It’s time for another round of short fiction favorites, this time from the batch of stories published in May 2017! This month, there’s a story by Hugo award winner John Chu, as well as two authors I had not featured before, Caroline M. Yoachim and Tony Pi. This month’s stories don’t have much in common, spanning science fiction, fantasy allegory, and Chinese fantasy.
Making the Magic Lightning Strike Me by John Chu (Short Story, Uncanny Magazine): This is the story of a man who feels deeply insecure about his body. His body dysmorphia leads him into a self-destructive spiral (which also involves some interesting paramilitary near-future stuff), while his best friend struggles to figure out how and if he can be supportive. There’s not a lot of closure, but I thought it was a very effective emotional story.
Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim (Short Story, Beneath Ceaseless Skies): This is a story about a society of wind-up toys, and also an allegory of human life from beginning to end. The main character’s life takes several unexpected twists, and we see how different wind-up people respond to unwanted responsibility and adversity in the face of their inevitable mortality. It was a surprisingly touching story, for being about wind-up toys, and it is one that has lingered in my mind long after I finished reading.
That Lingering Sweetness by Tony Pi (Novelette, Beneath Ceaseless Skies): Tony Pi has been writing a series of short fiction about “Candyman Ao”, a man who can call the animals of the Chinese zodiac by making their likenesses in a blown-sugar confection. This is my favorite one so far. Ao is generally tasked with solving some sort of problem that involves the supernatural, but this time an illness has robbed him of his candy-making abilities. His weakness forces him to rely on the strengths of the people around him, and I enjoyed seeing how everyone’s humble abilities fit together to solve the problem. I don’t think not having read the previous stories would hurt anyone’s enjoyment of this clever novelette, but I will go ahead and link here to Tony Pi’s list of the series. All of the stories are available to read online.