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When he got to the coast, the sun was setting, and the brightness blinded him. He drove down a rattling road to get to the sand. There were waves still, white and green and blue, and he made a sound he wasn’t expecting to make. He thought about red oceans and orange caverns.


Maria Dahvana Headley's "Solder and Seam" follows the journey of an alien revolutionary, living on a quietly post-apocalyptic Earth as a farmer, as he steers a wooden whale to the sea. It's a real weird story; part of the New Weird subgenre I adore, and yet became a little estranged from in 2015. Is it even called the New Weird anymore? I'm so out of touch.

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It's the end of the year as we know it. And just in case you're need a little help feeling fine, I thought I would point you to some fun SFF stories that might perk up the dark days.

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We never would have believed, before the dead girls started climbing out of their refrigerators, that people could be literally resurrected by sheer indignation.

Probably it should have been obvious. People have been brought back to life by far more ludicrous means and for far more ridiculous reasons.


If you need a moment of feminist recognition - a moment when you feel the relief of knowing someone else gets what you are low level angry about all the time - I highly recommend setting aside some time to read Sunny Moraine's "Eyes I Dare Not Meet In Dreams". Susan mentioned this story in Our Favourite Media of September 2015, and I'm so glad she did. I had heard absolutely nothing about this story anywhere else but I needed it in my life. Reminder to boost your favourite short fic, people.

Moraine's story is a piece of media criticism wrapped up in a sharp and solid fictional shell. A refrigerator appears in Pennsylvania; a dead girl climbs out of it. Across America, refrigerator after refrigerator appears. Women who have spent some time down the rabbit hole of TV Tropes, or y'know being alive and consuming media, are going to get the reference right off. Yes, Moraine's creepy short story is taking on that most despised of tropes - fridging the ladies.

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You can’t say no. Not that you’d want to. Not if you’re a real soldier.

And I am. I’m a real soldier.

A real fucking hero.

I’m made of light.


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The discovery of the pocket universes had proved the Titius-Bode law — all orbital systems of the pocket universes had stable and self-correcting orbital resonances with each other. In those resonances was the music of the spheres, and in those resonances, my calling.


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Reading Amal El-Mohtar's "Pockets" sent me rushing back to re-read "The Truth About Owls". I read this odd story when it first appeared online in January, and my strongest memory of that reading is an intense respect for the author's craft but also a deep sense of confusion about the story's publication in Strange Horizons. Calling "The Truth About Owls" an SFF story felt tenuous even to me - a reader who loves to see genre boundaries set aflame.

What a difference new reading circumstances can make. Having excised my thoughts on 'real SFF' in my post about Sophia Samatar's "Walkdog", and having recently read Silvia Morento-Garcia's weirdly normal SFF novel Signal to Noise, I approached my second reading of "The Truth About Owls" with much less genre weight on my back. Before, I was mildly in love with this story. Now, I've reached the shouting-from-the-rooftops-let's analyse-this-in-depth stage. I can tell you're all super excited about that.

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"Hunting Monsters" by S. L. Huang was easily the story I was most excited about when Book Smugglers Publishing announced its first round of releases. Feminist retellings of "Little Red Riding Hood" get me every time, and when a story also mixes a bit of "Bluebeard" and "Beauty and the Beast" in there, well, just try and hold me back. Even if that combination of influences hadn't immediately grabbed me, I would have been sunk just by seeing the striking cover Kristina Tsenova created for "Hunting Monsters". Woah.

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When it comes to Kameron Hurley's work I've lost it; I'm a fully fledged fangirl and a fool for her words. I signed up for her newsletter and I actually read it—that's how deep I'm in.

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Malinda Lo's story "The Cure" may be short and relatively simple but it's a smart story that knows exactly what it's about. It merges horror, female-focused history and sexual subtext to create a vampire story that sticks in the mind.

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The first strange thing Nadia pulled from her pocket was a piece of fudge. It was a perfectly ordinary piece of fudge. But Nadia hated fudge, and couldn’t imagine how she’d come to be carrying it around. She remembered this in particular because it was a bright, cool autumn day and she’d dug into her jacket pocket instinctively, looking for change to leave in a busker’s open violin case, and had come upon the piece of fudge instead. After staring at it awkwardly for a moment, she dropped it into the violin case and hurried away before she could see whether the busker was scowling at her or not.


After reading Amal El-Mohtar's "Pockets" and "The Truth About Owls" back to back I suspect I'm going to spend June cramming all of her work into my eyes. Although very different in tone, both of these stories appealed to me for similar reasons. Both display a concentration on the pace and flow within individual paragraphs, show off El-Mohtar's sharp eye for detail, and manage to hit my feels by leveraging just the right amount of melancholy optimism. If loving "The Feels" is wrong I don't want to be right (also it's not wrong).

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About a month ago, N. K. Jemisin tweeted about Shaenon Garrity's short story "To Whatever". I always trust Jemisin's recs so I slapped this story onto my ever expanding list of woe perfectly manageable and organised list of SFF to investigate. And in June I finally got around to reading it. Hey, life - why so busy?

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"Walkdog" by Sofia Samatar deliberately skirts the boundaries of SFF. The story's narrator is writing a school paper about 'an animal called Walkdog', a folklore figure which steals children and takes them on eerie walks that may last for years. Not much is known about Walkdog (there isn't 'even a Wikipedia page') and it's unclear whether Walkdog actually exists by the time the story finishes. All that ambiguity, coupled with a light side of structural playfulness, makes "Walkdog" totally my jam.

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Birds eye view shot of Reza getting out of a car carrying a gun by Goni Montes


Tonight it’s Shelly.

If I were capable of having feelings since Angie disappeared, I might have some for Shelly. Not because she’s finer than the rest of them—she is fine though, don’t get it twisted—but because at the beginning of the night, when she crawls into the back of my Crown Vic all prettied up and glittery, she always catches my eyes in the rearview mirror and asks me how I’m doing. Not in the concerned way but not in the throw-off way either: She really wants to know.

Anyway, I don’t think she’s into women, especially not middle-aged skinny butch ones with salt-and-pepper hair and angry lines in their faces and the memories of long lost lovers dancing around their subconsciouses.

And anyway, I’m not sixteen anymore, in fact I’m not even forty anymore and I’m not here for the quick thrill of teaching straight girls that what they really want is this, this, and this. Been there, done that. Far too many times.
And anyway: Angie.

Gee I wonder why I'm writing about this story. Ugh, Daniel José Older this was unfair - "Anyway: Angie" triple teamed me and took me down within the first few paragraphs. It pinged my chrome-ass women sensor, threw a dapper lesbian in my face and hit the big red 'emotions' buzzer with the simplest of phrases. 'And anyway: Angie.'; words that express true and strong emotional devotion as easily as a simple shoulder shrug. After I finished this story, I had to restrain myself from sending enigmatic midnight tweets like 'Weeping - this title is perfection'. I just hope Older knows that with great power comes great responsibility.

However, it wouldn't be fair to draw other readers in without handing out some spoilers about this story. Renay, you're going to want these spoilers. Character death spoilers )
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cover of The Mussel Eater shows a woman with blood on her lips craddling a dying man


“You smell like the sea,” says Karitoki.

“What else would I smell like?” she says, and beneath the salt and the brine and the under-tang of shellfish is a faint, sweet odour of rot, of mussels left too long on the beach and under the sun, of the torn fragments left by seabirds, breaking open calcium carbonate and leaving fleshy feet to spoil. When he is done with her hair, he sits back and watches her coat herself with oil.

As part of their quest for world domination, The Book Smugglers opened their new publishing arm Book Smugglers Publishing in 2014. The theme of their debut collection was Subversive Fairy Tales and they published six original riffs on older stories from "Red Riding Hood" to Scheherazade's story in One Thousand and One Nights. So, far I've read two of these stories and I'm impressed by Ana and Thea's selections.

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“Petra,” I said. “Hey. Hey from Spain.”

“Happy Apocalypse,” she said. “Hope you don’t mind me calling. It’s kind of a tradition now, you and me and the end of the world.”

“I’m coming home,” I blurted.

“Yeah?” Her voice lifted happily. Behind it, there was music, something choral and ancient–sounding.

“Yeah,” I said, and I pressed my free hand to my eyes to keep them dry in the chilly Spanish wind.


I found Claire Humphrey's "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" smart and layered, so when I saw that someone had added another story of hers to our Hugo (2014-2015) spreadsheet I jumped right on it. "The End of the World in Five Dates" is rather different in form to "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" - like "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" it's built around linked episodes and follows one set of characters, but "The End of the World in Five Dates" skips through time quite quickly and requires the reader to follow some sharp story jumps.

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Everyone thinks my brother is nice. He set up a rescue centre for birds, after the terraforming accident poisoned the lake. That's always the image of him, holding a bird covered in sludge. The birds are never the same after they're cleaned, but the gossips never talk about that.


Polenth Blake's "Never the Same" is a strange, dark story that shows the importance of shaking up well used SFF narratives and introducing radically new fictional voices. It's also a story that left me wondering if I could trust anything that I'd read, and yet still weirdly satisfied by what I'd read.

A little like "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" it's difficult to analyse "Never the Same" without giving away all the story's secrets, so consider this your spoiler warning.

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I had a lot of time so I read the newspaper. I read all of the latest news about the killer. He was supposed to be a young white man, blond, blue-eyed, hazel-eyed. He was supposed to drive a silver car, a beige car, a white car. He had been hunting here for months, years. He was likely to have no criminal record.

He caught another girl. Her school picture was on the front page. She had the same long hair as the others, bangs hairsprayed into a neat puff, braces on her teeth, a uniform sweater-vest. She'd been on her way to a music lesson, and they found her violin case, empty, tossed into the ravine. No fingerprints.

Dad said, "You'd better be thankful you aren't out there, walking the streets."

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The town in Claire Humphrey's "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" is plagued by a serial killer who targets young women, so Beck's dad buys a safekeeper; a protective device that clamps into a vein on the wearer's arm. The safekeeper shoots electricity at attackers and reports any physical violence against its wearer to pre-programmed numbers. Getting Becks fitted with the device looks like a protective act of parental love and concern on the part of her father, but the reader can see immediately that this 'protection' is at best misguided as Becks is worried and feels pain as the safekeeper attaches itself:

"Oh. I thought it was going to be one of those tennis bracelets," I said, trying not to freak. But by the time I got the words out my dad had my wrist wrapped in his big solid hand, and he snapped the safekeeper on and it was too late.
The safekeeper bit like a viper, the teeth on the skin side finding my vein and latching there. The seal was good enough that no blood ran out, but it hurt like a bitch.


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Still waiting for an invite to the short fiction party? Well let us dispense with the formalities, sweep you inside and get you the beverage of your choice!

Today, Short Business features blogger and short fiction enthusiast forestofglory who's keen to tell you all about her favourite short fiction of 2014. Whether you're planning to nominate short work for the Hugo Awards or just looking for a great story to read, let this post guide you through a variety of excellent options.


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One of the best things about my participation in the Hugo Awards is that it has lead me to realize how much awesome SFF short fiction is being published. As I’ve become more aware of SFF short fiction as the number of authors and online magazines I follow has increased. I am now much more aware of new things that I want to read. This year I’ve read an impressive amount of short fiction. I’ve read about 85 works online and 4 anthologies, plus collections which included original work. Of course I still haven’t read anything like all the of short SFF work published this year. There is just so much!

Anyways, based on what I’ve read here are my favorite short works from 2014. I’ve divided them by length based on Hugo categories. If you have nominating privileges this year I hope you’ll consider nominating some of these stories. And even if you aren’t a World Con member I hope you’ll read and enjoy some of these works.

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How to tell your fake boyfriend you would like to become a robot:

1. Tell him, "I would like to be a robot." You can also say, "I am really a robot, not a female-bodied biological machine," because that is closer to the truth.

2. Do not tell him anything. If you do, you will also have to admit that you think about ways to hurt yourself so you have an excuse to replace body parts with machine parts.

3. Besides, insurance is unlikely to cover your transition into a robot.


A. Merc Rustad's "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" reminded me strongly of last year's Hugo contender "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love". Charming, quirky, artfully secretive, and with a similar melancholic emotional pull to Rachel Swirsky's story, "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is for everyone who enjoys literature, robots, and crying in inappropriate places.

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"How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is available for free at Sciegentasy magazine.

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Once, upon a lime, there was a frog.

This frog was the most handsome in all the land, the only frog able to balance his thin green body upon the fat round fruits that fell from Salima Sultan Begum's handsome lime trees. He pressed his candy-yellow toes firmly into the green skins and rolled to and fro and fro and to, all the while chirruping, because the empress also loved the sounds of her garden. This he knew as he was a gentleman frog, and it was important to know the likes and dislikes of one's empress. He, being the only frog, put on a certain show.


Here we are - only the second Short Business post of 2015 - and I've already got to talk about I don't quite get a short story. I've read E. Catherine Tobler's "Once, Upon a Lime" twice now, and I'm still not really clear what it means to give to the reader and what it expects back. Oh well, I suppose there's nothing for it but to forge on and hope someone pops up in the comments with a bit more knowledge than me.

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Once, Upon a Lime is available for free at Strange Horizons.

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Podcast: "Once, Upon a Lime" read by Anaea Lay

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