Weekly Fiction Rec Roundup 3

Week 3! My goal to read at least one short story a day and to share either it or another favorite story of mine on my Mastodon feed continues to go well. I’m loving the energy I’m getting from all the great reading and from having this goal I’m sticking to. I’m also happy the roundups have started getting some momentum going on the blog here and as this gets really established I plan to start adding more regular posts (probably starting with a return to Reading Old Comics).

OK, I’ve got a full flight of 7 stories to share with you (the first time in this young project that’s happened. Week 1 wasn’t actually a full week and in week 2 I missed a day) so we need to get into them, but an important note first. I will try to focus on recent fiction, but sometimes I dip back into stories form previous years, and sometimes I share a reprint. So if you’re looking for stories to read for any sort of awards purposes just be aware not all stories I share are going to qualify for such things.

Now, the stories!

“When You Find Such a Thing” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa from Podcastle #496

So I liked this story about a Nigerian wizard, or I wouldn’t be sharing it, but I was also uncomfortable with it. In fact, I think it almost approaches a kind of horror territory. What would you do to keep the ones you love? What lines would you cross when your existence is barely tolerated by your society, but you have the power to shape others perceptions?

“The First Witch of Damansara” by Zen Cho from Uncanny Magazine #19

Another story with a family dealing with magical members, but this family is from Malaysia. It’s full of magic, but it felt absolutely real to me in its depiction of a family dealing with the death of a beloved, but difficult, grandmother and the nuance of how family often fits together like pieces of a puzzle picture whose edges can change shape over time, and are sometimes jagged. In the end, it’s a lovely story.

“The Ouroboros Bakery” by Octavia Cade from Kaleidotrope (Autumn 2017 Issue)

Oksana, a baker with a disturbing specialty pie, always warns her customers before selling it to them, but they never listen. I will do the same for you: it is likely reading this story will leave you craving cakes and pastries and tea (and possibly time in the kitchen, if you enjoy baking yourself). An enjoyable read with some really interesting world building that explores some classic fantasy/fairy tale themes but in a less than common setting.

“Number One Personal Hitler” by Jeff Hemenway from Shimmer Magazine

I mentioned last week that two kinds of stories that will always reel me in are parallel universes, and time travel. Last week we had an example of the former. This week we have a kind of mix of the two (as is often the case with time travel). The voice here is great, snappy, just my sort of thing. As is the messiness that arises from playing with reality. Check out the opening lines: “Dr. Francis Waxman invented time travel in the summer of 2075. It broke the universe some sixty years earlier.” Now go check out the rest of the story.

*note: there is a content warning with this story for involving suicide.

“A Mortal Legend” by Marcelo Cohen, translated by Kit Maude from Samovar (June 2017)

I went a little further afield than I usually do and decided to check out Samovar, the quarterly magazine of translated (into English) speculative fiction from Strange Horizons. What I found was a truly weird tale of a man reassembled from body parts found in ice cream tubs, who tends to show up in some such way, summoned by desire, to act as both protector, and to work up some cash by selling his services in the bedroom.

*note: with Samovar you can read or listen to this story in English or the original Spanish

“Riley and Robot” by Arnica Ross from FIYAH Magazine Issue 4

So, most stories I’m sharing in these weekly roundups are free to read. However, writers should be paid for their work and some markets and authors choose to use a traditional pay-to-read model, tonight’s story is from one of them: FIYAH Magazine. FIYAH is one of the best new things to show up in speculative fiction this year, and I highly recommend all of it’s issues. At the time of this post you can get Issue #4 for $3.99.

This is a sweet story about a single mother doing what she needs to to help her young son who just hasn’t found a way to fit in yet. This story connected with me on a very personal level. In many ways Nicey and Riley could be my son and I. When Nicey cries, I could feel the urge myself. If I read it again I just might. I’m stating my bias plainly here, and I don’t rate or rank these stories, but this one immediately became one of my favorite stories of the year.

“Reenactment” by J.B. Park from Liminal Stories #4

This short piece lets us share in a woman’s obsession with the final moments of a princess’ life and the ritual dance reenactment of it that an entire sub-culture has risen around. Despite that description this is science fiction, not fantasy, if that matters to you. This story hold up a fun-house mirror to so many of our own culture’s obsessions with celebrity, death, and new as entertainment. The reflection may be exaggerated, but it’s recognizably us. Given a couple more small steps in some of our technology it might not even be an exaggeration anymore.

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