It’s that time of the year again: Award Nomination Season is upon us.
My own list of award-eligible works could not accurately be described as a list so much as a solitary bullet point. Nevertheless, I’m very proud of that particular bullet point:
- “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” – Nightmare (October 2019)
Can you call your own story heartwarming? Is that a writer faux pas? Because, honestly, that’s how I like to think of it: a heartwarming sequel to a slasher movie. If you like stories that feature deconstructed horror tropes, found families, ace protagonists, violence, humor, and Feels, well, please consider making my day and checking it out.
ETA: Apparently, I was incorrect before; I have two bullet points. My story “You Were Once Wild Here” in The Dark will also be eligible!
- “You Were Once Wild Here” – The Dark (December 2019)
I’m pretty fond of this one, too. It’s, IDK. Brick meets Teen Wolf? Read if you like neo-noir, werewolves, ace-lesbian protagonists, second-person POV, weird magic, and psychic dreams.
Moving on: I am, as always, forever behind on my short story reading. Nevertheless, here are some of my favorites from 2019, in no particular order:
1. “We Are Here To Be Held” – Eugenia Triantafyllou (Strange Horizons)
This story is weird and gorgeous and I love it. Complicated maternal relationships and how the way you’re raised feeds into how you raise your children. What you learn, what you forgive, what you stand firm against. A lovely story with a perfect conclusion.
The first time your mother swallows you whole you don’t really see it coming.
2. “Away With the Wolves” – Sarah Gailey (Uncanny)
This is a lovely story about chronic pain and learning to let go of unearned guilt, about putting your needs, health, and happiness above what society unjustly demands. Bonus joy for shapeshifters and positive female friendships.
I’m still me when I’m a wolf, even if I’m missing some of the things that other people think of when they think of me. Even if I’m missing one of the biggest things I think of when I think of me.
3. “As The Last I May Know” – S.L. Huang (Tor)
Breathtaking. A story about war and propaganda and putting a human face on weapons of mass destruction, literally. What’s wonderful about this one is that it doesn’t condemn or glorify; it’s not so much about what decision is made but how it’s made. It’s not whether the ends justify the means. It’s that choosing to go through with those ends should never, ever be easy.
She didn’t know how, after so many people had read what was in her heart, she could feel so much like she had no voice.
4. “Where Gods Dance” – Ben Serna-Grey (Apex)
A swift gut punch of a story. Full of grief and dark wonders. A story about the inability to recreate what you’ve lost.
If he screamed, I never did hear it. They all spoke so softly. Abiram was his name. Marked but unburied.
5. “A Catalog of Storms” – Fran Wilde (Uncanny)
Oh, this is just lovely. Fascinating magic, strong family dynamics, and elegant prose throughout. A fantastic read.
While Mumma and I are gone, the Mayor comes by our house and puts a ribbon on our door. We get extra milk every Tuesday.
That doesn’t make things better, in the end. Milk isn’t a sister.
6. “This Is How” – Marie Brennan (Strange Horizons)
I am . . . I don’t want to say that I dislike redemption stories, exactly, but I can be a bit wary of them. Redemption, I think, can easily be handled poorly, even irresponsibly. Forgiveness, too. But this is a dark and beautiful fantasy about repentance and mercy and transformation, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
A cat may let her prey run for a time before she catches it again, but not a valravn. He keeps what he kills, and will not let the man’s soul go.
7. “The Answer That You Are Seeking” – Jenny Rae Rappaport (Lightspeed)
This one hit me. Maybe because there was a school shooting the day before I read it, or because I live in one of the cities listed in this article, or because there have literally been more mass shootings than days of the year here in America. It hit me because the prose is concise and striking. It hit me because the desperation is real.
It’s the lollipops that break you.
8. “How The Trick Is Done” – A.C. Wise (Uncanny)
I mean, look, I’ve been an A.C. Wise fangirl for years. I love pretty much all of her work, and this story–with ghosts and resurrections and stage magicians and rabbit funerals and murder–is just a wonderful read, about people learning to let go of their toxic relationships, about learning to define themselves in new ways.
“I’m a Resurrectionist.” Angie’s mouth twists on the words, but she can’t think of a better way to explain. “Death and I have an understanding.”
9. “The Tailor And The Beast” – Aysha U. Farah (Uncanny)
A queer Beauty and the Beast where it’s the father who offers to trade places with his imprisoned daughter? I mean, yes, please. Lovely and sweet and romantic AF.
A beast dwelt in the castle on the hill.
There was nothing so very strange or unusual in this circumstance; recently it had been tremendously in fashion. A witch couldn’t really hope to make her debut in society without imprisoning at least one troublesome young man behind stone walls.
10. “The House Wins In The End” – L Chan (The Dark)
L Chan writes fantastic ghost stories. This is just fact. His hauntings are creepy and unusual, and they linger in your mind long after reading. This one is full of memory and trauma and the long, lonely struggle of learning to put your ghosts to rest. A wonderful read.
This is not a haunted house story. This is what happens after.
Happy reading, everyone! If anyone has any other short story recommendations of their own, I’d love to hear them in the comments.