I read some short fiction in December and January that I liked. Maybe you’ll like it too.
Most of these six stories share a general theme: what does it mean to belong and, perhaps more importantly, how do we belong? This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I read the news and look at what’s going on both in our world and in our community.
What kind of community–world–do we want?
A Recipe for Magic, Kat Howard & Fran Wilde
Kat Howard and Fran Wilde’s “A Recipe for Magic” is about a young apprentice at a magical bakery called Night & Day. It’s a story about baking and food, but more than that, it’s about finding a place to belong when you’ve lost the only home you’ve ever known. There are moments in this story that are exquisitely painful to read, where you’re not quite sure that Esmé and Lux will find the balance that they need in order for Lux to stay, but they’re countered by the sweetness at the end.
The White-Throated Transmigrant, E. Lily Yu
“The White Throated Transmigrant” by E. Lily Yu is a strange and unsettling story about a geologist who takes up taxidermy—which is about the most reductive of descriptions I could give this piece. This is a story about being in between and about transformation. There’s something compelling about this story that I found compelling even as I flinched away from the descriptions of disassembling dead birds in order to reassemble them for science.
If We Live to Be Giants, Allison Mulder
The narrator of Allison Mulder’s “If We Live to Be Giants”, along with her twin sister, lives with her grandparents. Their grandfather measures them every day, checking to be sure that they aren’t giants—and muttering imprecations about how freakishly tall they are. Grandpa had kicked their mother out of the house after he learned that she’d dated a giant, even though she swore that he wasn’t the girls’ father. There’s this feeling of dread that hangs over the story, a dread that comes true when the girls decide it’s time to run away before their grandfather can do something truly terrible to them. This story is quite short and sketched in quick broad strokes, but for all that, it’s effective and haunting. I was thinking about this one for days after I finished reading it.
Radio Werewolf, Cassandra Khaw
Cassandra Khaw’s “Radio Werewolf” is a weird little sketch of two soldiers in the woods looking for Nazis. The joy in this story are the physical descriptions of the soldiers, their banter, and then, the twist at the end. There isn’t much to “Radio Werewolf”, but there doesn’t have to be for it to well worth your time.
Blue Ribbon, Marissa Lingen
I am not ashamed to say that this story broke my heart into a million little pieces and there may have been tears. Marissa Lingen’s “Blue Ribbon” is basically 4-H in space and that alone should get you to click through. If I hadn’t just said that the story as incredibly sad—which it is, but like so much of Lingen’s work, it’s also intensely human and it’s about people caring for each other as best they can in a truly terrible situation and the importance of family of all sorts, not just your immediate family. It’s good stuff and you should go read it.
H&D Plumbing, Courtney Floyd
…and as a palate cleanser, there’s Courtney Floyd’s “H&D Plumbing” which is about a demon-possessed toilet and the plumbers who specialize in exorcising toilet demons, which are apparently a lot more common than you’d expect. Just one of those things that sometimes happens.