May 15 2015

#ShortReads Days 13-15

“As Good As New” by Charlie Jane Anders
Published in Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2014

A young woman playwright who is the only survivor of the apocalypse. You’d think that would mean the end of all things, but it turns out the apocalypse has some surprises left. The story is charming and funny and has a lot of dialog about theater and stage writing. So much fun.

Favorite Line(s): “When Marisol let herself think about all the people she could never talk to again, she got so choked up she wanted to punch someone in the eye until they were blinded for life.”

“The End of the End of Everything” by Dale Bailey
Published in Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2014

A considerably darker and more fatalistic story than what I generally like, in which a bleak ruin is slowly consuming the world and the rich spend the end of days in lavish parties with some picking themselves off periodically in suicide. It dragged a bit for me, but the characters were lost and real, and the ending brought it around to a powerful and moving conclusion.

Favorite Line(s): “Words were but paltry things, frail hedges against the night. Ruin would consume them.”

Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar
Published at Strange Horizons

A young woman deals with the aftermath of her mother’s departure. I don’t really want to say anything more than that, because this is a sad and moving tale, one I recommend you should go read right now.

After you read the story, check out this fabulous analysis of what’s not said by Anaea Lay.

Favorite Line(s): “I hate selkie stories. They’re always about how you went up to the attic to look for a book, and you found a disgusting old coat and brought it downstairs between finger and thumb and said “What’s this?”, and you never saw your mom again.”


May 15 2015

Friday Flash: The Dead Among the Dead

Behind a gate on a hill, the house skulks with the weight of its memories. It’s gardens bear rotting fruit. Vines crawl up its siding and peel back it’s wooden skin. It’s windows are cracked and broken, shutters clinging to rusted hinges, peeling away like a woman’s fake eyelashes at the end of an alcohol soaked night. The roof gapes up at the sky, open mouthed, drinking in sunlight, rain, and snow indiscriminately.

The house is home to specters, fragments of broken hearts and shards of regrets, drifting lonely and angry over the termite infested floors, nestling under the mildewed drapery, curled up in soggy chairs. They roam the many tilted floors, drift through peeling walls scattering mice, and wander into spiderwebbed rooms tasting the lingering once-was that paints a sheen over slow destruction.

When the front door falls off its hinges and the interlopers wend their way through the entry, taking up and altering space, the specters wail a distant keening easily mistaken for wind whistling in the eves. The interlopers offer up their own low moans, and for a moment their two lost nations take up a song of esurience.

Accustomed to percieving the ancient house as draped in its historic glory, as vibrant and fresh as when they were alive, the specters do not recognize the interlopers for what they are. They do not notice the flesh peeling in strips from bone, do not smell the too sweet stench of decay, do not comprehend the hollowed out emptiness of the interlopers that shamble without apparent purpose through the dim rooms.

The specters respond as they always do to invasion — slamming shutters, knocking wrinkled books off shelves, casting dark flitting shadows — expecting the screaming flight such actions traditionally evoke. But the just-bodies of the interlopers give no response other than to amble jerkily in the direction of each new sound. Confounded, the specters use up their electrostatic strength in games of fright that have no effect.

One interloper, in shuffling toward the sound of a portrait crashing, collapses through a wood rotted floor and smashes like an overripe melon on the stone basement floor. Specters huddle around it, waiting for one more to rise up and join their numbers. But the husk remains a husk with nothing to offer, not even its own ravenous hunger.

The specters learn. Unable to terrorize the interlopers into fleeing, they draw them with their howling, herd them with their bumping and knocking, guiding them to the hole to fall and smash and shatter and grow still. One unravels wire bit by steely bit until the chandelier, dusty and laced with cobwebs, crashes into a clutch of shambles, driving them through the cracking stairs into the rooms below.

One by one, the specters steer the interlopers to destruction until at last their home returns to its own quiet ruination, allowing the specters to slip back into their rumination and drift cloud-like through the fading chaos of memory.

* * *

Chuck Wendig invited writers this week to play the sun genre boogie this week. My random drawing pulled “haunted house” and “zombies” — which is utterly perfect for me.


May 12 2015

#ShortReads Day 11 & 12: “There Will Come Soft Rains” and “Tuning Philomel’s Steely Strings in the Wasteland’s Dark Matter”

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury
Published in The Martian Chronicles.

This is one of my favorite short stories of all time, which haunts me every time I think about it, so of course I had to reread it for this Short Story Month challenge. 

I got chills all over again. Bradbury makes this tragic smart house come alive, breathing with its own mechanical needs and passions and fears in the absence of humanity. 

A reading by Leonard Nimoy of “There Will Come Soft Rains” can be found on YouTube.

Favorite Line(s): “And one voice, with sublime disregard for the situation, read poetry aloud in the fiery study, until all the film spools burned, until all the wires withered and the circuits cracked.” (Hard to choose a favorite line, since each word in this story sings.

Tuning Philomel’s Steely Strings in the Wasteland’s Dark Matter” by Carina Bissett
Published in Nonbinary Review.

This lyrical retelling of the myth of Philomela and her sister Procne poetically unveils a story of brutality and revenge. Two women reclaim their own sense of power following terrible and brutal abuse.

Favorite Line(s): “Through the centuries our story twists and turns, contorting to fit into new molds, yet the rumors persist as rumors will. They tear apart truths to meet their needs, finding new ways to silence our protesting screams. Only we know the truth.”

Any story suggestions?


May 10 2015

#ShortReads Days 9 & 10

The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
Reprinted at iO9.

Such a bittersweet tale of magical realism, in which folded paper animals live. It shows the pain of internalized racism and the loss it can cause. Beautiful and so moving.

Favorite Line(s): “She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.”

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu

Published at Clarksworld Magazine.

This is a reread for me and it is as astounding experience now as it was the first time around. A group of wasps enact a form of colonization on a nearby hive of bees, though that’s only a small fraction of the story. It is beautifully told with vibrant language, relating an alien view of life in very relatable terms.

Favorite Line(s): “… it was discovered that the wasp nests of Yiwei, dipped in hot water, unfurled into beautifully accurate maps of provinces near and far, inked in vegetable pigments and labeled in careful Mandarin that could be distinguished beneath a microscope.”


May 8 2015

Friday Flash: The Shadows Among Us

(Note: This is in the horror realm, so wary readers be warned.)

“Look, I don’t think you understand — we open those doors, we let them in.” My dad’s voice is a growl. His eye is puffy and turning black, where I struck with my book and his face is red with rage, but in his eyes I see only terror. The same terror that had kept my family and I huddled in the locked basement, shivering in the dark for the past week.

“You don’t understand. We need water. Food,” I said, my own voice thick with fear and anger and guilt. I’m halfway up the basement stairs. The book — hard bound, sharp edged, thick as a brick — still hangs heavy as a dead weight in my hand. I suck in a stale breath. “We’re going to starve to death, if we don’t get food.”

“You’ll let them in—,” he snarls, shifting forward aggressively.

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