In January, I wrote a couple of blog posts listing some stories I enjoyed that had been published that month. I’d hoped to do the same for February, but my reading has been lacking, alas. Still, I’ve read about 40 stories that were first published in February, appearing in 16 different zines (including some zines I’d never read before). That’s something at least!
As it’s award-nominating season, I see lots of folks these days pledging to read more short fiction in 2013. There’s never really enough time to read adequately for the short fiction awards — even reading just the pro-paying markets would be a monumental task. A couple years ago, I counted how many pro-rate stories are published in a year, and came up with about 1000. Some markets have closed since then, but even more have opened… And there are many, many less-than-pro markets — some of which are extremely worthy of reading. I’m hoping to highlight a few of those as I write about stories I enjoy.
But enough about that. What can I say about February?
“The Long Road to Deep North” by Lavie Tidhar, in Strange Horizons. Easily my favorite story from February, it imagines a future Solar System populated by all the nationalities of Earth. (Or, at least, most of them.) As with any such mixing place, off-world pidgin dialects develop. Really fascinating stuff, and a future that feels more real and lived-in than most.
“Dirge–’68” by Mike Wilkerson, in Shotgun Honey. I read a fair amount of crime fiction, but not much of a recent vintage. (I’m a Dashiell Hammett/James M Cain kind of crime fiction reader.) When I first came across Shotgun Honey, I thought they’d set themselves an impossible task — publishing crime stories less than 700 words long. And many they print fall back on the same few tropes: double-crosses, bloody revenge, black humor. This one doesn’t totally transcend those either, but it’s got great language and feels more vivid than any 700-word story has a right to feel.
“Zero (or, The Collected Correspondence of Patient Zero)” by Cameron Suey, in Mad Scientist Journal. Speaking of zines setting themselves an impossible task, this one has a doozy — original sci-fi written in the form of found documents. There’s not a whole lot of this kind of thing to begin with, and it gets tedious fast in less-than-confident hands. But I’d read the zine a lot more often if they found more stories like this one. Its a series of letters that follow a disturbed scientist around the world as he plants weapons of mass destruction. The plot and characterization aren’t anything special — I wish there’d been a few surprises along the way — but I love the snippets of history about the cities, and the musings on mankind’s relationship to nature.
“The Secret Life of Princes” by David Barber, from Electric Spec. Every biographer’s dream — the ability to watch an historical figure’s entire life as it unfolds. The only problem is that the sound doesn’t work, so there’s still ample room for interpretation. I loved the idea here that even if we knew impossible amounts of information about the history, we’d still argue about what events really meant.
Full disclosure: To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never interacted with any of these writers in any way. However, I’ve been published by Strange Horizons and Mad Scientist Journal, and have submitted to Electric Spec.