It’s not just Hallowe’en, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, but it’s also that time of year when I try to catch up my 2014 short fiction listening so that I’ll be ready to make some choices about the Nebulas, the Hugos, and the Auroras.
This is a good kick in the pants for me, and it lets me pick up the thread of my Voices in Fantasy Literature series (see parts I, II, III). I started with Lightspeed magazine and three stories I loved in my first batch of listening.
“No Lonely Seafarer” by Sarah Pinsker tells the coming-of-age story of Alex Turlington, an intersex orphan being raised by a tavern-keeper in a sea-town. When a flock of sirens set up a nest overlooking the harbor, all the sailors are trapped in the town, until one captain has an idea of how to get past them, and it involves Alex. There’s some beautiful, closely intimate language, but the strength of the story is in Alex’s growth. A great listen in under 40 minutes.
“The Quality of Descent” by Megan Kurashige is a different kind of fantasy voice, one that is confused, vacillating, self-deprecating, and self-eviscerating by turns, a thematic match for this love collision story. The narrator gets unusual animals and items for parties and performers, and is visited by a vagabond girl with wings on a bicycle. They are both broken in different ways and this is that kind of love story. Beautifully done. Worth listening to a second time. Clocks in at 32 minutes.
The last story, “Thirteen Incantations” by Desirina Boskovitch, is a bit of a cheat for me, because this is a 2011 story from fantasy magazine and was only recently reprinted in Podcastle, but was such a captivating listen that I couldn’t leave it off.
This is unconventional first love story about a small-town girl in her final year of high school who meets the new girl. The new girl’s mother makes magical perfumes, but is herself possessed of a kind of living magic we’d all like to have.
The pacing and people and their inner lives are deftly done, but the brilliance of the story is in the sensory experience. Boskovitch carries us through the magic of the perfumes and the ache of love in tremendously evocative ways. Clocks in at around 55 minutes.
I’m going to be listening and reading short fiction all through December and January. If you have any compelling pieces I really ought to see, let me know. I’ll pull out the nuggets from my listening and come back with them.
Derek Künsken lives and writes in Gatineau, Quebec. You can find out more about him at www.derekkunsken.com or @derekkunsken and you can now listen to his hard sf all-alien time travel story “Schools of Clay” from Asimov’s February 2014 issue at Starship Sofa.