My Weekly 5 (+5) - December 7, 2020

By Maria Haskins
Dec 7, 2020 · 2,035 words · 8 minutes

Weekly5 16


From the author: 5 great short story collections and 5 great anthologies for the season!

This week's weekly 5 gathers up 5 short story collections and 5 anthologies I've read and really enjoyed this year. It's that time of year when recommended reading lists are being made, and when people start thinking about what to nominate for awards, and HEY, maybe people are also thinking about books they might want to give away for presents during the holidays. 

Anyway. Here are some of my recommended reads / recommended books to give as gifts to yourself and/or others.

5 short story collections:

The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A.J. Fitzwater

This wonderful, and joyfully fantastical, short story collection about a lesbian capybara pirate was one of my reading highlights this year. I reviewed it on my blog, and I just want everyone to share in the sparkly, warm happiness of this book.

To quote myself:

In short: read this book. It is full of delightful wonders and a whole lot of capybara fun. It’s GOOD in the best kind of uplifting way. Joy is important, after all. To quote Fitzwater’s introduction: “this book is serious about its joy….speaking to joy in times of turmoil, if being open about queer lives when others seek to suppress those voices, is serious business…”
  • To get a taste of what you can expect in this book, you can read “The Wild Ride of the Untamed Stars” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
  • Also check out A.J. Fitzwater’s website for more wonderful fiction.

The Grand Tour: A Jackson's Unreal Circus & Marmalade Collection by E. Catherine Tobler

This is a beautiful and strange collection of short stories from the pen of Tobler, and it's one of the best books I read this year. I reviewed it on my blog, and again, I'll quote myself:

If you (like me) love Ray Bradbury and the stranger, somewhat surreal side of fantasy, horror, and science fiction, then this short story collection by E. Catherine Tobler is most definitely for you. For years, Tobler has been writing an amazing assortment of short stories (and a novella!) set in her weird, wonderful, unsettling, and sometimes rather terrifying, Circus world. In this collection, you will enter that Circus world, and meet characters who, while they seem strange on the surface, are probably far, far stranger beneath the skin.

If you want a taste of Tobler's Circus world before you dive into this collection, you can read the brilliant "Lady Marmalade" in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Winter Children & Other Chilling Tales by Angela Slatter

I am a huge fan of Angela Slatter's work, and this short story collection is a must-read if you want to read some chilling, exquisitely crafted horror. It hasn't been available as an ebook before, but you can pick it up now from Brain Jar Press. Stories included in this collection:

  • Only the Dead and the Moonstruck
  • Cuckoo (you can listen to this one at PseudoPod too and get a taste!)
  • The Burning Circus
  • Home and Hearth
  • Winter Children
  • Pale Tree House
  • The Red Forest
  • The Song of Sighs
  • The Dead Ones Don’t Hurt You
  • Sun Falls
  • The Way of All Flesh
  • The October Widow

As a teaser for the future, I'll tell you I was also lucky enough to read an ARC of Slatter's latest short story collection The Tallow Wife and Other Tales (forthcoming from Tartarus Press), but it's not available for purchase yet. It's made up of stories set in Slatter's Bitterwood Bible / Sourdough / Of Sorrow and Such fantasy-universe, and it is absolutely magical. The finished version will be illustrated by Kathleen Jennings. Check out Slatter's website for more.

Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancestral Future by Sheree Renée Thomas

This is a mesmerizing collection of stories, or, as Tyehimba Jess put it, it's "a whirlpool of poem and story, a 'wild and strangeful breed' of cosmology". Thomas's fiction feels like song and poem, story and whispers from the past, all woven together into a new kind of tapestry. You can read an excerpt here, and you can read one of the stories, "The Parts That Makes Us Monsters", in Strange Horizons. Quoting the official blurb for the collection:

Haunting and evocative, Nine Bar Blues carries the soul’s songbook, from the dark laughter of strange sisters forced to make a perilous journey into a land their mothers have never known, to the fortified funk of extraterrestrial mixtapes.

Songs For Dark Seasons by Lisa L. Hannett

Hannett's short story collection, like her fiction in general, is dark, unsettling, often disturbing and always beautifully crafted. I reviewed this collection on my blog, and I'll quote myself:

This visceral quality of Hannett’s fiction, the unflinching way she digs into relationships and family bonds, and the many reasons people do what they do, and become what they are, is one of the reasons I love her stories so much. This is no shiny-smooth fantasy realm. Instead, there is grit and sweat and blood, guts and sinew too, in all these tales. ---- Songs For Dark Seasons is a heady, surreal, and sublime collection of short stories, rich in both strangeness and beauty. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a must-read.

These stories are not happy tales, and some of them are heavy with dread and pain, but they are also full of a deep kind of magic, lurking just beneath the surface of the regular world. To quote the official blurb:

Trailer parks and graves are only temporary homes for souls in these tales, where gods dwell in churches and parking lot groves. Friday night football stars mingle with sirens; hunters’ wives help their kids not to shoot, but to fly; Chanticleers spar their way into local government; and rash-afflicted men take dryads for lovers. In backwater towns, some witches have the know-how to pin pageant queens pretty, while others relieve girls of highfalutin aspirations. Local crow-boys and bloodthirsty Ursines are the best miners around.

If you want to get a feel for her fiction, you can read you can read “The Canary” and “Little Digs“, both published in The Dark.

5 anthologies

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora , edited by Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald

A fantastic SFF anthology with stories that delve deep into myth, lore, space, and magic. If you're looking for new voices and new points of view in speculative fiction, this book is required reading. To quote Tobias S. Buckell, it is "an explosion of new voices and creativity from all across the diaspora. It's a feast of ideas that connects the old and the new, a song of new songs, and an exciting new collection of writers that I expect we'll see even greater things from in the near future." 

The anthology includes stories by some of my favourite SFF writers, including Mame Bougouma Diene and Suyi Davies Okungbowa. If you want an inkling of what awaits you, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald's novella "Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon" from the anthology is available online. You can also sample Diene's work at Escape Pod, "Another Day In the Desert"; and read Okungbowa's "Dune Song" in Apex Magazine.

If There's Anyone Left, edited by Jason P. Burnham

This anthology hooked me from the very first story, about latkes in space!, and it's a wonderful, soul-nourishing read. I featured two stories from this anthology in last week's Weekly 5, and I just can't praise it enough. The stories here are gripping and unique, they have heart, they often put a twist on familiar SFF settings and tropes, and they often have a subtle (or overt!) sense of humour.

More about this anthology-project:

Inclusive science fiction and speculative fiction for the world! Eighteen flash fiction pieces from LGBTQ+, POC, disabled, and marginalized gender authors. Works from Tara Campbell, ZZ Claybourne, Maria Dong, Lora Gray, Russell Hemmell, Ann LeBlanc, Marissa Lingen, P.H. Low, Avra Margariti, Elisabeth R Moore, Aimee Ogden, Miyuki Jane Pinckard, Lauren Ring, Kelly Sandoval, T.R. Siebert, Jalen Todd, Clio Velentza, John Wiswell! All proceeds from this anthology will go to funding subsequent anthologies.

A Sinister Quartet 

Published by Mythic Delirium, this anthology contains a short novel by C. S. E. Cooney, as well as novellas by Mike Allen, Amanda J. McGee, and Jessica P. Wick. These are dark and strange stories and all of them excellent reads. From the amazing Cooney (I have to read everything she publishes because she is just that. good.), we get the rich and beguiling "The Twice-Drowned Saint"-- "Being a Tale of Fabulous Gelethel, the Invisible Wonders Who Rule There, and the Apostates Who Try to Escape Its Walls". Wick's “An Unkindness” is a fantasy tale about two siblings, Princess Ravenna and Prince Aliver, that pits the bonds of family against the bonds of a contract with the fae. McGee's "Viridian" is a fresh and audacious retelling of "Bluebeard"; and finally, "The Comforter" by Mike Allen, is a terrifyingly exquisite addition to his horror-verse of the Quilt. (If you're at all into horror, please check out his stories  “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker”, both available to read in Apex Magazine).

The official blurb for the book:

Behind the walls of an invulnerable city ruled by angels, old movies provide balm for the soul and a plan to escape risks grisly retribution. A princess discovers a passage to a nightmarish world of deception and blood-sealed enchantment. A woman who has lost everything meets a man of great wealth and ominous secrets. In a town haunted by tragedy, malevolent supernatural entities converge, and the conflict that ensues unleashes chaos.
A Sinister Quartet gathers original long-form wonders and horrors composed in unusual keys, with a short novel by World Fantasy Award winner C. S. E. Cooney and a new novella from two-time World Fantasy Award finalist Mike Allen joined by debut novellas from rising talents Amanda J. McGee and Jessica P. Wick. All four offer immersions into strange, beautiful and frightening milieus.

Avatars Inc., edited by Ann VanderMeer

Avatars Inc. is a scifi anthology published online and available for free download as an ebook at the site. It contains some hugely powerful, deep, and evocative stories about humans and technology, and the relationships between humans and technology in the (not too distant) future. As all good scifi, it speaks very much to the present as well. Some of my favourite stories in this anthology include "Porcelain Claws In Cinnamon Earth" by Madeline Ashby, "Elsewhere" by S.A. Corey, and "Incarnate" by Indrapramit Das. 

Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology, edited by Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya

A terrific anthology full of excellent scifi by some of the  best writers in SFF today. You really need this book in your hands, or to put in someone else's stocking for Christmas. More about this antho:

Celebrating 15 years of weekly science ficton, this anthology collects stories from 15 of the many excellent authors who have graced our podcast with their words. It’s a great way to celebrate your long-standing fandom, or to introduce someone new to what Escape Pod is all about.

The anthology includes original stories and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

That's all I have for you this week! Thanks so much for reading and supporting me. ❤

Maria Haskins

Writer of fantasy, scifi, horror, and things in-between.