The Award Eligibility Post, Plus Recommended Short Fiction of 2017

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Frantic last minute Christmas shopping when that thing you pre-ordered months ago suddenly didn’t come through, chugging alcoholic drinks while waiting for the death spiral that is 2017 to end, and posting your award eligible works to your blog because, hey, hope springs eternal, right? Seriously, though, it’s basically impossible to keep up on all the great short stories and novelettes out there, so in case you were interested in checking out my work this year and didn’t know where to find it? Well, here you are:

If We Survive The Night” – The Dark, March 2017 (Short Story)
About the girls who don’t survive slasher movies. For those who enjoy multiple narrators, creepy angels, meta horror, not particularly subtle feminism, Purgatory stories, and revenge.

Astronauts Can’t Hurt You” – Daily Science Fiction, September 2017 (Short Story)
About grief, distance, and figuring out how to keep moving. For those who enjoy surrealism, second person POV, and deeply personal stories that you can finish reading in under five minutes.

Three May Keep a Secret” – Strange Horizons, November 2017 (Novelette)
About ghosts, friendship, and secrets–the kind that hurt, and the kind you decide to keep. For those who enjoy YA, creepy imagery, snappy dialogue, dark pasts, lingering trauma, and questioning bi protagonists (plus their new hipster besties).

With that settled, let’s get into everyone else’s work!

To be honest, I dropped the ball pretty hard on my “read more short fiction” goal this year, and did an awful lot of frantic reading in the last month or so. So when I give you my Top Ten of 2017, please keep in mind that while all of these stories are totally awesome and absolutely worthy of your time, there are literally dozens of other awesome stories out there that I never found or got around to reading. Such is the way of life.

Without further ado, and in no particular order:

Top 10 Favorite Short Stories and Novelettes of 2017

1. “Wendy, Darling” – A.C. Wise – Daily Science Fiction (Short Story)

This is a remarkably well-crafted piece of flash fiction that accomplishes so much in such a short period of time. There are any number of Peter Pan stories out there, but this feminist sequel/reinterpretation is probably my favorite of all. Incredibly short, incredibly powerful.

Darling, darling, darling. Not a name anymore. A weapon. A word to soothe, to dismiss, to hush. Be grateful, darling. Be still, darling. Her name taken from her and turned against her. So what does she have left?

2. “Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live” – Sacha Lamb – The Book Smugglers (Novelette)

I absolutely adore this story. It’s a wonderful YA queer romance between two trans high school students, and despite being neither trans nor Jewish myself, I found Avi’s journey here extremely relatable. This story has it all: curses, friendly demons, found families, trust issues, magic. If you haven’t read it yet, it is well worth your time.

Planning an actual murder would be too much effort, right? It’s not as if I’ve ever done anything to any of them. My list of sins is very short, comprising entirely things I can’t do anything about.

Looks just brown enough that you’re not sure where he’s from. Skips school for weird holidays even though his mom has to work all the time, so he just sits in his room, alone, and eats frozen food from the kosher section. Dresses like a boy, which is a problem, because none of us have any imagination.

It doesn’t seem like enough to kill somebody.

3. “These Constellations Will Be Yours” – Elaine Cuyegkeng – Strange Horizons (Short Story)

This space opera is so entirely my jam. The prose is gorgeous. The universe is so original, a fascinating blend of science fiction and fantasy. Just the idea of precognitive people being permanently hardwired into spaceships for FTL travel, I mean, that’s obviously exciting all on its own. But this story is also about slavery and identity and revolution, and I do not have the words to properly describe its genius or eloquence.

We learned to marry doctrine and precognitive science. We learned that all futures are possible, that nothing is inevitable. It is, in fact, simply a matter of discipline to turn from one future to another, as delicately as a dancer might arrange herself: the composition of her arms, the position of her feet. It is possible to step back from the abyss.

4. “The Sound of His Voice Like the Colour of Salt” – L Chan – The Dark (Short Story)

I have always been drawn to ghost stories, and this, I think, is the best one I’ve read all year. It is atmospheric and lovely, fresh and surprisingly hopeful. Come for the various strange, creepy, and melancholy ghosts, and stay for a conclusion that perfectly caps this bittersweet story.

All ghosts knew three things: that they were dead, that they were tragic and that they were alone. There were other ghosts, of course, but ghosts don’t count for company, ghosts don’t count for family.

5. “Which Super Little Dead Girl Are You? Take Our Quiz and Find Out!” – Nino Cipri – Nightmare (Short Story)

I mean, come on. Look at that title. This story was made for me, people. The whole thing is actually formatted as a personality quiz, which might sound gimmicky, but it just . . . it just works so perfectly here. If you love horror but wish more of it had a stronger emphasis on friendship and feminism and teamwork, this might be the story for you. Seriously, I want this story to be a TV show. I want fanfiction, goddamn it.

You want to scream at them sometimes that you’re still you, you’re still here. But while your screams raise the dead, they don’t do much for the living.

6. “Fandom For Robots” – Vina Jie-Min Prasad – Uncanny (Short Story)

I’ve got such a thing for . . . how do I put this? Like coming of age stories, but for robots, androids, and A.I.’s. Especially if they focus on the robot’s pop culture needs; fellow fans of All Systems Red by Martha Wells should absolutely check out this story, which is pretty damn adorable. Honestly, my only complaint here is that I think this ends a bit abruptly, something I’m willing to concede might be the fanfiction writer in me wishing for a meeting between characters that doesn’t actually take place.

Yes, this is the second short story on this list that’s made me want to write fanfiction. And you know what I call that? Engaging damn work.

Logically, he is aware that time is most likely passing at a normal rate. The Simak Robotics Museum is not within close proximity of a black hole, and there is close to no possibility that time is being dilated. His constant checking of the chronometer to compare it with the countdown page serves no scientific purpose whatsoever.

After fifty milliseconds, Computron checks the countdown page again.

7. “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” – Rebecca Roanhorse – Apex (Short Story)

By and large, I lean towards feel-good stories; even when the subject matter is dark, the endings tend towards optimism and rebellion and change-for-the-better. This is absolutely not that kind of story. It is, however, an important, well-written, and challenging SF story about both stereotypes and appropriation. It sticks with you, and should. Fellow white people, go read it immediately.

What Theresa doesn’t understand is that Tourists don’t want a real Indian experience.  They want what they see in the movies, and who can blame them? Movie Indians are terrific!  So you watch the same movies the Tourists do, until John Dunbar becomes your spirit animal and Stands with Fists your best girl. You memorize Johnny Depp’s lines from The Lone Ranger and hang a picture of Iron Eyes Cody in your work locker. For a while you are really into Dustin Hoffman’s Little Big Man.

8. “A Place to Grow” – A.T. Greenblatt – Beneath Ceaseless Skies (Short Story)

One of the things I like about this story (about both BCS stories on this list, actually) is that it doesn’t quite feel like anything else I’ve read all year. “A Place to Grow” is set in a universe where whole worlds are continuously created and dismantled in an ongoing and seemingly futile search for a perfect home, at least until one girl refuses to let go of the imperfect home she already has. Highly imaginative, thematically resonate, solid conclusion. This one has a lot of heart.

Lillian was wearing one of her uncles’ old suits again. Her family always wore suits when they were going to tear down a world.

9. “Carnival Nine” – Caroline M. Yoachim – Beneath Ceaseless Skies (Short Story)

The world in this extremely bittersweet story is unique and fascinating, made up of clockwork people who only get so many turns a day to accomplish everything they want or need to do. It’s a story about motherhood, about limitations, about the difference between the life you dreamt you’d have and the life you actually lived. It is, fundamentally, a story about choices, and walks an interesting line between melancholy and fulfillment.

“No, there comes a time when our bodies cannot hold the turns. We all get our thousand days, give or take a few. Then we wind down for the last time. It is the way of things.”

10. “Monster Girls Don’t Cry” – A. Merc Rustad – Uncanny (Short Story)

One of the things I like best about this story–other than the slow, beautiful, impossibly difficult journey towards self-acceptance–is that the main villain here honestly thinks he’s helping. Not because this makes him sympathetic, ha. This guy forever sucks. No, it’s just that he’s such a perfect parallel for all those people who assume everyone wants to hide their otherness, who think that they have some kind of right to “fix” anyone who doesn’t fit their small ideas of normalcy. This story is angry, raw, and lovely, and well worth a read.

Mama was killed by a man who hated monsters.

Or maybe he was afraid of them.

But Mama was dead all the same.

Happy reading, everyone!

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Story Publication: Secrets at Strange Horizons

In writing news today: I have a story out at Strange Horizons!

A few things you may or may not find interesting:

A. “Three May Keep a Secret” is a YA story with a questioning bisexual protagonist and her new hipster bestie.

B. It’s also a ghost story. I like to think it’s a little creepy.

C. I’m a little nervous about this one. Okay, I’m a lot nervous. There are a couple of reasons for that: one, the story deals with some sensitive material that I’m hoping isn’t harmful to any readers. (Appropriate trigger warnings can be found at the link.)

It’s also a story that’s probably gone through, like, 57 different revisions. I think it’s a much better story for it and, honestly, I’m pretty proud of how it’s turned out But this one didn’t come easy, and that also makes me a bit nail bite-y.

D. Finally, a random line that tells you basically nothing at all:

“Shit, there’s not even a candy store for 70 miles.” He crosses his arms. “This town is bullshit.”

Hope you enjoy!

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“I Know Your Mustache.”

I read my first Agatha Christie novel when I was eleven. By now I’ve read dozens, and while I always enjoy them, most have long since blended in my head, like half-forgotten Friends episodes or various bad Christmases. Murder on the Orient Express, however, is one of those mysteries that you never forget the solution to.

That being said, my interest in Kenneth Branagh’s take on the classic novel was mild. Perhaps Imagine Dragons wasn’t quite filling me with confidence, I don’t know. Still, Mekaela and I are suckers for murder mysteries (she’s an even bigger Christie fan than I am), so it’s probably no surprise that we decided to check out the adaptation last week, despite some reservations.

And it’s . . . okay? It’s serviceable. But it could totally be better.

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“We Know Each Other! He’s a Friend From Work!”

So, I went to the movies last weekend. One guess on what I saw.

I enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok! I don’t think I liked it quite as much as other people, which I guess is just normal now? Still, I had a good time.

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“Better Swim, Rennie, Before Jason Pulls You Down.”

Hello again! Apologies for my long absence–it’s been pretty chaotic here. Part of that, certainly, is because of the Northern California fires that hit my community pretty hard. But it’s also because I’ve been working on a novel all year, and I’ve spent the past month editing it into something that I can show people and not instantly die of shame. The novel is currently with awesome people, so in between anxiously awaiting feedback and eating leftover Halloween candy, I finally have some time to devote to the blog!

And you know what that means: more Jason Vorhees! When we last left off, Jason was battling a telekinetic and thoroughly annoying teenager. Now that’s he been resurrected (again), he’s going to Manhattan to kill other equally annoying and less telekinetic teenagers!

Well, eventually. He’ll get to Manhattan eventually.

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TL;DR: The Fire – Catharsis Attempt No. 7

It started for me on Monday, around 3:30 in the morning. I’d worked Saturday night and then stayed up 30 hours straight. I finally went to bed around 10 p.m. Sunday. I didn’t smell the smoke or see the news. I was exhausted. I was out. And then 3:30, and Mekaela was waking me because we got a call. Evacuate, it said. We did.

I lost nothing. Hot water, for a few days. Power, briefly. I wasn’t even awake at that point. I returned home mere hours after I left. I lost nothing at all.

At the shelter, the sky was split in half. It would have made for a hell of an Instagram photo, but I couldn’t take one; I’d accidentally left my phone behind while grabbing my bag. I want to describe that sky now, and I can only think of this:

“Armageddon is almost upon us.
“I’ve got news for you. It’s already here.”

It’s from Clue. Why am I like this?

They evacuated the hospital I work at. The radio reported it went up in flames. They were wrong, but we didn’t know that as we sat in my sister’s car, listening in horror. I squeezed her hand and cried.

I work every Sunday night, every single one. I didn’t work that Sunday because I was supposed to go on vacation the next day.

Can you have survivor’s guilt when no one at your job actually died?

I should have been there. I would have been useless there. There’s nothing about me, nothing, that says “good in a crisis,” and I feel like maybe I already hit my “trauma at work” quota when I watched my friend and co-worker die there years ago. But those were my nurses, my crew. I should have fucking been there.

I’ve been editing, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been donating money, and I’ve been editing. It needs to get done. People are dead. People have lost everything. I still need to do it.

(There are missing pieces here, things I cannot tell you. Just assume a lot of anxiety, and a lot of anger. I get so goddamn angry sometimes.)

Wind bothers me now. I feel anxious when I see it: listen for sirens, Google wind speeds. I worry that I’ll watch The Happening and think it’s actually a scary movie.

Why am I like this why am I like this why am I like this?

We’re moving past the worst of it. We’re #SantaRosaStrong. We’re #SonomaCountyStrong. Our Love is Thicker Than the Smoke.

Maybe this is why the sarcastic, nerdy friend dies in horror movies. Sincerity is called for. Humor is a defense mechanism nobody wants in the aftermath of a crisis.

Here I am anyway.

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“Welcome To The Loser’s Club, Asshole!”

I’ve said this before, I know, but It is my very favorite Stephen King book. There are problems, of course (the scene, THE SCENE), but the novel will always and forever have a place in my heart. Likewise, The 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry will also always have a place in my heart, for as I’ve described both here and here, it is an incredible four-hour mash-up of genuine creepiness and so-bad-its-good hilarity.

It was only natural that I would watch Andy Muschietti’s take on It, too.

Well. I definitely liked parts of it. Probably not a forever spot in my heart, though.

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