I’m still running on about a two-month delay, but it’s time to present my favorite short fiction published in the month of October! There were quite a few that I enjoyed from this month, and my favorites are all freely available to read online (links given below). Jeremiah Tolbert shows up again this month, and N.K. Jemisin, whose novel The Fifth Season I recently reviewed.
The Three Lives of Sonata James by Lettie Prell (Novelette, Tor.com): This was an interesting story about different forms of human consciousness. The main character, Sonata, lives in a future where people’s consciousnesses can be transferred to robotic bodies after death. Since you can always get another robotic body, there is no reason to die. However, Sonata has decided that her life will consist of only three iterations. I enjoyed reading about the changes in her perception and experience of the world, and also reading this idea of how society might react to a growing immortal population.
The Cavern of the Screaming Eyes by Jeremiah Tolbert (Novelette, Lightspeed): In this story, the world has become kind of an MMORPG, with portals to instances popping up all over the place. People try to excel at these instances for treasure and fame, but many die or simply disappear. The main character’s older brother vanished in one, and he finds himself drawn to the “D-space”. I enjoyed this one as someone who has played MMOs in the past, but I also enjoyed how it managed to ground such a silly premise in realistic characters and human emotion. I get the sense that this might be the first in an arc of stories, where the main character learns more about why D-space has appeared and what happened to his brother.
The Book of How to Live by Rose Lemberg (Novelette, Beneath Ceaseless Skies): It’s pretty common to see a fantasy story with a small class of elites that possess some kind of magical power. It is not so often I see one where the main character is not a part of this class. Efronia is a “simple” who works to design machines that can perform tasks the upper classes use magic to accomplish. Unfortunately, it is the upper classes that could choose to give her access to knowledge and resources, and the lower that would benefit from her research. This is a thoughtful story about both magical and racial prejudice, and the beginnings of change. I would like to read about what happens next in this world.
The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin (Short Story, Tor.com): Great cities eventually reach the point where they must be born and awaken to consciousness, or die in the process. The city chooses a person, a midwife, to help them through this process. What follows is kind of a love poem to NYC, as it is ushered into awareness by its chosen midwife. As you might imagine, there’s a fair bit of bad language involved, but also really vivid imagery and emotion.