From the author: A weekly, curated list of speculative short fiction.
Welcome to another Weekly 5! It's been a bit of a bummer-weekend with the dog limping around and barely being able to move on Saturday night (he is getting better), and the kids eating whatever was left of their Halloween candy. And now it's somehow November. I'm not sure how that happened exactly, and I'm sure I did not approve it!
Pigshit and Gold, by Aiki Flinthart in Dimension 6 #18
Grandy scratched at the dark burgundy, triangular head and the drake made a curious, purring noise. 'But she's quite tame, I assure you.' --- 'Hasn't burned anyone for....oh....at least six months.
Dimension 6 is an "electronic magazine of Australian speculative fiction" and issues can be downloaded for free from the Coeur de Lion website. It's a great zine, and well worth checking out. I adore this particular fantasy tale for its sense of dark humour, for the gritty and uniquely imagined world-building, and for the twist built into it. Lady Vemra, a rather selfish and unpleasant woman, has gone to find the legendary Haldora the Archer to help turn the tide in a battle between two nobles. Vemra's real motivation is to gain the favour of one of the combatants AND get herself out of debt in the process. Vemra drags the young archer Dora, and an insistent and brassy old woman calling herself Grandy, along to the frontline, but what happens when they finally meet up with Lady Fantine is not exactly what Vemra had in mind...
Selfless, by James Patrick Kelly in Asimov's November/December 2019
Joseph Jirasek does not exist. He was "taken", and fundamentally altered -- when he was thirteen years old. The man who once was Joseph still lives, but he is only pretending to be Joseph. In truth he has no sense of self at all, instead, he assumes various selves, depending on what the situation requires, acting out the expected roles of Father, Husband, Boss, or (most dangerous of all) Hunter. The Hunter has only one desire: to "take" others and alter them as he was altered. After a confrontation with his mother, Joseph has an encounter that overthrows everything he thought he knew about himself and what was done to him. "Selfless" is a fantastic mind trip and a disquieting read that got right under my skin.
Note: there's been a lot of talk online over the past week or so about this particular issue of Asimov's, not because of the stories in it, but because of an infuriating editorial they published, written by Norman Spinrad. Karen Osborne does a great breakdown on Twitter of why this editorial is so infuriating. Asimov's eventually took the editorial down and later put it up again, accompanied by a statement by Sheila Williams. You can read that here. There are some excellent stories in this issue, including stories by Octavia Cade and Siobhan Carroll. AND this story by James Patrick Kelly. If you don't want to buy the magazine, you can still listen to this story, narrated by the author, in a podcast version of "Selfless".
Teeth, by Cathy Charlton in Truancy Magazine
On nights where even the stars hide behind cloaks of cloud, and their big sister the moon can’t bear to share her light–on these rare nights, death prowls in the form of a black wolf.
Truancy publishes "revised folktales, legends, myth and other traditional narratives that have been made new", and original fiction with folkloric or mythic elements. This issue of the zine is fabulous through and through. "Teeth" is a gorgeous, lyrical tale about a wolf, a Dark Moon night, the Fairy Queen, and the kind of love that makes you risk everything to win your heart's desire. It's a tale of desperation, transformation, and love, and the ending just about broke my heart.
An Irrational Love, by Marika Bailey in Fiyah #12
I. In the beginning, there was darkness, and she was infinite.
Ayo doesn’t believe in praying, but she will do it today. It is a holy day, and she has been given a part in it. Stillness comes, the moment the gods remind the world of their gift by taking it away. That’s the kind of bullshit gods do. A foot to your neck to remind you who’s in charge.
Bailey's intricately woven novelette about the fate of Princess Ayo and the dark secrets and the great power hidden in her family's history, is part of a brilliant issue of Fiyah. It's a rich, strange, and wonderful tale that intertwines fantasy and myth (for example, strands of the mythology surrounding the Minotaur and Ariadne), and the result is both harrowing and beautiful.
No Folly of the Beasts, by Wren Wallis in Mithila Review #11
Note: this story is available right now if you buy this issue, and will be available online on Nov. 12th.
Wallis's riveting story is set in a richly detailed fantasy world where magic and monsters, as well as war and strife, are ever close at hand. We follow the harpoon-wielding Ratri as she sets out to sea on board a whaling ship. Along for the ride is the newly recruited Shrike, an old woman with "three sights", able to discern "the living, the dead, and the signs". Shrike and Ratri share a bond of loss and grief. Shrike is the last of her people, the only survivor after her homeland was laid waste by invaders. Ratri's loss is ever-present in the form of two ghosts: the ghost of her mother, and of her unborn child. The ghosts and the grief cling to Ratri, and Ratri clings to them, unwilling and unable to let go. Her only remaining purpose in life is to kill the giant sea-beast Krakatan that caused their deaths. Wallis crafts a fierce and moving story about the tenuous bonds of a new friendship, and about how to find ways to live on when we think we have nothing more to live for.
And that's all I have for this roundup!