It’s time to kick off my 2017 recommendations for short fiction! My favorites for January span a variety of subgenres, from harder SF to barely fantasy. There’s not much of a theme I can claim for this month, except that they were each entertaining in their own way. They're all also available to read online, at the links provided below.
A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, Novelette): This story takes an interesting look at 3D-printing biological material, with an eye to how it might intersect with politics and crime. The main character runs a small business 3D-printing steaks for consumption, and one ‘customer’ decides to blackmail her into filling a high order in an impossibly short amount of time. It’s a surprisingly funny story, and also one that touches on a variety of up-and-coming issues that society may face.
The Thing About Growing Up in Jokertown by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, Novelette): This is set in the Wild Cards universe, but I was able to enjoy it without having read the novels set in the universe. It’s a sweet, simple story about a group of marginalized teenagers who live in NYC’s “Jokertown”. One day, they decide there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to enjoy Central Park, just like all the “normal” New Yorkers. What follows is a pleasant story about a small-scale adventure.
Fable by Charles Yu (The New Yorker, Short Story): I would hesitate to actually call this one speculative fiction, since the fantasy elements are only used as an analogy to real life. However, it is beautifully written and deeply emotional. It concerns a man, who has a child that is developmentally disabled, talking for the first time to a therapist. He describes the story of his life, and how he has come to feel that it has lost meaning. It’s kind of a tearjerker, but ends on a hopeful note.