Posted on Leave a comment

Review: Slow Burn by Mike Allen

Slow Burn, the latest collection from Mike Allen, will officially be published July 16, 2024, but I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek. First off, shout out to Lasse Paldanius for the eye-catching cover art, and to Paula Arwen Owen for the interior illustrations. Owen has worked with Mythic Delirium Books before, and her pieces are always stunning – evocative of stain-glass windows and intricate cut paper shadow puppets.

The collection itself mixes fiction and poetry, with many of the pieces existing in a shared setting and some with overlapping characters. In his Acknowledgements, Allen frames it as part of an unofficial trilogy along with two of his previous collections, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident and Unseaming. It’s not necessary to read the other two to enjoy this one, however it does add another layer to the stories, as they do build on and enrich each other.

There are multiple flavors of body horror on offer in Slow Burn, along with dark fantasy, cosmic horror, and science fiction. Feather Stitch balances horror with an emotional core by centering a grandmother trying to discover the fate of her grandson who has literally gotten mixed up with a terrible monstrosity. One of the standouts in the collection, The Butcher, the Baker, also keeps the focus on the main character’s emotional journey amidst the horror. Trukos is a golem-like creature baked by a woman named Auntie Mayya for the purpose of killing her abusive husband. When Trukos subsequently kills in self-defense, Mayya orders him to kill the dead man’s widow as well in order to keep his true nature secret, but he refuses, and she banishes him. There’s a bittersweetness to the story, which is reminiscent of Frankenstein. Here too a creator turns their back on their creation, but this time for refusing to commit violence and wanting to be something more than monstrous, making for a nice inversion of the theme.

Strange Wisdoms of the Dead co-written with Charles M. Saplak has a historical-yet-timeless feel, as a man trapped on a ghost ship surrounded by corpses finds those corpses waking, leading him to doubt which is crumbling – his mind or reality. Falling Is What It Loves brings elements of both cosmic horror and science fiction, set in a world where people have “roommates”, extra dimensional beings that can see through the timestreams and also pick up signals from the humans with whom they co-habit. As Rae works through her complicated relationship with her dying father, her roommate both exacerbates the situation and helps her heal. Machine Learning is another story with a science-fictional feel as two women on a road trip are led astray by AI and find themselves in an abandoned landscape filled with eerie machines intent on doing them harm. Abhor is an effective piece of body horror where a physical therapist discovers creatures living under one of her clients’ skin and takes them into herself.

The titular story, Slow Burn, and the longest piece in the collection, Comforter, share a setting as well as common characters. As part of a larger story cycle, both have the feeling of a world extending beyond the page, but also work well as standalones. There’s a strong voice to both, bringing in elements of cosmic horror, but also grounding the characters in lives and in a world that feels lived-in and real.

Overall, Allen is a master at serving up striking imagery and evocative, atmospheric settings. He also excels at creating characters who feel fully realized, then dropping them into horrific situations, keeping the reader invested in their journeys and well-being. Slow Burn is another strong addition to the line up of Allen’s work, with plenty to offer fans of multiple genres.

Posted on Leave a comment

We Mostly Come Out at Night Review

Cover for We Mostly Come Out at Night anthology, featuring a silhouetted couple holding hands under a tree, with a demon-like creature perched on the branch above them.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of the YA anthology We Mostly Come Out at Night: 15 Queer Tales of Monsters, Angels, and Other Creatures edited by Rob Costello. The anthology will officially be out in May 2024, and is currently available for pre-order.

First off, a shout-out for the gorgeous cover art by Frances J. Soo Ping Chow; it’s striking, and perfectly suits the tone of the anthology, and even better, each story within the anthology is paired with a lovely header illustration by the artist as well.

On the whole, the anthology strikes a nice balance of hope and queer joy, while also acknowledging the pain and uncertainty that can be a part of the queer experience. There are stories of angels, gargoyles, cryptids, mer-folk, and fae creatures, which are also stories of young people finding their place in the world, forming new friendships and romances, and learning to embrace their truths. All of the stories are well-written, and there are some truly lovely descriptions and emotional moments within these pages. There are a few in particular that I want to highlight, though all of them are well-worth reading.

Bastian and the Beast by Jonathan Lenore Kastin opens the anthology with a lovely, queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast. There are many familiar touch-points from the various versions of the tale, and centering a queer, trans protagonist adds extra resonance to the themes of characters learning to see themselves and others for who they truly are. Other Fish by Alexandra Villasante is a wonderful reimagining of the Little Mermaid, that explores what it means to be the child of immigrants, and how sometimes that comes with the pressure and expectation to perform identity a certain way in order to fit in, and to sanitize your personality and image in order to be more palatable to others.

Be Not Afraid by Michael Thomas Ford is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Willet’s grandmother firmly believes in Mothman – a cryptid who only shows up when trouble is coming, and there is plenty of trouble in Willet’s life. His older brother, Pike, is selling drugs to try to help cover their grandmother’s medical bills, and even so it’s barely enough. Meanwhile Willet’s best friend Burlie skipped town to figure out the growing feelings between the two of them after his parents forbid them from having a relationship. The story does a nice job of looking at what is considered monstrous and what it means to be monstrous and an outsider. Delving into some similar themes, The Freedom of Feather and Fur by David Bowles has a strong voice, and makes good use of its historical setting as Lope searches for his shapeshifting brother in order to take revenge, and discovers some truths about himself and the nature of monsters along the way.

The House of Needs and Wants by Kaylynn Bayron is a sweet story about a young, queer woman who has been bounced from foster home to foster home. She deeply distrusts the system, and expects to find more of the same in her new home, not to mention the rumors that the house is haunted. Instead, she finds other queer kids and a semi-sentient house that strives to give everyone what they need. It’s a cozy and comforting story, but one that doesn’t shy away from acknowledging pain, or showing how difficult trust can be and how much courage it takes to open yourself up to others. The Girl with Thirteen Shadows by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor is similarly a painful story, but with a hopeful ending. Melanie has more shadows that she should, and is also trying to come to terms with her asexuality. She goes to a doctor who claims he can fix her, that her shadows are killing her, but ultimately learns that he only wants to control the so-called monsters of the world. She finds allies however, and new friends, taking the first steps toward building a community of fellow “monsters”.

How We Founded Club Feathers at the Discard Depot by Sarah Maxfield is the perfect story to close out the anthology. Ashley lives in a super-conservative town that strictly enforces heteronormativity, especially when it comes to prom. She and her secret girlfriend, Em, along with the other queer kids, are relegated to the sidelines serving punch, counting court ballots, and working the photobooth, rather than getting to enjoy themselves. But a “wicked” fairy godmother/Uncanny Presence known as Carabosse appears to whisk them away to their own prom while putting everyone else to sleep, giving them a lovely moment of queer joy and a safe space to celebrate, while also acknowledging the bravery required to choose your happiness amidst pressure to conform.

Posted on Leave a comment

Favorite Short Fiction of 2023

Every year for the past several years, I’ve put together a series of posts sharing my favorite reads from that year. And every year, I feel like I’m behind, and there’s tons of stuff that I’ve missed. The feeling is even greater this year. So much of my reading in 2023 was focused on work published in 2022, due to serving as a World Fantasy Award judge. I’m woefully behind on things that came out this year, and I’m frantically trying to catch up. As a result, this list may grow over the next few weeks, but as folks are starting to think about award nominations now, I wanted to share my favorites thus far.

A post focused on novels and novellas is forthcoming, but for now, here are some of my favorite short stories, novelettes, and collections published in 2023!

Collections

Skin Thief by Suzan Palumbo

I’ve been a fan of Suzan’s work since I read her short story “The Pull of the Herd”, and it remains on of my favorites of hers. I was honored to be asked to write the introduction for this gorgeous debut collection, which brings together so many wonderful stories in one place. These are stories that explore queerness, what it means to be monstrous, the choices people make, and the things they embrace or leave behind. The prose is delicious, mixing horror, fantasy, myth, and a deep humanity together, sometimes all in one story.

Lost Places by Sarah Pinsker

I’ve been a fan of Sarah Pinsker’s work for a long time as well, and her second collection is just as wonderful as her first. Every time I re-read one of Sarah’s stories, I discover something new. They’re multi-layered and subtle, and somehow, she makes it all look effortless. It’s always a joy to read Sarah’s work, and to see how various stories talk to each other when they’re brought together in a collection.

Jackal, Jackal by Tobi Ogundiran

I’ve also been a fan of Tobi Ogundiran’s short fiction since I first discovered it, and I’d been looking forward to this debut collection since it was announced. There were several new-to-me pieces, and it was a pleasure getting to know them, while revisiting those I’d previously read. One of my favorites in the collection was “Midnight in Moscow”, which just so happens to original to the collection and newly-published in 2023.

Short Fiction

Love Sharp Enough to Rend by Leah Ning published in The Dark is a brief, but powerful story about a sea lamia that examines cycles of violence, and at times, evokes The Little Mermaid.

A Small Bloody Gift by Naomi Day published in Fiyah is a dark, painful story with wonderful worldbuilding, looking at the idea of enshrined rituals and “acceptable” sacrifice.

Broodmare by Flossy Arend published in Fantasy Magazine is a beautifully-written and frightening novelette looking at reproductive rights, but also hope and community-building.

Of Gentle Wolves by James Bennett published in The Dark is a wonderful, dark, queer re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, exploring societal norms, desire, and the nature of monstrousness.

Who the Final Girl Becomes by Dominique Dickey published in Nightmare Magazine is a lovely exploration of slasher tropes as a trans man fears his escape from a massacre will define him forever.

The Big Glass Box and the Boys Inside by Isabel J. Kim published in Apex Magazine is full of fantastic worldbuilding and gorgeous language, as it takes the trope of fae creatures using humanity’s desires and ambitions against them, and puts it in a corporate setting.

Home by Erik Grove published in Nightmare Magazine is short, but very effective and deeply creepy look at the various ways one might define the word “possession”, told from the point of view of a possibly-haunted house.

Miz Boudreaux’s Last Ride by Christopher Caldwell published in Uncanny Magazine is a story with a fantastic voice, about a rootworker collecting on a deal she made with a young couple many years ago by asking them to carry out one last task for her now that she’s dead.

Undog by Eugenia Triantafyllou published in Strange Horizons is a short but highly effective piece that is sweet, sad, and creepy all at once, about a young woman who moves in a new house and finds it haunted by an unwanted dog, leading her to reflect on her own conflicted feelings about her family.

The Getaway by Stephanie Feldman published in Weird Horror is another short but highly effective piece about a woman in a rental property, waiting for her friend to arrive, who notices an unsettling figure in the online listing for the house.

The Rain Remembers What the Sky Forgets by Fran Wilde published in Uncanny Magazine is a beautifully-written and evocative story combining history and myth, which also explores complicated family relationships, as a young hatmaker is given a commission by her stepmother that would directly go against everything her late father stood for if she fulfills it.

There’s a Door to the Land of the Dead in the Land of the Dead by Sarah Pinsker published in The Deadlands is a lovely, character-based story about finding one’s path through life by literally walking through death.

If Someone You Love Has Become a Vurdalak by Sam J. Miller published in The Dark is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about addiction and undead creatures who can only feed on those who are closest to them and truly love them.

For However Long by Thomas Ha published in Khoreo is a bittersweet meditation on family and how relationships between parents and children change overtime as an earthbound mother reflects on her relationship with her son living on Mars.

For This Time Only by Ryanne Kap published in Augur is a lovely and haunting story about a woman who travels to China to adopt the ghost-like potential of a baby who never had a chance to live due to the one-child policy.

Til the Greenteeth Draw Us Down by Josh Rountree published in The Deadlands is a wonderful story set in a flooded Galveston, where hungry creatures take on the faces of the dead to lure their loved ones away, exploring grief, loss, found family, and hope.

Polar Shift by Mir Seidel published in Bourbon Penn is an uneasy and atmospheric story about two men in an isolated arctic research station, one of whom can’t seem to remember what they’re doing there, or even who they are.

Deep Blue Jump by Dean Whitlock published in Asimov’s is a lovely and heartbreaking novelette about the harsh lives of abandoned children forced to pick dream berries for the rich upper class.

Headhunting by Rich Larson published at Tor.com is slick, noirish story with a wonderful voice about a PI sent to recover a stolen, mummified head.

A Guide to Matchmaking on Station 9 by Nika Murphy published in Clarkesworld is a sweet story about a matchmaker with synesthesia, working on a space station, and struggling to find a match for her latest client.

Upgrade Day by RJ Taylor published in Clarkesworld is a brief and heartbreaking story set in a world where humans can sell their “deaths”, allowing their consciousnesses to be uploaded into the bodies of robotic servants.

The Five Remembrances According to STE-319 by R.L. Meza published in Clarkesworld is another brief and bittersweet story about a robot built for war, who doesn’t want to be a weapon anymore, and manages to make a different choice by protecting a young survivor.

Quantum Love by Sylvia Heike published in Flash Fiction Online is a sweet and occasionally sad story about a quantum computer in love with the scientist working with it, who helps engineer a new relationship for her in order to optimize her happiness.

The Apotheosis of Krysalice Wilson by Howard V. Hendix published in Analog is a lovely novelette about a young figure skater implanted with experimental medical technology to improve her reaction time and spatial awareness, which ends up transforming her in more ways than one.

Secondhand Music by Aleksandra Hill published in Analog is a subtly eerie story that puts a science fictional twist on the idea of a body part “haunting” the person who receives it as a transplant, as a young violinist receives a highly advanced prosthetic arm from another violinist and finds the woman’s widow taking an unusual interest in her.

Such is My Idea of Happiness by David Goodman published in Clarkesworld is a novelette with a cyberpunk feel about a man trying to work his way up to a Grade III job where his dreams will be harvested by the upper class Brights, but at least he’ll finally be able to get a decent sleep.

There Are Only Two Chairs, and the Skin is Draped Over the Other by Alexia Antoniou published in Bourbon Penn is a surreal and eerie story about two young girls who find an empty, seemingly-human skin in the creek behind one of their houses.

Berb by Berb by Ray Nayler published in Asimov’s is a wonderful alt-history where a crashed spaceship in the 1930s changed the course of America after scientists reverse-engineered its technology, leading to unintended consequences.

Kwong’s Bath by Angela Liu published in Khoreo is a lovely story about a young girl who begins seeing ghosts after she’s given implants meant to help her improve her family’s station in life.

Memories of Memories Lost by Mahmud El Sayed published in Khoreo is a beautifully-written and bittersweet story of a world where every person must pay a tax of their memories to the aliens who invaded earth, which explores complicated family relationships.

Zoraida la Zorra by Ana Hurtado published in The Dark is a beautifully-written story about women and monstrousness and trying to live free of the expectations of others.

Jack O’ Dander by Priya Sharma is an excellent, dark story about a figure out of urban legend who appears in the background of online videos, which also explores grief, loss, and survivor’s guilt.

In the Days After by Frank Ward published in Asimov’s is a painful story about a random group of humans exposed to an unexplained phenomenon that caused them to stop aging, exploring the unintended consequences of near-immortality.

Bird-Girl Builds a Machine by Hannah Yang published in Clarkesworld is a lovely time-loop story about a girl whose mother spends her entire childhood building a machine she can’t or won’t explain, and the strained relationship that grows between them.

Waystation City by A.T. Greenblatt published in Uncanny is a story full of gorgeous worldbuilding about finding your path in life, set in a liminal city where change is often seen as a dangerous thing.

To Carry You Inside You by Tia Tashiro published in Clarkesworld is a gorgeous story about a woman who acts as a surrogate for the dead, allowing grieving families to visit with their loved ones via a neural implant in her head.

Auscultation by J.S. Beukelaar published in The Dark is an unsettling Gothic story told in the epistolary style, about a woman whose partner sends her to an isolated country estate, supposedly for her health, who becomes increasingly convinced that the manor house itself is stalking her.

On the Fox Roads by Nghi Vo published at Tor.com is a gorgeously-written story with a wonderful voice about a young woman who joins up with two bank robbers, trying to get the deed to her parents’ store back, who learns how to manipulate the in-between spaces of the fox roads in order to aid in their escapes.

Mother’s Teeth by E.L. Chen published in The Dark is a deeply creepy, evocative, and beautifully-written story about a young boy who fears his mother has become a hungry ghost, but still longs for her to comfort him.

Ain’t Houses, Ain’t Names by Nino Cipri published in The Sunday Morning Transport is a beautiful and dreamy story about a young stagehand who becomes briefly unstuck in time and catches possible glimpses of her future while working on a high school production of Our Town.

Interstate Mohinis by M.L. Krishnan published in Diabolical Plots is a gorgeously-written and heartbreaking story about a mohini who feeds off men she meets along the interstate falling in love with a beautiful woman trapped in an abusive relationship.

Re: Your Stone by Guan Un published in Diabolical Plots is a cute re-telling of the myth of Sisyphus, conveyed as a series of increasingly frustrating bureaucratic red-tape emails.

Those Hitchhiking Kids by Darcie Little Badger published in The Sunday Morning Transport is a dream-like story of two ghosts who died young, stuck perpetually looking for a ride and watching the world change around them.

Crawling Back to You by H. Pueyo published in Kaleidotrope is a dark and visceral story about two contestants in a death-match reality TV show, exploring the complicated intersection between abuse, love, and desperation.

Waffles Are Only Goodbye for Now by Ryan Cole is a surprisingly sweet and occasionally heartbreaking story told from the point of view of a smart refrigerator caught in the middle of a war zone, mourning her lost family, and trying to help a young boy stay alive amidst ongoing bombing.

An Infestation of Blue by Wendy N. Wagner published in Analog is another occasionally heartbreaking story, told from the point of view of a dog who wakes to find her consciousness and sense of self altered by an experimental technology implanted in her, meant to allow her to communicate with humans.

Bricando Charcos (Jumping Puddles) by Ben Francisco published in Strange Horizons is a beautiful story about family, hope, and finding your way out of fear, as two young men at the beginning of their relationship discover that they both have the power to jump from place to place using puddles, and that they are both being pursued by mysterious men in blue suits.

Ivy, Angelica, Bay by C.L. Polk published at Tor.com is a gorgeously-written story about bees, magic, found family, and sacrifice, as the witch of Hurston Hill takes in an unwanted child and trains her to help protect their neighborhood.

The Sound of Children Screaming by Rachael K. Jones published in Nightmare Magazine is a powerful and haunting story about a group of children and their teacher who are pulled away from a school shooting via a magical portal and dumped into a world of talking mice who want the children to fight their war for them.

Homewrecker by E. Catherine Tobler published in Apex Magazine is a wonderfully eerie and unsettling found footage story about a man filming a home renovation show in an isolated and very likely haunted house, evoking Gothic fiction and cosmic horror, and effectively playing with uncertainty.

The True Name of the Sharp-Toothed God by KT Bryski published in Cossmass Infinities is a gorgeously-written and atmospheric story of a ship’s crew hired to take two archivists to a remote isle to destroy the only written record of the true name of the sharp-toothed god, exploring the idea of “acceptable” sacrifice.

The Monster-Fucker Club by A.V. Greene published in Apex Magazine is a wonderful and dark story of a group of high school girls who are each fucking a different kind of monster, exploring the concept of monstrosity and what makes something or someone monstrous.

The Raven Princess by Dani Atkinson published in Cast of Wonders is a cute story that does an excellent job with humor, as a princess transformed into a raven takes the advice of a fellow bird and looks for a non-fairy tale solution to her fairy tale predicament.

Posted on 15 Comments

What Have You Done? What Have You Loved? 2023 Edition

It’s that time of year again – award eligibility posts are popping up around the various scattered corners of the internet, and readers are starting to reflect on their favorite works of the past year. Every year for the past several years, I’ve assembled a links round-up post of eligibility posts, recommended reading posts, and general helpful links and resources.

If you’re an author, editor, or publisher and you have such a post, either of your own work or work you’ve loved this year, please do send your link my way and I’ll add it to the list. Feel free to drop it in the comments, or email me at a.c.wise@hotmail.com.

If you’re an author, editor, publisher, or creator with award eligible work, and you’re on the fence about putting together a post, I highly encourage you to do it. It’s a valuable way to reflect on what you did in the past year, not to mention letting others know what work you have out there and in what categories your work is eligible. There’s so much work published each year, it’s hard to keep up, so it never hurts to remind people what you’ve done.

I’ll be putting together my own eligibility post at some point, as well as my usual recommended reading posts. I’ll also be updating this post frequently with new links as I find or receive them. In the meantime, browse the links below, check out the fantastic work that’s been published in 2023, and send your own link my way!

Sarah Gailey has also put together an eligibility link round-up. Check out their list here.

General Award Info and Resource Links

Aurora Awards (eligible works may be suggested until 2/24/24)

Hugo Awards (nominations close 3/9/24)

Locus Awards (voting closes 4/15/2024)

Nebula Awards (nominations close 2/29/24)

Otherwise Awards (recommendations closed 12/31/23)

Science Fiction Awards Database

Shirley Jackson Awards (submissions from publishers only through 3/29/24)

Stoker Awards (recommendations closed 1/15/24)

World Fantasy Awards

WSFA Small Press Awards

Recommended Reading Links

Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2023

Book Riot Books of the Year

Books Are My Bag Readers’ Award 2023

CBC Best Canadian Books of 2023

Foyles Book of the Year Shortlist

Ephiny Gale Recommended Reading

The Guardian Best of 2023

Maria Haskins Recommended Reading 2023

A.P. Howell Recommended Reading

Library Journal Best Horror of 2023

Bonnie McDaniel Recommended Reads

Lyndsie Manusos Favorite Reads of 2023

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendation List Part 1

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendation List Part 2

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendation List Part 3

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendation List Part 4

NPR Best Books of 2023

New York Public Library Best Books of 2023

New York Times Best Books of 2023

Publishers Lunch Top 10 Books of 2023

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

Slate Best Books of 2023

Carlie St. George Recommended Reading

Tor Reviewers Choice Best Books of 2023

Tor Notable SFFH YA for 2023

Eugenia Triantafyllou Recommended Reading

Waterstones Book of the Year Shortlist

Wallstreet Journal Best Books of 2023

Waterstones Books of the Year

Fran Wilde’s Reading Recommendations 2023

John Wiswell’s Favorite Short Fiction of 2023

Author/Editor/Publisher Eligibility Post Links

Amado, Laila

Apex Magazine

Arther, Azure

Astounding Award Eligible Authors

Atthis Arts

Ayala, V.M.

Baldwin, Joaquin

Barlow, Devan

Barb, Patrick

Barton, Phoebe

Bell, E.D.E.

Bernardo, Renan

Blackwell, Laura

Bleeding Edge Books

Buchanan, Andi C.

Burnett, Emma

Burrows, Rex

Cahill, Martin

Campbell, Tara

Canas, Isabel

Carroll, Shiloh

Carruth, Katrina

Case, Stephen

Chan, L.

Chandrasekera, Vajra

Chang, Myna

Cherry, Jr., Danny

Chng, Joyce

Chou, Vivian

Christopolou, Danai

Clark, Chloe N.

Cornell, P.A.

Criley, Marc A.

Crilly, Brandon

Croal, Lyndsey

de Winter, Gunnar

Daley, Ray

Das, Indrapramit

Datlow, Ellen

Deal, Ef

Donohue, Jennifer

Dosser, Max

Duckworth, Jonathan Louis

Dunato, Jelena

Duncan, RK

Edelman, Scott

Elegant Literature

Emelumadu, Chikodili

Emem Harry, Gabrielle

Epeki, Oghenechovwe Donald

Feldman, Stephanie

Fiyah Magazine

Fogg, Vanessa

Fuller, Andrew S.

Fusion Fragment

Gale, Ephiny

Gammon, Jendia

Garcia-Rosas, Nelly Geraldine

Gensler, Jonathan

Glover, Jenna

Goldfuss, A.L.

Grabianowski, Ed

Grech, Amy

Ha, Thomas

Haber, Elad

Hallow, S.M.

Hanolsy, Christine

Hanson, Josh

Haskell, N.V.

Haskins, Maria

Heartfield, Kate

Heijndermans, Joachim

Heike, Sylvia

Henry, Veronica G.

Hexagon Magazine

Howell, A.P.

Holloway, Dee

Holloway, Verity

Hudson, Andrew Dana

Hugenbruch, Brian

Hugo Eligibility Spreadsheet

Hurtado, Ana

Interzone

Interzone Digital

J, Chase

Jordan, Latoya

Joseph, R.J.

Kemske, Abigail

Khoreo Magazine

Kim, Isabel J.

King, Scott

Kinney, Benjamin C.

Kotowych, Stephen

Kurella, Jordan

Kuriata, Chris

Lafountaine, Keith

Levato, Francesco

Lingen, Marissa

Liu, Angela

Lockwood, Ben

Louzon, Monica

Low, P.H.

Lu, Lark Morgan

McIvor, Katie

Mcleod, Lindz

Manusos, Lyndsie

Marken Jack, Ariel

Mingault, Reed

Mittra, Archita

Mohamed, Premee

Mote, Rajiv

Nerds of a Feather

Ness, Mari

Nguyen, Vina

Nogle, Christi

Older, Malka

Oritz, Martin

Pattanaik, Mandira

Peacock, Dan

Pearce, C.H.

Perkins, Keira

Pichette, Marisca

Pladek, B.

Rappaport, Jenny Rae

Ren, Melissa

Reynolds, Jeff

Roanhorse, Rebecca

Rose, Camden

Rosenberg, Zachary

Rountree, Joshua

Saxey, E.

Schaeffer, Kathleen

Seiberg, Effie

Seidel, Alexandra

Sheffer, Marguerite

Space Cowboy Books

St. George, Carlie

Stephens, Elise

Stewart, Andrea G.

Sulaiman, Sonia

Syringa, J.

Talabi, Wole

Tehnuka

Ten, Kristina

Three-Lobed Burning Eye Magazine

Toase, Steve

Tobler, E. Catherine

Tor.com Short Fiction

Treasure, Rebecca

Triantafyllou, Eugenia

Uncanny Magazine

Undertow Books

Victoria, Ricardo

Wagner, Wendy

Wehm, Darusha

Wilde, Fran

Wiswell, John

Wolverton, Nicole M.

Yeager Rodriguez, Karlo

Yoachim, Caroline M.

Yoakeim, Ramez

Yu, Kelsea

Zelkovich, B.

Posted on Leave a comment

More Favorites Reads of 2022: Reflections of a World Fantasy Judge

A stack of speculative fiction books published in 2022, against a backdrop of bookshelves.

I’m honored to have served as one of the World Fantasy Award judges this year, considering works of horror and fantasy originally published in 2022. It was an incredible experience, and I’m truly grateful to all my fellow judges, all the authors, publishers, and editors who sent work out way, the World Fantasy Award board members, and all the members of the World Fantasy Convention(s) who voted for their favorites this year. It was a lot of work, but absolutely worthwhile in terms of putting work on my radar that I’d missed, and giving me an opportunity to catch up on things I’d meant to read but hadn’t gotten around to yet. If you ever have the opportunity to be a judge, and you have the bandwidth to do so, I highly recommend it!

This year’s ballot was recently released. Congratulations to all the finalists! At the risk of repeating myself – thank you again to everyone who sent work our way to consider. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to read your work, and I’m even delighted that you made our job so incredibly hard!

There was so much phenomenal art, fiction, and non-fiction published last year. We could have easily filled a finalist ballot twice as long, or even longer. To that end, I wanted to highlight some additional personal favorite reads from 2022 that I came across during the judging process, including some that did make the final ballot. They are all amazing as far as I’m concerned, and I would love for people to read them! These recommendations are on top of the favorite short stories, novels and novellas, anthologies and collections, and novelettes that I already posted about at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.

Ready? In no particular order, here we go!

Collections

Breakable Things by Cassandra Khaw

This collection has received a good deal of buzz this year, including winning the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Collection, and the buzz is well-deserved. The collection is full of dark, gorgeous writing, and a perfect opportunity to get a sense of Khaw’s voice if you haven’t read their work before.

A Study in Ugliness & Outras Historias by H. Pueyo

An incredibly dark and occasionally downright brutal collection. The stories aren’t always an easy read, but I found all of them worthwhile, even when they hurt. As an extra bonus, each story is offered in both English and Portuguese. One of the standouts for me was “Rabbit’s Foot”, exploring friendship turned vicious, what it means to belong, and the pressure to go along and not make trouble in order to be considered “one of the good ones”. It’s terrifying and rings terrifyingly true.

How to See Ghosts and Other Figments by Orrin Grey

I’m absolutely a sucker for tales of old Hollywood, classic movie monsters, uncanny video games, and stories that explore the eerie possibilities of other artistic mediums like music, painting, poetry, and so on. Grey hits a lot of my fictional favorites in this collection, and overall the collection is full of pleasingly weird and uneasy tales.

The Black Maybe by Attila Veres (Translated by Luca Karafiath)

Attila Veres is a Hungarian author who hadn’t previously be on my radar, and now absolutely will be going forward. This collection was a finalist for the Stoker Award this year, and with good cause. The stories tend to the surreal, with hints of cosmic horror. A particular favorite of mine was “The Time Remaining”, about a child’s toy that becomes inextricably linked with their grandmother’s death, effectively blending a building horror with an exploration of loss and guilt.

Song of the Mango and Other New Myths by Vida Cruz-Borja

This is a lovely collection by an author whose work I enjoy, giving me a chance to revisit stories and discover new ones. Many of Cruz-Borja’s stories have a fairy-tale like feel, blending elements of mythology and fantasy into the real world. In an overall strong collection, two stories that stood out to me in particular were “Blushing Blue”, where two sisters use tattoo magic to try to bring back their dead mother, and “Ink: A Love Story”, a meta fictional piece about two writers trying to write their perfect partner into existence, with quite dark and unsettling undertones.

All Our Hearts Are Ghosts by Peter Atkins

An overall strong collection, with stories ranging from weird noir, to a quiet and touching story about a ghost who doesn’t yet realize she’s a ghost, and everything in between. Definitely worth checking out.

Novellas

The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia

I’d heard so many good things about this novella, and it did not disappoint. The voice is fantastic, and the worldbuilding intricate and incredibly well done. There’s a satisfying mystery at the heart of the story, which blends perfectly with the fantastical elements and the system of magic. The characters are complex and nuanced, and they have beautifully complicated relationships with each other. The story also provides a thoughtful exploration of gender, different experiences of euphoria/dysphoria, different experiences of what it means to be an immigrant, what it means to belong to a culture, systems of power, and the way violence and oppression can be passed on. Overall, a really lovely and worthwhile read.

Radcliffe Hall by Miyuki Jane Pinckard

This novella was published in Uncanny Magazine, and is free to read online. It’s got some wonderfully Gothic vibes, set in a boarding school whose grounds are being haunted by a former student who died under mysterious circumstances. The main character is recruited into a society with a deep interest in Spiritualism, and soon discovers both the society’s racist undertones and their nefarious motives. The characters are wonderful and the relationships between them well-done. It’s fast-paced and even at novella-length, it reads quickly and smoothly online.

Kid Wolf and Kraken Boy by Sam J. Miller

I always love Sam J. Miller’s work, and this was no exception. Set in 1920s New York in the world of boxing, with a healthy dose of tattoo magic, double and triple-crosses in the criminal underground, and a very sweet love story to boot. Its delightfully queer and sets up a lovely alternate world build on hope and marginalized people dismantling capitalism and fascism.

The Dirty Golden Yellow House by Debbie Urbanski

This one might fall under the category of novelette, depending on who’s asking, but either way, it’s free to read online at Lightspeed Magazine and worth your time, though it is a dark read dealing with difficult subject matter. The main character turns to the supernatural in order to cope the abuse and marital rape, which no one seems willing to believe that she’s experiencing. A painful look at power dynamics and the limited options available to people in abusive relationships, exploring what constitutes “love” and “need” and who is expected to give way in a relationship despite their own feelings.

And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin

A smoothly-written and dark novella that explores the power of stories to shape reality, while also playing with the idea of unreliable narrators. The story can be read as a unique twist on the zombie trope, a pandemic story, a political metaphor, or all of the above, as a plague of violence sweeps the nation and people are locked away for their own good until they recover from their beliefs.

Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse

A novella with distinct weird west vibes that also explores classism in a town below a hill where the remains of a dead god are mined and those with fallen blood are shunned. Fantastic worldbuilding and great characters, who are faced with complex choices, while they also work to solve the novella’s central murder mystery.

Of Charms, Ghosts, and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard

This novella is set in the world of the author’s Dominion of the Fallen series, but the story stands well on its own. Thuan, a dragon prince, and his fallen angel husband, are caught up in a mystery when they discover the ghost of a child haunting a temple. They don’t exactly see eye to eye when it comes to the dead, especially those who can only survive by feeding off the living, and solving the mystery tests their relationship, while also putting them, their friends, and their family in danger. Gorgeous worldbuilding, fantastic characters, and evocative writing – definitely worth the read even if this is your first time encountering the author’s Dominion of the Fallen world.

Novels

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

A gorgeously-written and richly-detailed alternate history, set in 1760s Europe, focused primarily on two of the daughters of the Hapsburg emperor, whose lives are ruled by their mother’s expectations of them – that they marry kings and strengthen their family’s position. Charlotte and Antoine (known as Marie Antoinette in France) came into possession of an embroidered book of spells as young girls, and have secretly been using magic ever since to better their lives and subtly influence the course of history. Heartfield does wonderful things with the idea of “small” magics that effect big changes, showing the subtle ways women of the time might exercise power and control, while also doing a wonderful job with the impossible situation the sisters are put in, their complex relationships, and the choices they must make with limited information and opportunity. With all the history, magic, complex politics, and the deeply human characters, even at 600+ pages, the story never bogs down. The novel feels truly epic, and I could have happily kept reading when I reached the end.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The Ballad of Perilous Graves is set in an alternate New Orleans, full of music, magic, living songs, ghosts, zombies, super-powered children, and walking graffiti. (So possibly actually New Orleans and not alternate at all, if you know where to look, but I digress.) This is a fantastic novel in all senses of the word, bursting with energy, and taking unexpected twists and turns. The titular Perilous Graves, along with his sister Brendy, and their neighbor, Peaches, is caught up in a mystery/adventure/life-threatening quest, when someone begins kidnapping famous songs and taking them out of the world. An unexpected family legacy is revealed, spirits are consulted and confronted, and reality turns out to be not at all what any of them believed. I remain in awe of how much Jennings fit into one book, and how it all works perfectly together to form a rich, swirling, mosaic tapestry to snap the reader up and carry them along – just like a proper New Orleans parade.

The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin

This is the sequel/conclusion to the story started in The City We Became, so it doesn’t stand alone, but both novels are absolutely worth reading. The boroughs of New York, recently awoken living embodiments of their neighborhoods, along with the avatar of New York as a whole, pick up their fight against an incursion of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The speculative fiction element works perfectly alongside a story about both overt and subtle racism, city politics, fighting for your neighborhood, and the people who truly have your back. The characters are wonderful, and their relationships and lives are made more complex this time around. The creepy white tendrils of cosmic horror remain effective, and it’s fun getting to see even more of the city-avatars from around the world as they’re inevitably drawn into the fight.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

I’ll admit that this one took me a little while to get into, but it did end up hooking me with its gorgeous, lush descriptions, and the way new facets of the characters were revealed over the course of the novel. The story centers on a merchant-thief, travelling with her djinn bodyguard, and a prince who is tired of his life confined to the royal palace and wants to see the world. They both get caught up in a search for a dangerous and coveted magical relic, uncertain who can be trusted, and trying desperately to keep the artifact out of the wrong hands. The novel is beautifully-written, and I appreciate the way the characters are deepened, interconnected histories are revealed, and the truth about the powerful relics is uncovered, over the course of the story. This is the first book of a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the rest.

To Catch a Moon by Rym Kechacha

This novel took me by surprise, not being on my radar at all, and having no idea what to expect when I picked it up. What I found was a series of lovely, interwoven stories, moving fluidly through time, nesting one inside the other, and creating a wonderfully elaborate mythology, while also telling a satisfying tale. The framing narrative starts with a painter who accidentally create an entire world, and the bulk of the novel tells the epic story of that world, the flow of its history and the interconnected lives of its characters. It’s hard to describe properly, but it’s truly beautifully-written, and well worth a read.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Pretty much anything by T. Kingfisher is worth the read in my opinion. Nettle & Bone nods to several fairy tales without being a direct adaptation of any particular fairy tale. It’s dark and it’s bloody. There is a series of seemingly impossible tasks that need to be undertaken, including weaving a cloak of nettles and building a dog out of bones. There are fairy godmothers – fearful and powerful creatures whose blessings (or curses, depending on your perspective) can shape the fate of an entire realm. The prose is lush and the characters are wonderful, and overall its a quick and highly-satisfying read.

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane

This is another novel that wasn’t on my radar and took me pleasantly by surprise. An alternate telling of the Iliad and the battle of Troy, centered on Achilles, a trans woman imbued with the power of the gods, who becomes a battleground in an of herself as divine influences seek to sway her to their cause. The descriptions of battle are sharp, the writing gorgeous, and the characters are wonderfully-drawn. It feels simultaneously epic and intimate, like reading a secret, hidden history of what really went down in the Trojan War.

Passerthrough by Peter Rock

Yet another novel that wasn’t on my radar, which pleasantly surprised me. This probably isn’t the book for people who like concrete answers, or narratives that wrap everything up at the end. Uneasiness is the name of the game here, with readers thrown directly into a highly uncertain situation, as Benjamin tries to piece together his memories of his daughter’s mysterious disappearance 25 years ago. Helen was gone for a full week, reappearing several miles away from the campsite where she vanished, with no explanation, displaying behavior at the time that might almost be called possession. It’s very possible that Helen touched another world when she vanished, and it’s also possible that her disappearance was Benjamin’s fault. The whole novel has a surreal and uncanny feel about it, evoking real-life stories of unexplained disappearances, particularly those blamed on faeries. It’s a quick read, and worth the time for fans of the strange, unexplained, and unsettling.

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

I can truly say that I’ve never read a novel structured in quite this way before, but it absolutely works. The point of view flows seamlessly from character to character throughout this dense, epic secondary world fantasy. The story moves backward and forward through time, with a framing narrative of a character recalling the stories their grandmother told them about the Old Country, a realm of gods, magic, warriors, and horrors. The focus dips in and out of the narrative within the narrative, with the worlds overlapping occasionally and informing each other. There are interjections throughout both narratives that function almost like a Greek chorus, giving an alternate perspective on events as they occur. It could be distracting, but it absolutely works, creating a story that is rich, layered, detailed, and breathtaking. My description likely isn’t doing it justice. Just go read it. It’s dark and lush and queer and beautiful and I’m in awe of how the whole thing comes together.

Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney

Speaking of dark and lush and queer and beautiful, Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney is all of those as well. Lainie Stones is a necromancer from a line of executioners and torturers who happens to be deathly allergic to violence, which is highly inconvenient given her heritage and line of work. She also happens to be favored by the goddess of Death, and sought after by the Blackbird Bride and all her wizards, making violence hard to avoid as she seeks to protect herself and her family. The worldbuilding is gorgeous and intricate, and reading the novel is like eating a sumptuous dessert. Saint Death’s Herald, the sequel, was just announced, and I absolutely can’t wait to read it!

Spear by Nicola Griffith

This is a quick read, but a very worthwhile one, as Griffith spins a fresh take on Arthurian legend, centered on Peretur (Percival), a young woman raised alone in a cave by her mother who eventually ventures out to seek her fortune in Caer Leon and the service of King Artos. It’s a wonderful queer reimagining that like Wrath Goddess Sing feels like reading a true secret history of well-known stories. As an extra bonus, it’s also gorgeously illustrated by Rovina Cai whose work is always stunning.

So there you have my further recommendations and favorite reads from 2022. And these books only represent a fraction of the incredible volume of work published last year, so much of which is fun and amazing and delightful and absolutely worth your time to read.

One thing that going through the judging process for the World Fantasy Awards really drove home for me is how much deserving work is out there in a given year, and how hard it is to select just five finalists in each category. As I said at the top of the post, there are so many works worthy of recognition, and even with everything we did get to consider for the awards, there’s also work out there that we didn’t see. So if you’re an author/publisher/editor, make sure your work gets in front of award judges whenever possible, and if you’re a reader, keeping shouting out the works you love. Only a select few things can make the final ballot for any given award in any given year, but there are countless other amazing works to read out there that deserve attention!

Posted on 4 Comments

Favorite Short Stories of 2022

Last but not least, to round out my favorites of 2022 posts, here are the short stories I loved last year. As a general rule, I tend to read a lot of short fiction, and there was so much fantastic stuff out there last year, so brace yourself – this list will be long. But I don’t want to leave anything out! In no particular order, here are my favorite short stories of 2022.

A Gentleman’s Agreement by Aimee Ogden (Kaleidotrope)

A story about the complex relationship between hero and villain, with a wonderful voice and genuine emotion – beautifully-written, and occasionally heartbreaking.

Intrusions by Margot McGovern (The Dark)

A slow-burning and deeply creepy story about a woman being stalked by her ex, exploring domestic violence and the unsettling idea that the protagonist might be safer among the dead than the living.

The Brave Dress by Starhawk (Solarpunk)

Set in a world recovering from environmental collapse, this is a lovely story about found family, community, and the idea of honoring the struggles of the past but not letting them define you as you move into the future.

Dick Pig by Ian Muneshwar (Nightmare)

A tense and eerie story that explores the liminal space between fear and desire, as a man cleaning out his great aunt’s isolated house begins receiving increasingly unsettling messages from a mysterious man he contacted on Grindr.

Ribbons by Natalia Theodoridou (Uncanny)

A beautifully-written story that evokes fairy tales and ghost stories as a young trans man struggles with defining himself in the face of society’s expectations.

The Long Way Up by Alix E. Harrow (The Deadlands)

A gorgeous re-imagining of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice that flips the gender roles of the original tale and shows a couple growing into a more mature and considered understanding of their love for each other.

Before We Drown by Vanessa Fogg (The Future Fire)

A short but effective story about a world on the verge of collapse and one couple’s attempts to escape into their own past, which explores the ideas that sometimes the most important moments in life are the small ones.

The Pennyfeathers Ride Again by L. Chan (The Dark)

The adventures of the ghost-hunting Pennyfeather brothers continue in a genuinely eerie story that explores complicated family relationships, guilt, grief, and obsession as the brothers confront a fellow excorcist.

From Earth to Io, with Love by Adelehin Ijasan (Fiyah)

A darkly humorous story about teleportation technology and corporate greed.

The Red Summer by Wendy Shaia (Fiyah)

A brutal story about a young Black man who finds himself transported back in time in his dreams to the summer of 1919 where mobs of white people hunted down Black people, showing the ways in which horrors are repeatedly perpetuated throughout history.

The Brief Life Story of Lila by Danny Cherry, Jr. (Fiyah)

A lovely and heart-wrenching story about a woman with the power to see how others will die who tries to close herself off to love completely in order to avoid suffering grief and loss.

The Summer Castle by Ray Nayler (Nightmare)

An eerie and surreal story about a group of children spending the summer in their grandfather’s rambling house , which is full of secrets which seem to have something to do with the war raging in the background while leaving their family strangely untouched.

Babang Luksa by Nicasio Andres Reed (Reckoning)

A slice-of-life story set in a post-flood near-future Philadelphia, as a man returns to the neighborhood where he grew up where he must cope with complex feelings of guilt for being the one who got out and built a better life for himself.

The Last Passenger by Melissa Mead (Daily Science Fiction)

A bittersweet flash story about Charon, the ferryman to dead, coping with his own mortality as the old gods and legends are forgotten.

In the Walls and Beneath the Fridge by Jonathan L. Howard (Nightmare)

A chilling story about a man trying to protect himself against his abusive ex-wife and keep his daughter safe in their new apartment, where something unnatural lives underneath the fridge.

Girl Oil by Grace P. Fong (Tor)

A lovely and heartbreaking story about unrequited love that explores racism and impossible beauty standards, as a struggling actress begins taking an experimental formula guaranteed to make her “lighter and brighter” which literally eats away at her until there’s nothing left.

I Know You’re There by Paul Tremblay (Air/Light Magazine)

A story about grief and guilt as a man both fears being haunted and yearns to be haunted after his husband’s sudden death.

Douen by Suzan Palumbo (The Dark)

An absolutely heartbreaking story about a young girl who accidentally becomes a spirit haunting her family as she desperately tries to communicate with them and aches for their love.

Cousins Season by S. Fambul (Fantasy Magazine)

A surreal story and multi-layered story with a great voice about family members literally descending on a sprawling gathering out of the sky, expecting to be cared for and fed.

On the Hills, the Knitters by Steve Toase (Bourbon Penn)

A surreal, eerie, and atmospheric story about a village below a hill, where an inexplicable knitted elephant-like figure has been left for unknown purposes, and the even stranger things that occur when a group of mysterious people shows up seemingly to worship it.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Reporter by Daniela Tomova (Tor)

A story with a great voice about a reporter who travels to the remote north to observe a race involving revenants, and things only get odder from there as reality itself beings to break down.

Now is the Time for Growth and Expansion by Sarah Pinsker (Sunday Morning Transport)

A charming story about a young girl building something mysterious, randomly appearing art installations, and the girl’s puzzled parents ultimately discovering the link between the two.

The Historiography of Loss by Julianna Baggott (Lightspeed)

A story excavating grief and loss, where a woman signs up for a virtual reality “nostalgia service” in an attempt to better understand the father who abandoned her as a child, leading to revelations about her family history that she never expected.

Becomes the Color by E. Catherine Tobler (3-Lobed Burning Eye)

A gorgeously-written story about learning to let go as the protagonist returns to a place special to them and their lover, only to find themselves trapped in an eerie lake with reality shifting around them.

Them at Number Seventy-Four by Lindz McLeod (Pseudopod)

It sounds odd, but this is indeed a fun and charming story about serial murder as a retired couple tries to rekindle their relationship and create common ground by killing together.

The Floating House by JF Gleeson (Weird Horror)

Eerie, atmospheric, and perfectly capturing the terror of being a child in a frightening situation, told by adults that everything will be okay while they refuse to explain, and things are clearly very much not okay, which in this case, means a house full of creepy floating people.

Too Little, Too Little, Too Much by John Wiswell (Cossmass Infinities)

A heartbreaking story about brothers with supernatural powers trying to cope with their abusive father and struggling to break free from the cycle of violence.

An Urge to Create Honey by Martin Cahill (Clarkesworld)

Beautifully-written story about feeling like an outsider and searching for belonging as a man returns to the space station where he worked after being transformed into a bee-like creature by aliens who saved his life and welcomed him into their collective hive-mind.

The Path of Water by Emma Torsz (Uncanny)

A gorgeous and brutal reimagining of Sleeping Beauty that plays with tropes and character types and looks at the power of story to shape our experience of the world.

Men, Women, and Chainsaws by Stephen Graham Jones (Tor)

Nods to classic horror and slasher history abound in this wonderful story about a woman whose life is inextricably intertwined with a car with a horror movie pedigree, but which is also linked to her own very personal haunting.

A Travel Guide to the Dimension of Lost Things by Effie Seiberg (PodCastle)

A charming story about a character struggling with depression who finds themself in the unglamourous magical dimension of lost things, including, among other things, missing socks and one very judgmental hamster.

The Bleak Communion of Abandoned Things by M.A. Blanchard (Pseudopod)

Masterfully balancing hope and creepiness, this story centers on a woman trying to appease the ghost in an abandoned house and ending up with far more than she bargained for in the process.

To Live and Die in Dixieland by Russell Nichols (Apex)

A powerful and brutal story about brothers running a VR experience designed to let white people live through the horrors of slavery.

The Many Murders of the Self by H. Pueyo (The Dark)

An incredibly dark and chilling story about how response to trauma can involve killing aspects of yourself and how cycles of violence can recur as those who have been abused.

Mulo by Nelson Stanley (The Dark)

A gritty, noir-tinged story about a haunting spreading outward from a single inciting act of violence after a boxer steps out with someone else’s girl.

The Morthouse by Maria Haskins (The Deadlands)

A lovely, melancholy, and atmospheric meditation on grief, loss, and letting go as a mother seeks to bargain with a witch to bring back her dead son.

And All Their Silent Roars by James L. Sutter (Nightmare Magazine)

Deeply eerie and unsettling story about a young boy whose non-verbal brother discovers a bag of mysterious ceramic animal figures in the backyard of their new house, leading to an unexpected tragedy.

The Cheesemaker and the Undying King by Lina Rather (Lightspeed)

A story full of excellent worldbuilding and with a great voice as a cheesemaker with a very particular set of skills sets out to take revenge on the king after her wife is hung for treason.

Riding Hood by Tariro Ndoro (Omenana)

A multi-layered story about the violence done to women and the value given to women’s voices, which offers up stories nested within stories to tell the tale of a woman seeking revenge for her own murder.

The Projectionists by E.M. Linden (The Deadlands)

A lovely and bittersweet story about a town where the truth is actively suppressed to the point where the dead cannot even be mentioned, let alone mourned, which suddenly finds itself haunted by ghosts.

Til Death by C.J. Lavigne (PodCastle)

A charming and touching story about a woman recently turned into a vampire by her new husband, writing to and reassuring her childhood best friend.

Baba Nowruz Gives HIs Wife a Flower Only Once a Year by Fatima Taqvi (Fantasy)

A beautifully written story that interrogates fairy tales and asks for better endings as a young woman finds herself confronted with the mythological figures of her youth, and seeks to convince them that they can create their own stories rather than using known tales as an excuse.

One Day the Cave Will be Empty by K.J. Chien (Fantasy)

A lovely and painful story about a woman who gives birth to a daughter she considers monstrous and seeks to hide her away from the rest of the world, fearing their judgement.

Sunder Island by Derrick Boden (Weird Horror)

Eerie, atmospheric, claustrophobic, and perfectly surreal, this story centers on an investigator sent to a remote island to find out what happened to her predecessor, and things only get worse for her from there as she encounters violent birds meant to be extinct, unhelpful and threatening strangers, and a breakdown of reality itself.

Witchbreaker by Leah Ning (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Wonderful worldbuilding and rich secondary fantasy in a story that explores sacrifice among a group of powerful individuals tasked with protecting their town, repeatedly forced to leave everything behind in order to save the ones they love.

Bonesoup by Eugenia Triantafyllou (Strange Horizons)

A subtle and unnerving story about a grandmother who would do anything to protect her family and ensure they prosper and never suffer as she did in her youth.

Sounds Like Forever by Josh Rountree (Bourbon Penn)

A story exploring the power of music and friendship, with dark undertones, as a group of friends discovers a mysterious plant at the site of a plane crash that seems to connect them to the world of the dead.

Changeling by Evalyn Broderick (Augur)

A charming story about a woman’s bond with her plant and the unusual people who try to take it from her.

A Table Set and Waiting by Jordan Shivley (Baffling)

A dark exploration of desire and fear as a man encounters a room where something horrible waits to take him apart, which may just be preferable to his day to day life.

Notes to a Version of Myself, Hidden in Symphonie Fantastique Scores Throughout the Multiverse by Aimee Picchi (Apex)

A story that explores what success and happiness looks like to different people, or rather different versions of the same person, as a woman travels the multiverse encountering other versions of herself and trying to ensure they live their best lives.

How to Be a True Woman While Piloting a Steam-Engine Balloon by Valerie Hunter (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

A fun adventure story that also explores complex family relationships and the idea of living for others versus living for yourself.

The Morning House by Kate Heartfield (PodCastle)

A bittersweet and occasionally heartbreaking story of a woman coping with her father’s dementia who glimpses a parallel version of her house and another version of herself visible from the bottom of her garden.

Love and Supervillains by Caroline Diorio (Escape Pod)

A charming story about a woman who finds herself having to deal with her newly-developed superpowers after a sexual encounter.

Termination Stories for the Cyberpunk Dystopia Protagonist by Isabel J. Kim (Clarkesworld)

A slick story with a fantastic voice that honors and examines the tropes of cyberpunk and asks who gets to be at the center of stories.

Swim the Darkness by Michael Kelly (The Dark)

A beautifully-written story about grief and loss with hints of cosmic horror as a father mourns his daughter.

Sunday in the Park with Hank by Leah Bobet (The Deadlands)

A gorgeously-written story where men come home with the war literally tethered to ghosts, which examines guilt, responsibility, and who is allowed to express pain versus who is expected to bear it silently.

The Merry Abortion; or the Song of the Deed of Rue by Katy Bond (Strange Horizons)

A charming story with a fairy-tale-like feel about a woman and her friend, who is sometimes a fox, setting out to find banned herbs to take care of an unwanted pregnancy.

We Can Make Death Work by Cassandra Khaw (Sunday Morning Transport)

A bittersweet story about a woman trying to lure her wife’s spirit back to this world by making increasingly elaborate dishes.

So You Married Your Arch Nemesis…Again by Fenn Merc Wolfmoor (Lightspeed)

A story that has fun playing with voice and style as it examines the complex relationship between two super-powered individuals across multiple genres, and breaks the fourth wall to consider who gets to enjoy a happy ending in their stories.

Your Space Between by Marie Croke (Apex)

A lovely and heartbreaking story about technology that gives families extra space in their home through creating a kind of extra-dimensional pocket, which malfunctions and leads to a tragic disappearance.

After Midnight, In a Dead Woman’s Shoes by Frances Rowat (Kaleidotrope)

A story with a great voice where a woman wakes from her own murder and sets out to solve it.

Choke by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Tor)

An unsettling story about a young man who all his life has heard the voices of his ancestors telling him will choke, culminating in a terrifying dinner hosted by a family who seems bent on “collecting” international exchange students.

On the Sunlit Side of Venus by Benjamin Parzybok (Apex)

A bittersweet story about a woman trapped alone on a ship orbiting Venus, with only an AI for company, struggling with the purpose of her life when all seems hopeless.

Aperture by Dan Howarth (Weird Horror Magazine)

Reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s “The Crowd”, this story revolves around the eerie and unexplained group of silent photographers who always appear to be nearby when a tragedy occurs.

Building Migration #1 by Fran Wilde (Sunday Morning Transport)

A charming story about AI buildings deciding to go on walkabout with their hapless inhabitants trapped inside.

Downstairs at Dino’s by Diana Hurlburt (Diabolical Plots)

A story with a wonderful voice that gives off a wild hunt vibe as a group of impossibly beautiful people descend on a small, sleepy town once per year.

UmHlosinga (The Fever Tree) by Nick Wood (Omenana)

In a world of scarcity, a man tries to better his lot in life by cutting down the last tree in his area for resources that would allow him and his family to move up in the world, but meets resistance from a mysterious group set on stopping him by any means necessary.

Of All the New Yorks in All the Worlds by Indrapramit Das (Tor)

A wonderful story about a man whose job is to courier messages across timelines and connect people with alternate versions of themselves falling for one of his clients.

Lemmings by Kirstyn McDermott (Weird Horror)

An eerie story about a rash of suicides seemingly fueled by social media, exploring human’s responsibility to the planet, as well as the desire to be part of something bigger.

The Rabbit Test by Samantha Mills (Uncanny)

A brutal and powerful story about access to abortion, contraception, and bodily autonomy, which moves through time to show the way certain bodies have always been regulated and controlled.

The Ghost Eaters by Spencer Ellsworth (Nightmare)

An emotional story full of striking imagery about a ghost dog bound to an empty house, determined to protect it at a costs.

Folk Hero Motifs in Tales Told by the Dead by KT Bryski (Strange Horizons)

A story with a fantastic voice that plays with folk tale and trickster stories and inverts them to show the power of narrative in a land seemingly without hope where nothing can ever change.

Devil Take Me by Gordon B. White (Nightmare)

A story simmering with tension and resentment as a boy struggling to cope with an abusive father, a neglectful mother, and the birth of a new baby brother who only makes things worse, makes a desperate deal.

If Gold Runs Red by Gordon Grice (Metaphorosis)

A story that pairs nicely with the one above, also simmering with tension, and featuring a boy dealing with an abusive father, but this time encountering something unnatural in the woods.

Holding On by Justen Russell (Metaphorosis)

A lovely and heartbreaking story about a girl who believes she may be the daughter of a famous astronaut lost during a live broadcast, which explores the power and danger of hope.

Merry in Time by Kathleen Jennings (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

A beautifully-written story that draws on multiple fairy tales and fairy tale tropes, twisting them around in unexpected ways.

Fried Rice by Shih-Low Kow (Flash Fiction Online)

A bittersweet story about a man trying to recreate his late wife’s recipes with the help of a cookbot.

Phoenix Tile by Guan Un (Khoreo Magazine)

A charming trickster story about a mythological figure trying to ensure he is remembered so he can stay embodied just a little bit longer.

Girl Eats Girl by Gnesis Villar (Fiyah)

A dark and unsettling twist on a werewolf story, centered on the uneasy relationship between two brown girls who find themselves repeatedly thrown together by virtue of being the only two non-white students at their high school.

Have Mercy My Love, While We Wait for the Thaw by Iori Kusano (Apex)

A gorgeously-written story that explores the personal cost of war, and examines who bears responsibility for such large-scale acts of violence.

Drowning Songs by M.S. Dean (Anathema)

A lovely and occasionally heartbreaking story about a young woman who is forced into the role of savior of her town, which means she must repeatedly drown and return to life in order to ensure their prosperity.

The Weight of it All by Jennifer Hudak (Fantasy)

A painful but lovely story about a ghost that ends up haunting the body of a woman with an eating disorder, who is slowly starving herself to death.

Simons, Far and Near by Ava Gardner (Cast of Wonders)

A bittersweet story about a group of teenagers chosen to help look for a viable new planet that can support human life, and what they must give up in order to serve the greater good.

Posted on Leave a comment

Favorite Novelettes of 2022

Uncanny May/June 2022 Cover

I usually do a post combining my favorite short stories and novelettes of the year, but I’m breaking it up into two posts this year due to sheer length and some technical stupidity that caused me to lose hours of work on the draft, necessitating starting over. Besides, novelettes often get overlooked and lost in the shuffle, so don’t they deserve a post of their very own where they can shine? Here, in no particular order, are my favorite novelettes from last year. (Note, additional favorites appearing in anthologies can be found in my anthologies and collections post.)

The Sadness Box by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld)

A story full of excellent worldbuilding examining complex family relationships and the idea of the next generation trying to do better and be kinder, wherein a scientist’s son steals a box from his father containing an AI whose sole programmed purpose is being miserable.

My Future Self, Refused by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)

A painful and heartbreaking story that I believe may be semi-autobiographical, about a man grieving the death of his wife, who is visited by a future version of himself.

Just Desserts by A.M. Barrie (Fiyah)

A story with a wonderful voice about a slave named Hercules working in George Washington’s kitchen who uses cooking magic to subtly alter the course of history.

The Noon Witch Goes to Sound Planet by Kristina Ten (Lightspeed)

A charming and smoothly-written coming-of-age story about a young woman who has inherited her mother’s powers as the noon witch, a Russian deity who responsible for sunstroke, desperately trying to prove she is more than her heritage by attending a desert music festival.

The Difference Between Love and Time by Catherynne M. Valente (Someone in Time, reprinted at Tor)

A gorgeous, twisty, and dream-like story about a young woman in love with the space-time continuum, who keeps manifesting in different guises across her lifetime, exploring their tumultuous relationships.

Quandary Animu Vs. the Butterfly Man by Rich Larson (Tor)

A story with a wonderfully slick cyberpunk feel, following the titular character’s attempts to outrun an inhuman assassin with the help of her father’s disembodied preserved head.

Sweetbaby by Thomas Ha (Clarkesworld)

Surreal and bittersweet, with a wonderful voice and characters who make unexpected choices about perpetuating lies and breaking the cycle of violence. A family of stranded colonists tries to cope with a son who has become something monstrous while pretending everything is fine, leaving their daughter to carry a terrible burden, until she discovers the unsettling truths her parents have been trying desperately not to see.

A Record of Our Meeting with the Grand Faerie Lord of Vast Space and Its Great Mysteries, Revised by A.T. Greenblatt (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Gorgeous worldbuilding and a wonderful, twisty narrative that loops in on itself as a member of a stranded spaceship crew tries to rescue their ship after an encounter with the faerie lord, necessitating a break with tradition to forge a new path home.

The Memory of Water by Tegan Moore (Clarkesworld)

An eerie story about an educational exhibit recreating the lost oceans of the world, which is seemingly being haunted by the ghosts of extinct marine life.

Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold by S.B. Divya (Uncanny)

A beautifully-written reimagining of the story of Rumpelstiltskin exploring themes of power, privilege, sacrifice, and the way people define themselves.

This Place is Best Shunned by David Erik Nelson (Tor)

A highly effective cosmic horror story about a woman who agrees to help her boyfriend to break into a creepy abandoned church that he believes will be the perfect venue for his latest art project, and the unsettling discovery that ensues.

If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You by John Chu (Uncanny)

A quiet and sweet superhero story that explores the added complications of negotiating a new relationship when one party happens to have superpowers, which also draws nice parallels between being closeted in terms of sexuality and in terms of superhuman ability, as well as delving into anti-Asian discrimination.

Posted on 2 Comments

Favorite Anthologies and Collections of 2022

Boys, Beast & Men Cover

This was quite a strong year for anthologies and collections, and below are a few that I wanted to highlight as favorites. As with the novels and novellas post, I may edit this to sneak a few more in as I continue to catch up on reading. A separate post highlighting short stories and novelettes not published in anthologies or collections is still forthcoming. In the meantime, here – in no particular order – is the collected short fiction I loved in 2022!

Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller

Given how prolific Sam J. Miller is when it comes to short fiction, it’s kind of amazing that this is his first collection, though I’m sure it won’t be his last. The stories collected here offer a nuanced exploration of masculinity and the many faces of love – what does it mean to be a boy in a broken family, or a loving one, to be a man who loves other men, who longs, who finds happiness and heartbreak? All of this is presented through the lens of the fantastic with stories featuring literally mind-altering drugs, resurrected dinosaurs, near-future worlds in post environmental collapse, and as the title suggests, plenty of monsters. It’s a truly gorgeous collection, fantastically queer and fantastically dark, echoing with pain, but offering up hope and righteous, burning anger, and joy as well. Miller writes with a deep compassion that shows the monstrousness in humanity and the humanity of monsters with stories that can rip your heart out, or mend it, or do both all in one go.

Dark Breakers by C.S.E. Cooney

Dark Breakers exists in the liminal space between mosaic novel and collection. Each story stands on its own, but they exist in the same world, with characters crossing from one to the other, and events bleeding over as well, making them interconnected. Cooney’s prose is always lush and sensuous and lyrical and Dark Breakers is no exception. Much like the characters in the stories themselves, who find themselves crossing the border between this world and the Valewold, populated with beautiful and dangerous gentry, reading these stories is like stepping into another realm entirely. The stories are immersive, transporting you and taking your breath away in the best of ways. Cooney has written other work in this setting as well, including the novella Desdemona and the Deep, which is a good thing, because once you’ve had a taste of this world, you’ll never want to leave it.

You Fed Us to the Roses by Carlie St. George

I’ve been a fan of St. George’s work since I first discovered it, and it’s wonderful to see a collection bringing so many excellent, dark, and delicious stories together. The stories in this particular collection, like Miller’s collection, offer variations on certain themes, interrogating and dissecting horror genre tropes, looking at slasher stories, fairy tales, final girls, and monsters, and many of the stories are coming of age tales, exploring the idea that sometimes one of the biggest sources of horror can be the uncertainty that comes with simply growing up.

Other Terrors edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Rena Mason

Other Terrors is a strong anthology, exploring a wide range of horror, with all original stories. The stories that stood out to me in particular were: Idiot Girls by Jennifer McMahon, Mud Flappers by Usman T. Malik, The Turning by Hailey Piper, Help! I’m a Cop! by Nathan Carson, and The Asylum by Holly Lyn Walrath. My two favorites among all the excellent works, however, were The Devil Don’t Come with Horns by Eugen Bacon, and The Incident at Bear Creek by Tananarive Due. Both can be read as coming of age stories, or at least stories with young protagonists whose world view is irrevocably altered by an encounter with something horrific. I particularly like the dream/nightmare-like voice of Bacon’s story, and the characters in Due’s story were wonderful and heartbreaking, facing a very personal kind of horror.

Death in the Mouth edited by Sloane Leong and Cassie Hart

Another really strong horror anthology with a few stories that really stood out to me, which were: Water Goes, Sand Remains by Jolie Toomajan, Wind-Up Teeth by Endria Isa Richardson, Paradise by Sloane Leong, Tongue is a Void by PH Low, Some of Us Are Grapefruit by Rivers Solomon, Melinda and the Grub by Ras Cutlass, the Black Hole of Beaumort by Karin Lowachee, and On Tattered Wings by Jessica Cho. My absolute favorite of the bunch was What Hurts Henry Watanabe by JL Akagi, which managed to be simultaneously creepy and sweet. The story is full of evocative writing and striking imagery, and starts off with serious Green Ribbon/Bluebeard vibes, but takes a much different turn by the end.

Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue edited by Sheree Renee Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins

This anthology had a somewhat fraught journey to publication, originally slated for release in either 2020 or 2021, and finally coming out in January of this year. It mixes original and reprint stories, all themed around water, as the title implies. The standouts for me were: Seventh Generation Algorithm by Andrea Hariston, Love Hangover by Sheree Renee Thomas, Juniper’s Song by Marie Vibbert, Deep Like Rivers by Christopher Caldwell, Lilies and Claws by Kate Heartfield, The Weaver’s Tale by Cecilia Quirk, and The Ancestor Tells Me About the Time She Forgot Osun by Marie Osunbimpe Hamilton Abigunde. My favorite two stories were actually a pair of stories sharing a world and characters, though by two different authors, with one being a reprint and the other an original. Numbers by Rion Amilcar Scott and Spirits Don’t Cross Over ‘Til They Do by Jamey Hatley concern characters obsessed with the idea of mythical female water spirits, who are trapped by the circumstances of their lives – involvement in organized crime for one, and the horrors of war for the other. The voice of both stories is fantastic, and both explore compassion, violence, and trauma in wonderful ways. Because the anthology took such a round-about journey to publication, I’m afraid a lot of people may have missed it, but it’s well-worth checking out!

Dark Stars by John F.D. Taff

Dark Stars is an anthology dedicated specifically to longer fiction, with the majority of the stories being at least novelettes and one that I think may technically be a novella. As such, there are only twelve contributors, and each of their entries are strong. The standouts for me were: The Attentionist by Caroline Kepnes, Volcano by Livia Llewellyn, All the Things He Calls Memories by Stephen Graham Jones, The Sanguinalist by Gemma Files, Mrs. Addison’s Nest by Josh Malerman, and Challawa by Usman T. Malik. One of the things I appreciated the most about the anthology is its range and how distinct each story’s voice felt. Kepnes story presents a mundane, non-supernatural horror, which is all the more terrifying for how plausible it feels. Llewlellyn’s story is full of twisty prose, bringing in elements of cosmic horror, leaving the reader uncertain and keeping them off-balance. Jones’ story combines mundane horror with hints of the supernatural, introducing gaslighting and pandemic paranoia to effectively keep the main character and the reader uncertain about what is real. Files’ story has a wonderful noir tone, and goes full on supernatural horror with necromancers and blood magic. Malerman’s story has a very Stephen King vibe, moving from past to present as a group of friends reunites to confront a horror from their childhood that has the ability to make them doubt reality and forget themselves. Malik’s story combines fairy tales, myth, urban legend, ghost stories, and history, layering them together seamlessly in an unsettling tale about personal horror as well as the horrors of industry and colonialism. Overall, another very strong anthology that’s definitely worth a read.

Posted on 1 Comment

Favorite Novels and Novellas of 2022

Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste Cover Art

The year is winding down, and those who participate in such things are starting to think about the works they plan to nominate for various awards. While I’m still (always) frantically trying to catch up on reading, below and in no particular order, are my favorite novels and novellas from 2022. I may make updates as I continue to read, but in the meantime, hopefully this might help readers (and folks who nominate for awards) find something new to love.

Novels

Reluctant Immortals by Gwendoyln Kiste

A wonderful reclaiming of classic Gothic heroines Lucy Westerna, Bertha Rochester, and Jane Eyre, set against the backdrop of the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Kiste takes these imperiled women, acknowledges their trauma and pain, and asks what comes next. Horrible things were done to them in their past lives, but Lucy, Bee, and Jane refuse to let the abusive men in their lives define them. Reluctant Immortals is a lovely exploration of friendship, the nature of monstrousness, and what it means to choose kindness over violence.

The Path of Thorns by A.G. Slatter

An intricately-constructed Gothic fairy tale that unfolds new layers with every turn of the page. New takes on the tropes of Gothic literature seem to be in lately, and I am digging it. A lonely manner, family secrets, a supernatural threat, a complicated romance – the Path of Thorns has it all, and is a thoroughly enjoyable dark and twisty read.

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

An isolated lodge, brutal winter storms, uncanny birds, and a deeply haunted mountain. Thomas Olde Heuvelt brilliantly infuses elements of cosmic and folk horror into the story of a man whose boyfriend survives a climbing accident on a forbidden peak and returns to that peak with him to help him heal. Far beyond physical injuries and psychological trauma, it seems increasingly likely that something supernatural has a hold of his boyfriend, and they struggle to unravel the mystery before it destroys them both.

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

Another take on classical Gothic tropes, this time set against the backdrop of an isolated ranch in Mexico. Beatriz moves into her new husband’s house and sets about trying to fix it up and make it a home. Something malignant seems bent on keeping her from getting comfortable, but luckily, unlike many Gothic heroines, she has allies willing to help her get to the bottom of the potential haunting. Lovely and atmospheric, with a wonderful slow-burning romance added in to the supernatural mix.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

The glamour of old Hollywood meets the glamour of faerie, two beautiful and glimmering existences that seethe with darkness below the surface. Luli Wei stumbles into movies almost accidentally, but once she sees the potential, she’s determined to become a star on her own terms – not an easy feat for a Chinese American girl with limited and often racist roles being the only things available to her. There are avenues to power however, for those willing to make dangerous deals and terrible sacrifices. This is a lush and gorgeous novel full of queer romance, complicated family relationships, and wonderful characters faced with impossible choices.

Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly

Like Siren Queen, Base Notes is another lush and gorgeous novel full of queer romance, complicated relationships, and wonderful characters facing impossible choices. But rather than old Hollywood and faerie glamour, Donnelly gives us a chilly basement where the protagonist, Vic, brings the bodies of the people they’ve murdered in order to decant memories from their corpses and create exquisite, one-of-a-kind perfumes. Base Notes is equal parts beautiful and brutal, and absolutely immersive and absorbing. It’s a serial killer story, but also a story about economic inequality, access to resources and power, and even hope, friendship, and love.

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

Like many of Tremblay’s novels, the Pallbearers Club is rife with unreliable narrators and unreliable narratives. It might be a story about a man whose life has been irrevocably intertwined with that of a 200-year old vampire, or it might be a story about two lonely, awkward people finding kindred spirits in each other and navigating a fraught, off-and-on friendship spanning nearly thirty years of their lives. Or it might be both, or neither, or something far more complicated. Either way, it’s a delightful look at the way memory and narrative are constructed, and the lies we tell ourselves and others in order to survive, presented as a memoir manuscript littered with interjections and snarky asides from the main character’s maybe-possibly-a-vampire-best-friend.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A reimagining of the classic story of Doctor Moreau, focused on his daughter Carlotta, who is growing up on an isolated estate on the Yucatan peninsula with only her father’s hybrid creations as companions. Moreau is struggling with his research and desperately trying to convince his patron to continue funding his work. Meanwhile his patron’s son has designs on taking over the property, which would spell doom for the secret existence of the hybrids. Carlotta fights to save herself, her friends, and her home, while being pulled between between multiple conflicting loyalties. Gorgeous, smooth writing and a wonderful voice that made the story feel like a seamless fit with Wells’ original, while also being wholly fresh and new.

All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes

Like Echo, All the White Spaces brings hints of cosmic horror to the story of characters trying to survive vicious storms in an already brutal and unforgiving wintery setting. A group of shipwrecked Antarctic explorers take shelter in a mysteriously abandoned outpost after their ship burns. The story focuses on Jonathan, who stows away on the expedition as a way of honors his older brothers’ dream of exploring the Antarctic after they are killed in the war. All the men on the expedition have brought their own ghosts with them into the cold and the dark, each of them harrowed and haunted in different ways, leading to rising tension among the surviving crew as well as rising paranoia, which feels increasingly justified as it appears they are being stalked by something unnatural. Queer, full of breathtaking prose and complex characters, deeply eerie, and just a fantastic read all around.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

A slick and fast-paced novel about complicated family relationships dialed up to eleven. Vera’s dying mother calls her home for the first time in many years, forcing Vera to confront uncomfortable memories about her serial killer father and examine the nature of love and evil. Added to the mix is a man staying in her mother’s guest house, bent on making art out of Vera’s history and trauma, and the possibility that she is being haunted. Sharply-written and a wonderful exploration of monstrousness and monstrous love.

Sundial by Catronia Ward

2022 was a year of novels that pair well with each other, tackling similar themes, and feeling like they’re in direct conversation. Sundial, like Just Like Home, features a woman coping with traumatic past, peeling back the layers of her complicated relationship with her family. Rob brings her troubled daughter to the remote desert compound known as Sundial, where she and her sister spent their childhoods alongside their father and stepmother’s strange experiments and an ever-revolving group of grad students who oftentimes felt like devotees of a cult. Rob lost her sister Jack, and there are things about their relationship and their shared past she doesn’t want to admit even to herself, but which she’ll have to face if she has any chance of saving her daughter. Again, like Gailey, Ward does a wonderful job of exploring monstrousness and love and the intersection between the two, while also exploring the nature of evil and repeating cycles of violence.

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Kowal takes the spirit and vibe of the Thin Man movies and brings them to a cruise ship journeying through space. Tesla Crane, heiress and engineering genius, is traveling incognito with her new husband, formerly a detective who is now trying to simply enjoy life as a regular citizen. Their honeymoon is rudely interrupted by a murder, leaving Tess frantically trying to clear her husband’s name when he is accused by virtue of being the one to discover the body. As if that weren’t bad enough, people keep turning up dead around them, and almost everyone Tess talks to seems to be keeping secrets. Kowal brings together romance, witty banter, danger, mystery, a wonderful setting and wonderful characters, including Gimlet the very best and most adorable service dog ever, and as an extra bonus, offers up cocktail recipes at the start of every chapter.

Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman

Magic, secret societies, an alt-future Philadelphia in the grip of environmental collapse, and a decadent mid-winter festival where fortunes are poised to be made and broken. Nina used to be a member of the exclusive Saturn Club, now she’s barely making rent, telling fortunes and tending to other people’s properties. When the person she considers to be her last friend and ally offers her a ridiculous sum of money to steal a mysterious box from the Saturn Club, she feels as though she can’t pass up the opportunity. But what was meant to be a simple job turns immediately complicated, bringing up painful memories from her past, as she’s stalked across the city by something supernatural, leaving her uncertain of who she can trust and running for her life. Feldman does an excellent job of exploring the dynamics of power and the cost of magic in a tense novel that also serves as a love letter to Philadelphia.

Novellas

The House of Drought by Dennis Mombauer

A deeply atmospheric novella following various characters, in various times, as they encounter and inhabit an eerie house in a field in Sri Lanka. There’s a claustrophobic sense of being watched by something beyond the fields, and something inside the house as well, which contains more depths and dimensions than its architecture suggests. Mombauer creatures an effective dream/nightmare-like feel as the story moves in time. It’s a satisfying haunted house story that also blends in elements of myth, history, and examines the horrors of colonialism and humanity’s impact on the environment.

Helpmeet by Naben Ruthnum

Another deeply atmospheric novella, with an effectively claustrophobic and oppressive setting. A woman is trapped in a decaying house with her decaying husband, pieces of him literally falling off as a strange sickness devours him. The set up feels classically Gothic, as does the voice – a wife bound to her husband by a sense of duty, facing horrors as a result of her husband’s actions. The story smoothly shifts to introduce elements of cosmic horror, making what follows far weirder than expected in the best of ways.

The Talosite by Rebecca Campbell

An effective blend of body horror and alternate history, which like Ruthnum’s novella gets increasingly weird in the best of ways as it progresses. A young scientist following in her father’s footsteps stitches together horrors from the bodies of fallen soldiers, sending them back out onto the battlefields of WWI. Campbell captures the perfect voice and tone for the novella, making it feel both like a classic sci-fi horror in the vein of Frankenstein, but also making it feel unique and fresh as well. A highly effective look at obsession, the idea of science gone too far, and the horrors of war.

Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver

An utterly charming (pardon the pun) novella about magic, ghosts, and deeply buried family secrets. Julia’s cousin Simon comes to stay in her home and be trained in magic by her mother. On the surface, the tone is light, full of snappy, witty dialog, and characters bent on circumventing rules and getting up to mischief. There’s darkness beneath the surface though, and true heart and emotion as well. This is the kind of novella that is perfectly satisfying at its length, but also left me longing for more with these characters and in this setting.

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Another highly-atmospheric novella, drawing on Gothic tropes to re-tell Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. A retired solider travels to the estate of kan’s childhood friends, Roderick and Madeline Usher, to discover that not only is something wrong with the twins themselves, but with the very land. There are unnatural lights in the waters of the tarn and the rabbits in the field move in ways nothing living should. Madeline and Roderick are both wasting away, Maddie sleepwalking and seeming increasingly unlike herself, and Roderick nervous and jumping at every sound. Kingfisher honors the original tale, and transforms it with new twists, resulting in a wonderful re-imagining of a classic tale full of those genuinely unsettling and eerie moments that she excels at creating.

Bishop’s Opening by R.S.A. Garcia

Deep worldbuilding, wonderful characters, and a slow-burning mystery that unfolds into a complex story of political maneuvering and interpersonal relationships. A group of cargo haulers is caught up in an assassination attempt when one of their number impulsively steps into to save a man’s life and winds up being accused of being one of the perpetrators of the attack. Garcia does a wonderful job of creating a world that feels fully lived in, and characters whose lives, complex motives, and often clashing worldviews feel like they extend far beyond the page.

Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk

The perfect mash-up of magic and noir that steadily reveals new layers to its central mystery to build to a satisfying conclusion. Helen photographs crime scenes, specializing in finding the supernatural elements at play that most people are unable to see. Her latest job brings her face to face with her estranged brother Teddy, who is only one of many parties – not all of them human – with an interest in the case. Time is running out for Helen as she tries to solve the mystery, protect her lover Edith, repair her broken relationship with Teddy, and save her own soul. A wonderful, slick voice and an excellent, multi-layered mystery.

Empire of the Feast by Bendi Barrett

A heavily anime-influenced story of warring factions and uncertain alliances set against the backdrop of a sumptuously-built world powered by sex magic. The latest ruler of the Stag Empire wakes up next to the corpse of his previous incarnation, the victim of assassination, with no memory of who killed him or the various complexities of his precarious political situation. He doesn’t have the luxury of time to recover though, but must jump straight into the effort to maintain peace, hold his empire together, untangle his own history, and figure out who he can trust, all while seemingly being haunted by the hungering, demonic entity imprisoned in the nearest sun.

Pomegranates by Priya Sharma

This novella was just released in a gorgeous hardcover edition from PS Publishing a few weeks ago, and I hope folks don’t miss it in the year-end rush. It’s a re-telling/re-imagining of the myth of Persephone, set against the backdrop of the climate crisis, seamlessly blending mythic figures and gods with the real world. Told through three primary voices – those of Demeter, Persephone, and Bear, a human scientist desperately trying to gather seeds for a seed vault, the novella is full of lovely and evocative prose. It flips the traditional story of Persephone as a victim of kidnapping, to give us a Persephone deeply in mourning over Hades, who she viewed as her only true family, choosing to close the underworld in her grief, leaving the dead and the living both stranded in a world of eternal winter. It offers us a lovely balance of hope and heartbreak, and again, I hope folks don’t miss out due to its publication late in the year.

Posted on 1 Comment

Eligibility and Recommendation Links Roundup 2022

Woo! And the website is back!

As has become tradition at this time of year, I’m gathering all the award eligibility and recommended reading posts I can find and linking them here as a central repository for folks to refer to when considering what to nominate for various awards this year. It’s also a great way to find new work you may have missed, because there’s so much fabulous stuff out there it’s impossible to keep up.

At some point, I’ll be putting together my own eligibility and recommendation posts. In the meantime, I’ll be updating this post as often as I can.

For example, at the moment, I’m editing to add a link to this excellent article by Lyndsie Manusos that talks about the award nomination process, eligibility posts, and year-end lists in general. It’s a helpful explainer on what eligibility posts are and why they’re important, as well as some helpful examples and other info for authors, editors, and publishers.

Please feel free to email me at a.c.wise [at] hotmail.com with your own links, or find me on Twitter (for now) as @ac_wise and on Mastodon as acwise@writing.exchange and share your links there, and I will add them to the post.

The categories should be pretty self explanatory. The first section contains general information about awards, the second is author/editor/publisher eligibility posts, and the last section is recommended reading links. Happy reading!

Award Information

Locus Awards (Currently open for anyone to vote; deadline April 15.)

Nebula Awards (Currently open for SFWA members to nominate work.)

Stoker Awards (Currently open for HWA members to vote; deadline February 28.)

World Fantasy Awards (Judges currently accepting submissions; deadline June 1.)

Eligibility Links

Ajeigbe, Oluwatomiwa

Alexander, Phoenix

Allen, B. Morris

Anathema Magazine

Aoki, Betsy

Atthis Arts

Bailton, Adria

Barb, Patrick

Barlow, Devan

Bartles, Jason A.

Bell, E.D.E.

Bernardo, Renan

Biswas, Sharang

Blackwell, Laura

Bobi, Zainab

Boey, Eliane

Boden, Derrick

Brazilian Authors Eligibility Link Round Up

Brothers, Laurence Raphael

Brown, Jen

Buchanan, Andi C.

Cahill, Martin

Caldwell-Kelly, Christopher

Carro, Paul

Chen, Tania

Cherry Jr., Danny

Cho, Jessica

Chowdhury, Mehzeb

Chronister, Kay

Chu, John

Clark, Chloe N.

Clarke, Cassandra Rose

Clay, Kat

Claybourne, Zig Zag

Codega, Noah

Coleman, Kel

Cook, Amanda

Cornell, P.A.

Criley, Marc A.

Crilly, Brandon

Croal, Lyndsey

Croke, Marie

de Anda, Victor

Daley, Ray

Damilola, Oyedotun

Das, Indrapramit

Datlow, Ellen

Dean, Sunyi

Death in the Mouth

Delmas, Kai

Donohue, Jennifer R.

Dosser, Max

Dunato, Jelena

Duncan, R.K.

Edelman, Scott

Emelumadu, Chikodili

Epeki, Oghenechovwe Donald

Eselojor, Naomi

Farrenkopf, Corey

Feldman, Stephanie

Field, C.M.

Fogg, Vanessa

Fusion Fragment

Gale, Ephiny

Garcia, Rhonda J.

Garcia, R.S.A.

Garcia-Rosas, Nelly Geraldine

Garfinkle, Gwynne

gCopaleen, Amy na

Ginther, Chadwick

Glover, Jenna

Gomez, Cynthia

Goodman, Dave

Grauer, Alyson

Grech, Amy

Greenblatt, A.T.

Greene, John R.

Grigore, Adriana C.

Ha, Thomas

Haber, Elad

Haddad, May

Handley, Rachel

Harbowy, Gabrielle

Harlock, J.D.

Haskins, Maria

Haynes, Michael

Heartfield, Kate

Heijndermans, Joachim

Hexagon Magazine

Houser, Chip

Howell, A.P.

Hudak, Jennifer

Hugenbruch, Brian

Ihezue, Somto

Jack, Ariel Marken

Jamnia, Naseem

Jiang, Ai

Jones, Shelly

Julian, Jen

Kai, Rhada Zan

Kaleidotrope

Kamei, Toshiya

Kaplan, Zoe

Kelly, Michael

Kim, Isabel J.

Kindred, L.P.

Kinney, Benjamin C.

Kiste, Gwendolyn

Klausner, Jack

Klein, Annika Barranti

Kohl, Chana

Krasnoff, Barbara

Krishnan, M.L.

Kurella, Jordan

Lamplight Magazine

Latine Writers Awards Eligibility Round Up

Lavigne, C.J.

Leal, Angel

Lee, P.H.

Leong, Sloane

Lesley, Kiera

Levai, Jessica

Lin, Su-Yee

Lingen, Marissa

Liu, Angela

Lost Colony

Louise, A.Z.

Louzon, Monica

Lu, Lark Morgan

Lu, S. Qioyi

McClellan, Elizabeth

McIvor, Katie

Madden, Anna

Mamatas, Nick

Manusos, Lyndsie

Marceau, Caitlin

Maresca, Marshall Ryan

Mariz, Rae

Mathieu, R. Jean

Miller, Sam J.

Mittra, Archita

Mohamed, Premee

Moher, Aidan

Mohlere, Virginia

Moleti, Carole Ann

Mondal, Mimi

Moore, Fiona

Morris, Tiffany

Murray, Meg

Murray, Samantha

Nacarat Game Labs

Nations, Victoria

Ndlovu, Yvette Lisa

Ning, Leah

Nkomo, Mandisi

Norton-Kerson, Justine

Nwaka, Uchechukwu

O’Connell, Tabitha

Ogrundian, Tobi

Okungbowa, Suyi Davies

Osani, Kristin

Othenin-Girard, Leon

Palumbo, Suzan

Pattnaik, Mandira

Pauling, Sarah

Payseur, Charles

Pearce, C.H.

Perez, Aleta

Phan, Cindy

Pichette, Marisca

Piper, Hailey

Polk, C.L.

Povanda, Jennifer

Queen of Swords Press

Ragland, Parker

Rajotte, Mary

Rappaport, Jenny Rae

Ratnakar, Arula

Ring, Lauren

ring, dave

Rose, Christopher Mark

Rountree, Josh

Royce, Eden

St. George, Carlie

Salcedo, Sarah

Samba, Samuel

Sanni, Timi

Sayre, A.T.

Schrater, Maria

Shelby, Jennifer

Shirey, Austin

Shivley, Jordan

Singh, Amal

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Cislyn

Snow, Elizabeth

Space Cowboy Books

Stack, B.E.

Sui, A.D.

Sulaiman, Sonia

Sullivan, Nwuguru Chidibere

Tabing, N.A.

Talabi, Wole

Ten, Kristina

Thayer, A.P.

Theodoridou, Natalia

Tighe, Matthew

Toase, Steve

Tobler, E. Catherine

Tomova, Daniela

Tordotcom Books

Tordotcom Short Fiction

Treasure, Rebecca

Triantafyllou, Eugenia

Twelfth Planet Press

Undertow Publications

Uncanny Magazine

Vibbert, Marie

Victoria, Ricardo

Villar, Gnesis

Vourvoulias, Sabrina

Walker, K.S.

Walrath, Holly Lyn

Wilde, Fran

Williamson, Neil

Wilson, Aigner Loren

Wilson, Lorraine

Whitcher, Ursula

Wolf, Risa

Yates, Pauline

Yeager-Rodriguez, Karlo

Zweifler, David Lee

Recommendation Links

Amazon Best Books of 2022

Alex Brown Year in Review

Entertainment Weekly Best Books of 2022

Esquire Best Horror Books of 2022

Goodreads Choice Awards Best Books of 2022

Guardian Best SFF of 2022

Paula Guran Year in Review

Matt Handle Best Free Short Speculative Fiction of 2022

Hugo Book Club Recommendation List

Maya C. James Year in Review

Russell Letson Year in Review

Locus Recommended Reading List

Colleen Mondor Year in Review

Fiona Mossman Favorite Short Fiction of 2022

Mysterious Galaxy Recommended Reading

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendations: Fiction Categories

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendations: Individual Categories

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendations: Institutional Categories

Nerds of a Feather Hugo Recommendations: Visual Categories

New York Public Library Best Books of 2022

New York Times Best Books of 2022

New York Times Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2022

NPR Best Books of 2022

Barack Obama Favorite Books of 2022

Charles Payseur Year in Review

Tim Pratt Year in Review

Graham Sleight Year in Review

Carlie St. George Recommended Short Fiction Reading List

Tor Best Books of 2022

Tor Notable YA of 2022

Eugenia Triantafyllou Favorite Short Stories 2022

What Nerd Best Standalone Sci-Fi of 2022

Vulture Best Fantasy Novels of 2022

Vulture Best Horror Novels of 2022

Fran Wilde’s Recommended Reading List

John Wiswell Recommended Short Fiction Reading List

Gary K. Wolfe Year in Review

Alvaro Zinos Amaro Year in Review