SFF Short Story Project Update #2

Guess what, I have been living a foolish half-life all this time by not regularly reading short SFF. My resolution for 2018 was to find three stories over the course of the year that I really loved and wanted to advocate for. It is now February, and I’ve hit my goal. Already! Just in February! In part this happened because I am nominating for Hugos, so I’ve been reading a bunch of stories off of best-of lists.


One of my stories is very shameful for me that I didn’t read it sooner, because everything that I heard about it was 100% “this story is the most charming angel of a story that ever there has been.” And that is correct. It is very close to as charming, if not equally as charming, as “Fandom for Robots,” the story so charming it convinced me to make this short story resolution in the first place.

Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live

What a great cover, no?

Published by the Book Smugglers, “Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live” is a story about trans boys in love and crossroads magic. Messages start appearing all over school that all say the same thing: Avi Cantor has six months to live. Though Avi doesn’t know what to make of it, his classmate Ian seems to care quite a bit how he’s doing. Avi is cranky and Ian is sunshine, and if you’ve talked with me much around these parts, you’ll know that that’s my favorite type of romance.

Do things turn out well? Things turn out well. Which, I mean, you can’t always rely on stories about crossroads magic to turn out well. I am hard put to think of another.

Secondly: “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Apex Magazine)

Apparently the culture has incepted me into having a soft spots for robots who think and feel independently? What with this and “Fandom for Robots” (Jenny shut up about “Fandom for Robots”) (narrator: she did not shut up about “Fandom for Robots”) and Martha Wells’s Murderbot Diaries, this has evidently become a thing I love.

Basically, a crappy old bot is asked by its crappy old ship to take care of one of the thousand problems on board this crappy old ship. It is imperative that all the bots do their jobs well, because the crappy old ship is the last hope for Earth to survive an alien attack. Things are looking very grim indeed for our heroes, but Bot 9 has not yet given up. Because it is terribly plucky.

Do things turn out well? Things turn out well. Come on. What do you take me for?

Cheers to the folks at Lady Business for bringing up this story in the first place, and to my pal Sharon for reminding me it exists.

God. I am crushing this project. I am the goddamn queen of this project. I have never made such a successful resolution. (Yes I have, I am great at resolutions, I have used them to make friends, crafts, and healthy eating habits. But still this is a pretty good one.)

SFF Short Story Project Update #1

So one of my reading resolutions for 2018 was to read more SFF short stories, with the goal of finding a total of three stories that I really love and want to advocate for. As of this writing, I have read nine SFF short stories, which already is way more than I have ever read in a previous year. I will assume that you are duly impressed.

Six of these (shut up) have come from the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, edited by Charles Yu. I have no apologies to make. I didn’t say I’d be reading all brand-new short SFF this year, I just said I’d be reading short SFF. I understand the argument that I’m short-cutting my way to some of the highest-quality work, but I decline it because everyone’s tastes are different and what Charles Yu considers to be the best isn’t necessarily the same as what I consider to be the best.

Now that I have finished dismantling an argument you didn’t make on account of I have a guilty conscience about the methods I have chosen to pursue a stakes-free goal of my own devising, let’s get onward to the first SFF short story I loved in 2017: Debbie Urbanski’s “When They Came to Us.” First published in The Sun, it tells fragments of the story of a town where a group of aliens called “blues” are resettled after their ship crashes on Earth.

I’m sorry to make a comparison to Shirley Jackson so early in the year, but I think this story merits it. The strange, small-town details like Dana Fisher and Jeff Campbell going ahead with their wedding “even though nobody thought they should get married at a time like this.” The weird, mundane details about the blues’ presence in town that contribute to a growing sense of unease and impending doom.

In a story that ends with SORRY FOR SPOILERS BUT I ALREADY SAID SHIRLEY JACKSON’S NAME SO IT’S NOT LIKE YOU DIDN’T SEE IT COMING the townspeople slaughtering the aliens, it would have been really easy for Urbanski to overplay her hand with the scene-setting details. Instead, the format of small vignettes with strange little through-lines from previous vignettes and weird, understated headlines for each section gives the whole thing a feeling of humorous detachment that plays beautifully against the creepiness that underpins the whole story.

Did y’all read this story? Did you like it? (Say yes!)

This has been the first installment of the SFF Short Story Project. I did not necessarily intend to write posts about this resolution, but I couldn’t think of another way to track my progress on this resolution, and goals assessment is what I’m all about. So. Read any good science fiction or fantasy short stories lately?