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Readercon 2024

I’ll be at Readercon in Quincy, MA from July 11-14. It’s one of my favorite cons, and one I try to attend every year. This is the first year I’ll be officially on programming, which I’m looking forward to, since the panels are usually great. Here’s where you can find me.

Setting as Character – Friday, July 12 at 12p.m. – Salon 4

Panelists: Graham Sleight (M), A.C. Wise, Charlie Allison, Ian Muneshwar, Julie C. Day

Well-realized settings are frequently described as characters in their own right, but what does it mean for a writer to treat their setting as a character? From the depiction of towns and societies as having their own character and motivations irrespective of the individuals within them, as in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, to the supernatural manifestation of place as person in N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, this panel will discuss how settings become more than merely the backdrop for characters and their actions, but characters themselves.

Graduating (?) to Novels from Short Stories – Friday, July 12 at 2p.m. – Salon 4

Panelists: A.C. Wise (M), Barbara Krasnoff, Elizabeth Bear, Gwynne Garfinkle, Karen Heuler

Reviewing Kelly Link’s first novel, Amal El-Mohtar said, “A certain weight of expectation accrues on writers of short fiction who haven’t produced a novel, as if the short story were merely the larval stage of longer work. No matter how celebrated the author and her stories, … the sense persists: She will eventually graduate from the short form to the long.” How can the harms of this expectation be avoided? Are there any benefits to it? Do novelists experience any inverse pressure to craft tight short stories?

Author Reading – Saturday, July 13 at 3:30p.m. – Salon C

Guess I should figure out what I’m reading…

The full schedule for the con can be found here.

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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.

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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.

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Favorite Novels and Novellas of 2023

As with my short fiction reading this year, I am woefully behind. I’m still trying to catch up on 2023 titles, but knowing that I will never actually be caught up, I figured I would share a few favorites now.


Wild Spaces by S.L. Coney is a gorgeous coming of age story about a young man whose family legacy may very well be one of monstrousness. The novella has very much got a Ray Bradbury/Robert R. McCammon vibe to it. It’s tense, eerie, uncertain, and dark, but also filled with wonder. I highly recommend it.

The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill takes on the idea of animal spouses, and explores themes of grief, obsession, guilt, art, and family. Like Coney’s novella, it could also be viewed as a coming of age story. It’s told from the point of view of the daughter of an artist who invites the titular crane husband into the family’s life, forcing the daughter to be the adult and the responsible one in the household as the mother throws herself more fully into her new, unhealthy relationship, which is also wrapped up in her art.

Hybrid Heart by Iori Kusano is beautiful, dark, and painful. Rei is an idol, and as such, everything she does is tightly controlled by her manager – what she eats, how she spends her time, everything. Her former partner and friend walked away from their duo act, but Rei feels trapped, unable to see a way out, and things only get worse when her manager introduces a new, young client, making Rei simultaneously feel protective and like her career is being threatened with a “replacement” being held over her to keep her under control.

The Killing Grounds by Joan Tierney is a sharply-written, fast paced story about a woman who works for one of the passenger truck lines that have replaced airlines for cross-country travel. A man claiming to be a fellow driver hitches a ride with her crew, then attacks the driver and is killed in the resulting fight. Bina is shaken by the incident, but things get even stranger when she comes to believe that the man may have murdered her mother years ago, leading her to uncover a whole history of violence and secrets buried in her hometown.

The Lies of the Ajungo by Moses Ose Utomi is a rich, secondary world fantasy, in which a young man sets out to find water for his dying village, and specially, for his mother. All his life, he’s been told certain stories about the shape of the world – who his enemies are, what he can expect out of life – but in the desert, he encounters three women who upend his worldview. It’s an excellent exploration of oppression, propaganda, and systems of power, beautifully told.

A Necessary Chaos by Brent Lambert is another story full of rich worldbuilding, where the main characters have been told one thing about the shape of the world and who their enemies are, and gradually discover the truth to be something completely different. It’s slick and fast-paced, a spy vs. spy story, but also a romance, set in a world of magic.


The Marigold by Andrew F. Sullivan offers up an excellent blend of sci fi and horror, set in a post environmental collapse Toronto, where multiple types of corruption have taken hold. A phenomenon known as The Wet is taking over the city, which may be merely an advanced kind of mold, or something supernatural, or both. Sullivan does a wonderful job weaving together various points of view to slowly build a picture of the world. Wonderful character-driven eco-horror.

Apparitions by Adam Pottle is a deeply unsettling and highly effective read. A young man abused by his father finds himself caught up in the orbit of another charismatic young man at the hospital where he’s taken after escaping his family. The story is both dark and heartbreaking in its exploration of how the system fails people, and what happens when society as a whole looks away from things it would rather not see.

A Market of Dreams and Destiny by Trip Gailey is an incredibly charming queer romance set against the backdrop of the goblin market. There are fae tricksters, clever mortals, and tons of gorgeous worldbuilding. It’s sweet and fun, with occasional moments of darkness, and overall, a highly satisfying read.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang flips over a rock within the world of publishing and exposes an underbelly wriggling with darkness. The novel takes a biting look at competition and jealousy between authors, racism, and the churn of online discourse. There are a few touches of horror, and some genuinely tense and eerie moments, but the fact that the novel is so grounded and feels plausible is what makes it truly terrifying.

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is set in the world of Mexican horror cinema. Lifelong friends Monserrat, a sound editor, and Tristan, an actor, are drawn into a mystery surrounding the unfinished film of an aging director, who also happens to be Tristan’s neighbor. They discover a world of occultism, with film being used to cast magic spells, and find themselves hunted and haunted. The novel is a slow burn, but satisfyingly dark and twisty, with wonderful characters.

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow is an absolutely gorgeous novel about a young woman named Opal struggling to take care of her teenage brother and give him a better existence. She’s dealing with the weight of grief, responsibility, and guilt, and is plagued by dreamed about Starling House, the home built by the eccentric author of the dark children’s book The Underland. She finds herself repeatedly drawn to the house in her waking life as well, and ultimately takes a job cleaning the house under the watchful eye of its guardian, the brooding Arthur Starling. There are touches of the Gothic, hints of cosmic horror, and some very real world horrors as well, and they all blend wonderfully. The illustrations by Rovina Cai are lovely as well – just a really fantastic book on every level.

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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!


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 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 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 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.

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Award Eligibility 2023

The year feels like a bit of a blur in many ways; it’s hard to believe it’s almost over. Regardless, in 2023, I did manage to publish five short stories, eligible in the short story/short fiction category for all the usual awards. Take a look if you’re so inclined, and thank you if you do!

The Dark House

Back then, the Dark House was at once vastly different and undeniably the same. It was smaller, scarcely more than a single-room shack. At the same time, the seams were visible, the place where the addition would be grafted on to grow the house into the one Benson had obsessively photographed. The outline of the later house was already there to my eye, visible long before it had ever been conceived. The house in 1939 was the skull, and the extension Benson had built was the skin around it.

Published at in March 2023

Shoes as Red as Blood

Hunger and sorrow, that’s what the shoes are, and they wake echoes of revulsion and desire as Nessa looks at them. Red as crushed berries and good wine, pomegranate hearts and winter-ripe plums. The shoes are the key to everything. If she puts them on, she will dance without pain. She will push herself farther than she ever could otherwise, all the way to an audience with the prince, to a spot in the Royal Company, to fortune and fame.

Published in Twice Cursed in April 2023

Manic Pixie Girl

The boy on the bed looks like someone carried him high into the air and dropped him a very long way down. Sunlight and shadow dissect him, a magician’s trick separating him into boxes. See his limbs (bent the wrong way) over here; see his neck (never mind the angle) over there; look at his eyes (wide open in surprise) over there. Blink once to let us know you’re okay.

Published in The Other Side of Never in May 2023

Carcossa! The Musical

The hairs along his arm prickle. He sweeps his hand back and forth. No teeth close, no hand grabs his own to pull him into the dark. His fingers meet a shape, a book. He pulls it free and rolls onto his back. A lurid yellow cover so faded by the touch of countless finger that it takes Desmond a moment to register the image of a skull surrounded with sharp rays of light. Or maybe it’s a crown. Craquelure – a fancy word for the cheap paper fracturing with age. He likes the way it sounds, sloshing the word from one side to side in his brain.

Published in What Draws Us Near in May 2023

Death is a Diner at 3 a.m.

You die in the stupidest way possible, slipping off a ladder while scooping leaves out of the gutter, the wet, mulchy scent of them the last thing you ever smell. You land just wrong, and as you do, you imagine your mother—smoke trailing from the cigarette wedged between the first and second fingers of her left hand, no words, just the look of perpetual disappointment she had for you ever since you turned ten years old, like everything about you and every choice you made from that point on would always and forever be wrong.

Published in The Deadlands in July 2023

The Technosopher’s Ball

It had been a joke when he suggested it – the Technosopher’s Ball, a chance for them to gather inside the Realm of the Stars before it opened to the public and celebrate a job well done. Hank had been picturing a few beers, some snacks, nothing fancy. Giving it such a lofty title struck him as funny, but somehow the rest of the team had taken the idea and run with it. From there, things had snowballed – they should at least have wine along with the beer and dress up a bit and why not make it a masquerade even? After all, they’d designed an entire universe for OmniPark’s guests to enjoy; when would they ever get a chance like this again?

Published in Back 2 Omni Park in December 2023

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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

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 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


Ten, Kristina

Three-Lobed Burning Eye Magazine

Toase, Steve

Tobler, E. Catherine 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.

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World Fantasy Convention 2023

I’m at the World Fantasy Convention in Kansas City this weekend. I’ve posted about my experience being one of the judges for the awards this year, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to talk about it in person during the judges’ panel. Along with that panel, I’m on a few other program items as well. Here are the official places you can find me.

Apex Publishing Group Reading – Friday at 2p.m – Reading Room 1/Chouteau A

Marie Croke, Beth Dawkins, Izzy Wasserstein, and I will read from Apex-published work, hosted by Leah Ning.

Gothic Horror and Ghost Stories – Friday at 3p.m. – Atlanta/New York

We all love a good spooky story, or at least most of us do. But what exactly is it that draws us to this type of horror? What are the elements that make the subgenre tick?

Brenda Carre (M), Tananarive Due, Adam-Troy Castro, A.C. Wise, Donald McCarthy

Mass Autograph Reception – Friday at 8p.m. – Ballroom Foyer

Sexual & Erotic Horror – Saturday at 10p.m. – Atlanta/New York

Sex and horror have been thematically intertwined since time immemorial. This discussion will explore the differences between sexual and erotic horror, what makes them so effective in storytelling, and how we can use those themes to explore our fears and our own dark sides in a structured way.

A.C. Wise (M), Penelope Flynn, Chris M. Arnone

World Fantasy Award Banquet/World Fantasy Award Presentation – Sunday at 1p.m. – Atlanta/New York

World Fantasy Award Judges Panel – Sunday at 4 p.m. – Atlanta/New York

Following the WFA Ceremony, the judges will discuss this year’s award process and answer questions.

Ginny Smith, A.C. Wise, Kelly Robson, Ian Whates

That’s where I’ll be officially this weekend. Other than that, I’m hoping to explore the city a bit, and maybe even try some Kansas City BBQ. If you’re at the con this weekend as well, say hi!

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Capclave 2023

September 29-October 1, I’ll be attending Capclave in Rockville, MD. I consider Capclave my “home con”, and do my best to attend every year. It’s a laidback, reader-focused con attended by lovely folks saying smart things about the genre. There’s good food to be had nearby and a patio perfect for sitting outside and catching up with friends. What more could you want?

Here’s where you’ll be able to find me throughout the weekend.

State of Horror – Saturday – 10 a.m. – Washington Theater

Panelists: A.C. Wise (Moderator), Hildy Silverman, Jorie Rao, Randy Dawn, Sunny Moraine

It is a good time to be a horror fan. The genre is drawing bigger audiences while gaining interest even from those who normally shy away from the dark side. Panelists take a look at the current mainstreaming of horror in books, movies, TV, and games. What makes horror so interesting right now and where is it going? How are creators bringing in new fans or reviving common mythologies and horror tropes?

How to Change Your Reading Diet – Saturday – 11:30 a.m. – Washington Theater

Panelists: Mary G. Thompson (Moderator), Irette Y. Patterson, Michael Dirda, Sarah Avery, A.C. Wise

Reading ruts happen! Panelists discuss the best ways to diversify your reading habits to find new gems and genres that you’ll love next. Where can you find new sources for your TBR list? What are tips for sifting through new titles to find something you love? How many pages should you give a book or story before moving on?

Modern Book Bans – Sunday – 10 a.m. – Eisenhower

Panelists: Jeanne Adams (Moderator), Andy Duncan, Mark Roth, Sam Lubell, A.C. Wise

There has been an alarming trend of censoring and banning books in public libraries and schools often targeting LGBTQ, Black, and Latine stories and authors. Banned Book Week, a campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, starts on Sunday, October 1st. Who is behind the current book bans? How can we support the freedom to seek and to express ideas in our public spaces? Are there books that should be banned or have limited access?

Author Reading – Sunday – 11 a.m. – Monroe

Me! Reading! Something! Maybe even out loud. Possibly with chocolate on hand to bribe people into staying.

The full schedule for the convention can be found here.

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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!


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.


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.


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!