okay, but it meant that I had more files to wrangle on my increasingly old and cranky Kindle. And then I remembered Instapaper. And that has actually been perfect (Pocket would work for this, too). I can highlight passages and send them to Evernote for future reference. It’s been working really well.
Finally, this is by no means an exhaustive list, just some stories that I liked and think you might like, too.
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“The Revolution, Brought to You by Nike” by Andrea Phillips and published by Fireside Fiction earlier this year is a beacon of hope. Taking its inspiration from the People Power Revolution, the story follows Corazon as she leverages Nike’s brand to overthrow a corrupt regime. We often think of large corporations as being ineluctably evil, but this shows how such a large company can effect positive change in the world. Also, Corazon is pretty awesome; I really enjoyed her character and her resolve to see things through even though she was scared.
“The Influence of the Iron Range” by Marissa Lingen is ostensibly about fair elections, but it’s also a story about whose voices we choose to listen to—and that by choosing to ignore some, we make ourselves weaker than we would be if we worked together. Set in the late 19th century in an America where the last presidential election was influenced by faeries and not in a positive way, Miss Viola Sandmeier views her role as essential to American democracy. She makes sure that campaign locations are free of faery magic through a bit of magic her own. During a routine stop, Miss Viola has an encounter with one of the faeries that changes her mind about what constitutes a fair election and who should be allowed a vote in them.
“Making Us Monsters” was written by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly and published in the most recent issue of Uncanny. It’s an epistolatory story about Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, in which Sassoon receives letters from Owen years after they were sent, years after Owen was killed in action. These aren’t any old letters, though, they’re both love letters and an examination of the kind of trauma experienced by soldiers in the Great War. This wasn’t an easy story to read—there’s a “doctor” who is more interested in brutalizing his patients than helping them and there is a lot of internalized self-hatred on the part of Sassoon and Owen. But I found it to be a worthwhile and engrossing read, nonetheless.
Cassandra Khaw’s “These Deathless Bones” from Tor.com is creepy as all get out. It’s a story told from the point of view of the fairy tale stepmother and it shines a new light on precisely why some of those stepmothers are portrayed as evil. In this case, the Witch Bride has very good reasons for her actions: the young prince, who initially appears to be no more than a spoiled brat is revealed to be a sadistic tyrant in the making. His punishment is completely appropriate and thoroughly chilling.
“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad is an utterly adorable story about the only known sentient robot and his introduction to fandom. Computron is the only one of his kind and he spends his days doing party tricks for school children at the Simak Robotics Museum. When a girl asks him about an anime called Hyperdimension Warp Record, his life changes forever. This story is essentially a love letter to the best parts of fandom: what it’s like to find other people who like the things you do and how the relationships with those people can enrich your life beyond measure.
That’s it for short fiction this month! If you have anything you’d like to recommend, drop a link in the comments. I’m always looking for new things to read.