Late again! Story of my life, pretty much. The summer swelter has gone to my head, and I can’t remember a thing from one moment to the next. May as well go lay out on the grass with a rum cocktail and an ice cream.
Click on any story in the table of contents to jump right to it; or just read on below the cut. The star (★) next to a story indicates I think it’s a must-read.
- Hungerford Bridge by Elizabeth Hand
- The Neglected Garden by Kathe Koja
- ★ All the Colours You Thought Were Kings by Arkady Martine
- ★ Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller
- Salt and Cement and Other Denials by Sara Saab
Hungerford Bridge by Elizabeth Hand
Two old Cambridge pals are the focus of this queer romance with a fantastical twist. Miles, magnetic hipster, has a secret to show to his friend Robbie, our hapless Texan protagonist. The secret is something that will change Robbie’s life forever.
Romantic this story is: not just about Robbie’s unrequited love for Miles, on whom the story lingers lovingly—but about London, depicting it under a heavy snowfall, Thames iced up: an unrealistic situation in this age of climate change.
Ultimately I found this a story of what might be—a picturesque, unreal London, a desirable but unavailable man, and an surreal little denouement that seemed to come out of nowhere.
The Neglected Garden by Kathe Koja
The first fiction I’ve read by Koja, The Neglected Garden is a dark, weird story of a woman’s unrequited love transforming into something more powerful and strange. This unsettling story has a savour of damaging male entitlement that makes it uneasy reading, but nevertheless good.
★ All the Colours You Thought Were Kings by Arkady Martine
Three friends plot a coup against the star-faring empire of which they are privileged children. Alive with Martine’s characteristic lush prose, this story is breathtakingly beautiful. Not only this, but Tamar, Petros and Elias’ teenage friendship is immediately believable, a soup of insecurity, jealousy, ambition and love.
I love this story. Give me a novel, and I’ll devour it.
★ Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller
Things With Beards is transformative fiction. The story takes Childs and MacReady, two characters from John Carpenter’s 1982 horror film The Thing, and inspired by Peter Watts’ 2010 take on the film from the alien’s perspective—The Things, also published in Clarkesworld—riffs on their return home to an America in the grip of the AIDS crisis and a crisis of police brutality towards people of colour.
Using the confused perspective of the alien imitating/being MacReady, Miller explores alienation—from nation, from family, from self—as a result of the many, many vicious faces of discrimination in America. Woven into the story is Miller’s signature theme of civil disobedience.
This story is heartbreaking in small, quiet ways. Another great story by Sam J. Miller.
Salt and Cement and Other Denials by Sara Saab
A fun little story, this—about amorous, anguished, genderfluid… barnacles? I never thought I’d be reviewing an SFF short story about barnacles, but here I am, and it really was enjoyable. It’s an epic romance on a very small scale. Delightful!