Some More Excellent Short Fiction

(Quick reminder – I am back in school so columns will be catch as catch can.)

It's the time of year when some of us are super busy getting our gardens ready for our tomatoes and peppers, or taking our dogs for long walks, or sitting under cherry trees watching the petals swirl around us like a pink snowstorm. Which means that squeezing in reading time might be a little harder than usual. In that spirit I present a few more short stories that I enjoyed or at least was fascinated by. You can read these without having to invest hours and hours of your precious time.

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species by Ken Liu is not a traditional story with a beginning, middle and an end. The format is what you might expect from the title; short encyclopedic entries about various entities from around the universe and how they preserve their history, myths and cultures. Each of these entries are intriguing and make me want to read more about the species.

By the same author, and also from the magazine, Lightspeed, is another terrific story called The Perfect Match. Featuring some companies you may recognize, it is about a young man whose life is smoothed over and enhanced by his personal AI called Tilly. She suggests everything to him, women to date, food to eat, places to go and music to listen to. But is there a darker side to all this “help”? This story made me cringe a little but I still loved it.

Cat Rambo is the author of Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain, a story that managed to surprise me so much I had to stop reading and sit staring into space, horrified, trying to process what I had just read. It's about a woman named Tikka who “is a Minor Propagandist for the planet Porcelain’s Bureau of Tourism”. The people on Tikka's planet are in fact made of porcelain, so you can imagine how much more fragile their hearts are. Falling in love seems like it would be a terrible risk. This is a beautifully written story that made me want to read more fiction set on Porcelain.

Strange Horizons brings us Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar. This story is told from the perspective of a young woman who is still traumatized by an event from her childhood involving her mother. She is now working in a restaurant with another server called Mona, who has her own mother issues. I saw a ton of people talking about this story online when it first came out but the title put me off so I put off reading it. If you, like me, really enjoy selkie stories and don't think they are for losers don't worry, you will likely adore this story.

I Have Placed my Sickness Upon You, by Karin Tidbeck, isn't the story I thought it would be. Published by Strange Horizons, it's about an extremely depressed woman who tries an experimental new treatment, which involves a goat. (A pygmy goat, possibly the cutest goats of all.) The goat is supposed to act like a scapegoat, taking her depression from her, but what will happen to the goat when Anna is finished with her therapy? This fascinating story raises questions about the ethics of using animals for medical testing, the nature of mental illness, and the trustworthiness of medical professionals. It is a bit of a cliche but this story really did make me laugh and cry.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a comic from Nathan Bulmer about a high school dropout. Despite his lack of education people still flock to him for ideas.