Some months are just a chaotic blur in which my brain is out of commission for one reason or another. In July, that was dayjobbery—and I literally read nothing that month. Fortunately, August was a little better! Still didn’t read very much, but I loved what I did consume, and so I present to you a list!
Beneath Their Hooves by Katharine E.K. Duckett (Pseudopod)
A creepy, unnerving story about unicorns and the children who ride them. Duckett tells this tale from the POV of an eight-year-old child, and the voice is perfect, which makes the horror of what has taken place in Grandmère’s house even more sinister. It’s a fantastic voice and will leave you tense and on the edge of your seat the entire time. Protip: don’t ride the unicorns.
Buried Conviction by Dave Ring (Speculative City)
This one is awesome: told in the style of board game instructions, it’s a story about fey foundlings and loneliness and hope. It’s short, punchy, and leaves you satisfied in the end.
Dead Air by Nino Cipri (Nightmare)
A ghost story told in a “found footage” format, which I love, and which works amazingly well! It’s creepy af and has a wonderful sense of building dread the further along it goes. Shivery-good.
Every River Runs to Salt by Rachael K. Jones (Fireside) [novella]
I love this so much. This story has a stunning voice, a gorgeously rendered picturesque setting, full of creepy underworld monsters and people just trying to get by; vivid prose so sharp and sweet you can taste the after images on your tongue and behind your eyes; epic and personal, funny and frightening and full of friendship. Absolutely marvelous work! Jones has created a masterpiece of myth, a story that will stick with you like the memory of the oceans and rivers that have always been.
Buy links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Fireside
For Southern Girls When the Zodiac Ain’t Near Enough by Eden Royce (Apex)
This gorgeous, evocative story (part of the Zodiac special issue) is full of feels, with stunning prose and visceral imagery. Royce has created a gem, a story that will stick with you like the best memories and the promise of good things to come.
Pigeons by Nibedita Sen (Fireside)
A smol drop of delightfully dread family drama! Necromancy, siblings, birbs, and all rendered in Sen’s deliciously evocative prose. This one may be tiny but it packs a hell of a punch!
The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp (Tor) [novella]
Modernized Gothic horror in Shipp’s stylistic blend of grotesque and vivid beauty. A governess takes a position in a weird family mansion to, in theory, educate the ghost of a young girl. Things get weirder from there. It’s visceral and chilling, and although there is a fair bit of ableist language (mostly in dialogue), overall this is a strange, unsettling drama in the Gothic tradition, with imagery that will haunt you long after you’re finished reading.
Set in a steampunk alternate history New Orleans, Clark delivers a rambunctious, wild ride so full of vivid setting and delightful characters, it’ll take your breath away! Voicey, fast-paced, charming, this is a story of a young girl who carries a bit of a goddess in her thoughts and sets out to save her city from enemies who would destroy what they can’t conquor.
Buy links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Tor
The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon, California, and the Unknown by Brit E. B. Hvide (Uncanny)
Macabre and marvelous, this story re-imagines elements of the doomed Donner Party—with dinosaurs. It works so well, the reader’s awareness of what’s going on counterpoint to what the narrator, in his journal entries, thinks is happening. It’s creepy and clever (like the raptor who joins the group) and has a deliciously nasty bite to it.
The Nine Bajillion and One Names of God by Aimee Ogden (Daily Science Fiction)
Wonderful, sharp, hopeful and fierce—this is a brilliant riff off an old SF classic, with more nuance and thought about the consequences of what the scientists are building. Plus, the ending is such a powerful statement that closes this flash fiction in a way you won’t soon forget.
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean) [novella]
Breathtakingly beautiful, a sweeping epic space opera that is at its heart a deeply personal, intimate story of a mindship and the detective she works with, both of them trying to untangle past tragedies and prevent future atrocities. De Bodard’s prose is a boutique of sensory delights; her worldbuilding is a galaxy of detail and history; the characters in this story will win your heart forever. I love this story so much!
Do you like hippos and murder? Gailey has plenty of both in their delightfully bloody short story about Houndstooth and Ruby, set in an alternate history of the U.S. (the same world of Gailey’s novella duology, River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow). It’s such fun—humorous and haughty, with fabulous characters and the perfect authorial voice. This romp will give you the perfect taste of Gailey’s American Hippo ‘verse, and I highly recommend all their stories!
(It is true my open tabs on the browser have approximately nine billion more things I want to read and haven’t managed yet…so we’ll see how September goes!)
Big shout-out to these awesome authors and their excellent stories! Check back next month for another round-up, or feel free to follow me on Twitter @Merc_Rustad for instant recommendations as I have them. Cheers!