Looks like it’s that time of the year again. Let’s go ahead and tackle my stuff first. I have two short stories eligible for award consideration:
“Monsters Never Leave You” – Strange Horizons (June 29th, 2020)
I’m very fond of this story, but it was not an easy one to write. I went through several versions before this final one could be born, and I’m proud of how it ultimately turned out. TBH, I kind of wish more people had read it, so if you’re a fan of fairy tales, sibling stories, found families, living houses, domestic witchery, creepy trees, and/or dessert, I hope you consider checking it out.
“Spider Season, Fire Season” – Nightmare (July 2020)
If you’re looking for slightly creepier fare, you might consider this short story instead. I wrote it shortly after the Kincade Fire, and structurally, it’s a bit of a switch-up for me. (Thematically . . . possibly not so much.) You may enjoy this one if you like ghost stories, found families, non-linear storytelling, California, violent comeuppance, and a bit of optimism in your horror.
Moving on now to some of my favorite short stories I read in 2020, in no particular order:
1. “One Time, A Reluctant Traveler” – A.T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld)
Oh, this one is just lovely, a story about family and loss, history and survival, about taking all the tales you inherited and finding an ending of your own. It’s a quest story unlike any other quest story I’ve read, and that last line? Utter perfection.
If you must know, I left because if I stayed in Nat’s house one night longer, I was going to unravel, like a tragic traveler in one of my family’s tales. And that was a story I didn’t want to be.
2. “The Mermaid Astronaut” – Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
There’s a lot to recommend in this stunning blend of mer fantasy and space travel: the exquisite prose, the supportive relationship between sisters, the bittersweet resolution that doesn’t rely on a cruel twist. This isn’t a story that punishes our young mermaid for having dreams, and I really appreciated that.
“I don’t think it’s such an evil thing,” Essarala replied, “to want to see new worlds and taste their waters.”
“Evil, no,” the witch said. “Difficult, yes.”
3. “Open House on Haunted Hill” – John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots)
As is likely obvious from my own eligible work, I adore stories about haunted houses and/or houses that are otherwise alive. 133 Poisonwood Ave is definitely alive: sweet and lonely and longing for a family to live inside its walls. This one is heartwarming and an excellent comfort read.
All 133 Poisonwood has is a light touch, but it knows how to use it. Haunting is an art.
4. “Teeth Long and Sharp as Blades” – A.C. Wise (PseudoPod)
Maybe one of these years I’ll make a favorites list without an A.C. Wise story on it, but honestly? That just doesn’t seem very likely. This one is dark and fascinating and hooked me from the very first line. I mean, come on: “Have you ever thought about how fairy tale heroines are like final girls?” That’s basically ALL I think about.
This is my story, but when you hear it, I am irrelevant, a moral in the shape of a girl, an object to be acted upon.
5. “My Country is a Ghost” – Eugenia Triantafyllou (Uncanny)
A melancholy, gorgeous, and ultimately hopeful story about immigration, assimilation, family, and culture. So many of the lines in this one . . . I mean, damn. It’s an incredibly moving piece and an absolute must read.
When Niovi tried to smuggle her mother’s ghost into the new country, she found herself being passed from one security officer to another, detailing her mother’s place and date of death over and over again.
6. “The Sycamore and the Sybil” – Alix E. Harrow (Uncanny)
Look, I know envy is unseemly and all, but also, Alix E. Harrow’s prose is just unfairly beautiful. This story is about women and witches and surviving, until survival alone simply isn’t enough anymore, and if you haven’t already read it, well. Get to it, please.
Before I was a sycamore I was a woman, and before I was a woman I was a girl, and before I was a girl I was a wet seed wild in the hot-pulp belly of my mother. I remember it: a pulsing blackness, veins unfurling in the dark like roots spreading through the hidden places of the earth. You remember things different, once you’re a tree.
7. “Housebound” – Ao-Hui Lin (Drabblecast)
Oh, this story. I knew almost immediately that it was gonna kick me in the stomach, and sure enough, that’s exactly what it did. It’s disturbing and tense and made me positively seethe in fury. This story stuck with me well after I finished reading it.
The closet. It used to be here, through this door, under the stairs. Now there’s just a pit and bite marks on the door jamb.
8. “Sunrise, Sunrise, Sunrise” – Lauren Ring (Apparition Lit)
Clearly, I love a good time loop story, and this one is particularly fantastic. It’s the rare story where the protagonist doesn’t want to break free from her loop, which I found both original and extremely intriguing. Great concept, strong character work, and a spot-on ending.
Every day, it goes like this: I wake to golden light, with the surface of a star just beyond my wide viewport window. As the hours pass, a supernova forms, enveloping my little research vessel. I check my monitoring equipment, I eat my favorite meals, and then in the evening, I die.
9. “A Moonlit Savagery” – Millie Ho (Nightmare)
Oh, this is a spectacular horror story, full of loneliness and betrayal and some particularly flavorful just desserts. It’s also my introduction to phi pop, which is very exciting; I want to read about ALL THE GHOSTS, especially the hungry ones.
“ได้,” I mutter against his skin, already dizzy with fantasies of splitting his ribs open.
10. “Dead Girls Have No Names” – Claire Wrenwood (Nightmare)
Finally, we have even more hungry dead in this excellent Frankenstein-inspired short story, where dead girls are stitched together by a mother bent on revenge. It’s dark and poignant and powerful, and the ending is absolutely sublime. READ IT.
As the lid slammed shut, the truth of our new existence dawned: Never again would any mother name us or hold us or take this cold from our bones.
There in the terrible darkness, we tried to weep and discovered we could not.
That’s it for now. Happy reading!