One of my plans for 2016 is to read a bit more short fiction, in order to be a more conscientious Hugo nominator and to help bring attention to especially entertaining works. I was an avid reader of Asimov’s Science Fiction in high school, but my short fiction habit has fallen to the wayside in intervening years. Last year, I started cultivating my interest again, focusing primarily on free fiction as a lower-stakes entry point. It turns out that there’s quite a lot of high quality free fiction available online! I mostly looked at Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Apex, Tor.com and the occasional free stories from primarily pay magazines. I also found Rocket Stack Rank, which provided a handy review-aggregation to lead me to stories I’m more likely to enjoy.
For 2016, I’m still reading free stories and using Rocket Stank Rank, but I’m more willing to branch out and buy magazines, anthologies and novellas. I can’t guarantee what volume of short fiction I’ll read--or how much of it I’ll think is worth mentioning--in any given month, but I will always try to post something. Now, I’d like to talk about the highlights of my January reading, before January is too far behind us! If there is a theme for this month, I think it would be that elderly mothers/grandmothers are pretty amazing.
The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon (Apex 80, Novelette): I believe this was written in an existing imaginary world with which I am not familiar, but it really didn’t matter for my enjoyment of the story. It features an elderly woman with a strong personality, who is well-known for her skill in growing tomatoes--and who lives in a desert full of train gods and shapeshifters. When someone begins stealing her nearly-ripe tomatoes, she finds herself involved in an adventure. The story was extremely fun, and I especially enjoyed how it combined folklore from very different parts of the world.
Rockets Red by Mary Robinette Kowal (Fantasy & Science Fiction Jan/Feb, Short Story): A short and simple story, but also very sweet. It takes place in her alternate history where Earth colonized Mars in the 1950s (as in The Lady Astronaut of Mars). In the 1970s, a man plans a fireworks display on Mars. His mother’s interference ends up making the experience more meaningful.
The White Piano by David Gerrold (Fantasy & Science Fiction Jan/Feb, Novelette): This one is a ghost story, but not really a horror story. To help her grandchildren cope with sudden grief, a grandmother tells them a story about an experience she had with a ghost and a piano in her youth. It was a very well-written and emotional story about how the people we love stay with us even after they’re gone.
Have you read any great pieces of 2016-published short fiction lately? Please let me know what you would recommend!