What the fuck.
No, seriously: what the fuck. 2016 really keeps outdoing itself. (Or should I say that the racist shitbabies of the world really keep outdoing themselves in their protracted, spoilt, attention-seeking tantrum that fucked the UK out of the EU and has now anointed President-elect Fuckface von Clownstick? Well fucking done, babies. Not only tedious but dangerous as well.)
I’m not going to apologise for my anger because I am 100% done with apologising to tendentiously basic assholes. I am going to rec you some stories with the reassurance that each one of this little list is a great story that will (mostly) not break your bruised and aching heart over again.
Read on below the cut for my micro-reviews of the short fiction I read last month. As always, a black star (★) next to a story title means I think it’s a must-read.
- The Life and Times of Angel Evans by Meredith Debbonaire
- ★ Geometries of Belonging by Rose Lemberg
- A Ladies’ Guide to Collecting Mermaid Love Songs by Aimee Picchi
- Rabbit Heart by Alyssa Wong
The Life and Times of Angel Evans by Meredith Debbonaire
There’s a girl who was once the saviour of all the universes (but one). Now she bums around some nameless UK town, drinking too much and doing too much magic.
It’s hard to create a compelling character in a short story, but fuck I love Angel Evans. Even when she’s being a self-destructive idiot, I love her—which is a true test of character charisma.
More that that, the multiverse Angel traverses is delightful in its Douglas Adams-esque nuance and comedy. My favourite has got to be the dwarf city with a half-infrasound language and occupational genders.
I could certainly stand to read more stories about Angel (and of course her girlfriend).
★ Geometries of Belonging by Rose Lemberg
This story is what you need right now.
Another story set in Lemberg’s Birdverse, this was published October 2015, and I found it by hunting for MOAR BIRDVERSE to shove into my eyeballs. Man, I was not disappointed.
Parét is a healer who works their craft by using deepnames, the Birdverse magic system. In the course of their work, they meet a young neurodivergent, trans person: Dedéi. And, while Dedéi’s situation cries out for help, they are also close to the heart of a dangerous political problem that could bring down Parét’s lord and lover as well as drag the nation into war.
Dealing explicitly with emotional and physical abuse and the sickness that always lies behind it, this story also talks about the trouble with attempting to do good in the world—i.e. the harm that is often inadvertently caused. As a result of loss, Parét has sworn to move through the world without affecting it, for good or ill. But their drive to heal often lures them into action against their better judgement.
I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that you shouldn’t be afraid to read this: there is no tragedy here for you. Instead, this is a story for survival, for resistance, for overcoming. This story is what you need right now.
A Ladies’ Guide to Collecting Mermaid Love Songs by Aimee Picchi
As soon as I saw the title for this story, it didn’t matter that I’d never heard of the author before—I knew everything I needed to know, and immediately dove right in.
And the story was exactly as charming as I guessed it might be! Two genteel ladies make a hobby out of capturing mermaid songs in glass—and, in the end, that goes about as well as you’d think it would.
Despite our protagonist’s eventual failure, there’s still hope at the end of this story, and that’s what clinches it for me. This isn’t a perfect romance, but it’s bittersweet and beautiful.
Rabbit Heart by Alyssa Wong
A small, sad snip of a story here, though nonetheless quality for its shortness. Rabbit Heart sidesteps your curiosity about the world in which it’s set, giving you only a little window onto one character.
Fengoh is a resurrectionist of sorts, though they don’t deal with the original body. People keep coming to them to bring their loved ones back from the grave; Fengoh keeps obliging, even though it’s only a temporary solution.
The value of time when it comes to life, and the nature of identity are the questions this story raises. What is a few more years worth? Especially when it’s an individual fundamentally different to who they were before? The story paints it as fundamentally unsatisfying, but even so irresistible.