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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!

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.

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