Christ, it’s that time again already. 2022 has been a wild year for me. I had my first short story collection come out! I got nominated for my first Shirley Jackson Award! I can’t honestly say I expect to receive any nominations in 2023, particularly since so much of my recent work isn’t freely available online, but what the hell, right? I’m excited about the work I’ve done this year, so I’m gonna talk about it for a bit—feel free to scroll on down, should you get bored—before jumping into a list of the awesome short fiction that I’ve been reading. (Don’t scroll past that, though! There are some excellent stories here that you should check out if you haven’t already.)
In regards to my own 2022 published work:
YOU FED US TO THE ROSES
My debut short story collection out now from Robot Dinosaur Press! Starting with “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future,” which appeared in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and ending with “Forward, Victoria,” a recent finalist for the Shirley Jackson Awards, this collection contains ten contemporary dark fantasy and horror stories. Some pretty amazing writers have said such lovely things about it, too, writers like Damien Angelica Walters, Kristi DeMeester, Premee Mohamed, and more. And Publishers Weekly called it a “grim and enthralling collection” that would appeal to fans of Carmen Maria Machado and Angela Carter. So, you know. I’m kinda proud, all in all.
“15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook” – You Fed Us to the Roses – October 2022 (about 5800 words)
If people only read one story of mine this year, this would be the story that I’d choose.
You Fed Us To The Roses is mostly made up of reprints, but I wrote “15 Eulogies Scribbled Inside a Hello Kitty Notebook” specifically for this collection. (It will also appear in PseudoPod at the end of December as part of their ongoing 2022 Anthologies and Collections spotlight, which I’m very excited about.) This story is pretty obviously inspired by my love of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Teen Wolf, and is very much about death anxiety, though I like to think there’s a certain amount of hope in there, too. You might like this one if you enjoy poetry, unconventional eulogies, angst, humor, and stories about the emotional costs of repeatedly saving the world/losing the people you love, all while you’re supposed to be studying for physics.
“An Atlas of Names and Footprints and Thoughts Unsaid” – IZ Digital – September 2022 (about 5900 words)
Ah, my queer fantasy/western romance between an ace monster hunter and her fashionable lady detective partner. This story is a bit of a personal one, and I must admit that I’m rather fond of it, especially since the road to getting it published was long and fraught with form rejection. I wish it was available to read for free, but if you are interested in checking it out, a one month subscription to IZ Digital will allow you access to it and any other IZ Digital story. You might like this one if you enjoy F/F romances, friends to (non-sexual) lovers, mutual pining, weird westerns, cultural anthropology, detectives, blood storms, and happy endings.
ETA: Gareth Jelley from IZ Digital has graciously allowed me to post the password (CjrF!re945dfKjQwG) so that you can read “An Atlas of Names and Footprints and Thoughts Unsaid” for free right now!
“You Can Have the Ground, My Love” – Classic Monsters Unleashed – July 2022 (about 2300 words)
2020 was a shit year for obvious reasons, but it also happened to be my personal Year of Monsters, where I watched a bunch of classic Universal horror movies and reviewed them here on MGB. Bride of Frankenstein gave me a Lot of Feels—justice for the Bride! Murdered because she just wasn’t that into a strange man abruptly fondling her hand like a weirdo!—so when the call for this anthology went out, I knew I had to try for it, especially with such a fantastic lineup of authors, like, damn. You might enjoy this one if you like stories about resurrection, defiance, murder, living dead girls, aromantic heroines, and women who take charge of their own narratives.
“Tiny Little Wounds” – Nightmare – October 2022 (about 780 words)
My creepy little flash fiction about ghosts, exorcisms, and skin-picking. This is a bit of a personal story for me, too, if I’m being honest, and it was super exciting to be a part of Nightmare’s tenth anniversary issue. You might enjoy this one if you like stories about compulsion, trauma, and the wounds that linger even after surviving the monster.
“Stringy” – Apex – September/October 2022 (about 250 words)
Finally, my tiniest and most murdery of stories! “Stringy” was inspired by my love for haunted houses and won Apex’s Holidays Horrors contest, which was a delightful surprise. You might enjoy this one if you like pumpkins, blindfolds, grim discoveries, and spooky tales that take less than a minute to read.
In regards to eligibility . . .
YOU FED US TO THE ROSES is eligible for Best Collection for The Shirley Jackson Awards and The Bram Stoker Awards. Every story listed is eligible for Best Short Story in the Nebulas, Hugos, Shirley Jackson Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy, etc—except “An Atlas of Names and Footprints and Thoughts Unsaid,” which—as a fantasy/western/romance—isn’t a particularly good fit for either Shirley Jackson or Bram Stoker.
With that out of the way, let’s continue. In no particular order, here are . . .
MY FAVORITE SHORT STORIES AND NOVELETTES OF 2022
1. “You, Me, Her, You, Her, I” – Isabel J. Kim – Strange Horizons
I’ve always found myself drawn to stories about identity, particular when it comes to artificial intelligence. There’s a lot to love about this one—the beginning, the ending, the quietly gorgeous prose throughout—but one thing I especially enjoy is that this isn’t a story about wanting to become human. Our MC might be imitating their host, but they never try to become her; rather, this a story about self-discovery, about creating memories, creating art—and then taking ownership of those creations.
You are not here to be faithful. You are here to be adequate.
2. “Lay My Stomach On Your Scales” – Wen-yi Lee – Strange Horizons
Okay, this story is fantastic. It’s about adolescence and body dysmorphia and slowly growing to see the worth in your own flesh; it’s also about penanggalan and stealing body parts and the friendship that forms between two monster girls. One scene in particular gave me some serious junior high flashbacks. Sometimes, it’s easier—sometimes it’s safer—to be a monster than a teenage girl.
I become forty eight kilograms lighter when I detach my head from my body.
3. “Douen” – Suzan Palumbo – The Dark
A dark and lovely story, though that’s hardly a surprise. I’ve yet to come across anything by Suzan Palumbo that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. “Douen” is a story about a lonely, dead child who desperately misses her mother, a child who gradually becomes more and more monstrous as she watches the world move on without her. The ending, in particular, is especially wonderful. It didn’t quite go where I expected, and I loved where it went instead.
I was standing behind one of de concrete headstone watching Mama and all meh aunties and uncles bawl. I cry too, because I didn’t remember how I get there and I didn’t want to be dead.
4. “The Many Murders of the Self” – H. Pueyo – The Dark
This is a phenomenal story. It’s also easily the darkest story on the list, so please pay attention to the content warnings because this one hits hard like a brick to the chest. The writing is gorgeous and pulls no punches. There is approximately zero room for hope, but it is also psychological horror at its finest and deserves to get all the acclaim and award nominations.
The first one to die is the little girl.
5. “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” – John Chu – Uncanny
Oh, this is excellent. I mean, just the title alone is excellent, but also a gay superhero romance! Or rather a gay superhero/gay bodybuilder-and-musical-theater-actor romance. It’s a very fun novelette and a very funny novelette (I will confess that I had to Google “Tom of Finland” to get the reference), but it also seamlessly discusses protests and police brutality and violence against Asian Americans. I haven’t been as into superhero movies as I used to be, but this is definitely one I’d watch in a hot second.
He grins when my gaze meets his. I may have inadvertently attracted the attention of a god.
6. “Requiem for a Dollface” – Margaret Dunlap – Uncanny
Listen, I apologize for making the comp that probably everyone makes while talking about this story, but “Requiem for a Dollface” is like Toy Story noir, which means that it’s fucking amazing. It’s a very quick read, only about 1500 words, and goes from “darkly hilarious” to “sweetly melancholic” to “oh, shit, CREEPY” in the blink of an eye. Friends. Darlings. I think I’m in love.
Not every child loved their toys gently. That was life.
This was murder.
7. “Dissent: A Five-Course Meal (With Suggested Pairings) – Aimee Ogden – Lightspeed
What a powerhouse of a story, particularly considering it’s not even 800 words. This flash fiction gives us glimpses of a queer woman’s life as she goes through protests, prison, health care insecurity, and more. The five-course meal structure works really well here, and the story ends on a lovely moment of bittersweet hope.
It’s too late in the meal for slogans.
8. “Choke” – Suyi Davies Okungbowa– Tor.com
There’s a lot of easy, relatable humor in this story (free food is a special kind of delightful, and watching Leverage reruns on Friday nights-in is absolutely the way to go), but “Choke” is also excellent at slowly ratcheting up the unease and tension as a dinner party for international college students soon grows from awkward and uncomfortable to creepy and surreal. Spectacular stuff.
No three words will make you congeal faster than Let us pray.
9. “The Pennyfeathers Ride Again” – L Chan – The Dark
Once again, I am helpless for an L Chan ghost story. This is also a siblings story, a story about creepy dolls, a story about bespoke exorcists—I mean, need I go on? I feel like I’m listing a few of my favorite things here, Julie Andrews style. The only criticism I have is that I want more stories immediately. A Pennyfeathers novel would make for an excellent Christmas present, that’s all I’m saying.
William Pennyfeather was years dead, opened up from thigh to chin by something in the haunted underground of Holborn Station. Until an hour ago, this had been the most traumatic experience of his existence.
10. “Bonesoup” – Eugenia Triantafyllou – Strange Horizons
Finally, we have this lovely and utterly morbid delight. “Bonesoup” is a dark, modern fairy tale with a grandmother who shows her love with food, a granddaughter who’s yearned to eat what all the other children eat, and the terrible things people are willing to do to nurture and protect their family. Tender, dark, and beautiful.
In Greece, we have a saying: You must eat the body part you want to grow stronger. Or maybe that’s just something my grandmother used to say.
As always, I read far too many fantastic stories this year—not to mention how many more out there I missed—so here are a bunch of fantastic Honorable Mentions.
“So You Married Your Arch Nemesis . . . Again” – Merc Fenn Wolfmoor – Lightspeed
“The Clockmaker’s Daughter” – Tobi Ogundiran – Lightspeed
“The Weight of It All” – Jennifer Hudak – Fantasy Magazine
“Apolépisi: A De-Scaling” – Suzan Palumbo – Lightspeed
“Plausible Realities, Improbable Dreams” – Isabel J. Kim – Lightspeed
“Of all the New Yorks in all the Worlds” – Indrapramit Das – Tor.com
“The Travel Guide to the Dimension of Lost Things” – Effie Seiberg – PodCastle
“The Application of Strawberry Lip Gloss in a Low-Gravity Environment” – R J Theodore – Lightspeed
That’s it for this year! Though I do apologize to all the December writers—I’ve had a December story, myself, and am familiar with how much that can suck. If I come across anything else that I particularly enjoy, I’ll do my best to tweet/post about it. (Presuming all my various social media accounts survive, which is a big assumption these days.) Meanwhile, Happy Thursday and feel free to rec any short stories that you enjoyed in the comments!