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About the Meta-Collectors & Meta-Collection


Angel York (aniola) & Darin Wick (sibilatorix) like to read good short stories. And ride recumbent trikes. And grow food. And organize interesting information.


Angel was chewing off her elbow due to pandemic + annual apocalypse (California smoke season) and asked brainwane if it was ok to put this together. brainwane said yes, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license. Darin got roped in. We put some effort here into not letting perfect be the enemy of the good. Expect introduced errors, formatting inconsistencies, etc. And here we are!

Acknowledgment <3

brainwane was very helpful and encouraging. Thanks so much, brainwane!

About the Collector

brainwane's profile (website)

Founder of Changeset Consulting. (In the MeFi Mall!) Current main projects: improving Python packaging and writing grant proposals to help a few open source projects get funding.

Indian-American gal who likes to make people laugh. Open source entrepreneur, programmer, tech writer and encourager, Recurse Center alumna, stand-up comedian, advocate for transparency in government software. New York City, heterosexual cisgender, married, without children, born & raised in the US, upper-middle-class, a child of high-caste Hindus, generally ovo-lacto-vegetarian for purposes of large-gathering catering orders, generally friendly.

Into free and open source software and free culture, science fiction, the Mahabharata, tax history, Vienna Teng, the Mountain Goats, Dar Williams, Ellen Ullman, Zen Cho, Ann Leckie, Neal Stephenson, Jon Bois, Lavanya Sankaran, Hari Kondabolu, and hiking and biking.

About the Collection

I'm so glad people value and appreciate the series. And it means a lot that I've been helping people discover new authors and publishers. Thanks for the comments and messages! They are motivating!

In 2009, my spouse and I solicited submissions, paid authors & artists, and published a short scifi/fantasy anthology. In retrospect I thought: there already exist fantastic indie magazines and presses that get way too little attention. I didn't feel the need to make more of them; I felt a desire to get the word out about the great stuff that already exists.

And then I accidentally nerd-sniped the blue with the "you guys" post which grew to 230 somewhat fractious comments in three days. Partway through that I posted the first in the current story series. It didn't quite start out this way, but as my daily fiction posting kept going, I realized that it was a sort of penance, and I thought I'd go till people had made 230 comments, cumulatively, on the stories posts.

Now we've gotten past that and I have several more queued up. Might keep going till about mid-October, maybe longer.

And: if you want to keep up in particular with new short scifi/fantasy that's free to read online, I posted links to the RSS/Atom/syndication feeds for 11+ online magazines.

Thanks for the shout-out,
Cozybee, and thanks again for the comments and the MeMail messages, everyone -- your interest and readership is why I'm doing this.

Table of Contents

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. 2

About the Meta-Collectors & Meta-Collection 3

Acknowledgment <3 4

About the Collector 5

About the Collection 6

The Collection 11

"spotted cool things their listing bots had mislabeled and underpriced" 12

I searched around and I do not think Mintzer has a "here are my published works" list anywhere? nonasuch, is there one I have missed? 12

"I apologize for disturbing you, Ensign" 13

"I decide that it is practical for me to find it attractive" 15

"Let me guess: fuel is sacred too." 17

The archives also include work by 17

"Her branches creaked as she walked the outer gardens" 18

"No, chairs can be even worse," said Coco. 20

People who enjoyed this piece because it's about being nice to a ghost might also like 20

"Cookie deeply aware this highly problematic." 21

Also! This was a Yuletide story. 21

"I knew I was in over my head when Punzie's mother called" 22

"Talitha is smiling at her, tentative, luminous." 23

"took out a sheaf of papers and shook them in the miners’ faces" 24

Apprenticeship, vulnerability, wigs, shipwreck, & watching wisdom grow 25

A complete list of published fiction by Rebecca Fraimow (since ISFDB is incomplete here): 25

"Suhela is a constant, like the acceleration of gravity" 26

"I'd had dreams about motherhood before." 27

"Do that one again, you whispered." 28

Math heists, time travel, aliens, and creepy predictions 30

Stories of transness, a proposal, family, aliens, religion, & tamales 33

"no, working with the WRONG people is how you get caught" 35

brilliantine, in case you want to increase how much short free-to-read-online science fiction and fantasy you get reminded to read: 37

Short fantasy stories about a diminished hero and an exiled villain 39

Scifi about social services, transit, reparations, & a support dog 40

Alternate Links 40

"shortly before his troubling and inexplicable disappearance" 41

Zadie Smith on the urge "to be good. To be seen to be good." 42

"T’Pring was too dignified to seethe." 43

AI, aliens, rain control, & how voting/election systems might change 44

"standing side by side at the sink, talking softly as they clean" 46

A fairy tale about loyalty, a quest, surprise, and triumph 47

People who have never read any of Kirstein's Steerswoman series before: 47

a horror story from 2003 48

I came across this story and went "oooooof" because of how it resonates right now. 48

a story about agri-bots, machine life, and emergent intelligence 50

under all circumstances leave the tower library and rose bower intact 51

The rest of the church noticed the dog during the Sign of Peace 52

"Parts Unknown: Bajor" -- with fake ads 53

Fix-it fic in Gatsby's pool 54

“you have a message I am unable to read aloud.” 55

straight, thanks for the link. Mothership Zeta's website seems to be back up: 55

“'Everyone’s got to live somewhere,' she says.” 56

"Fools lack the insight needed to digest and appreciate my book." 59

"You've got no right to be fussy when someone is being so generous" 60

"Steve Rogers isn't a self-made man." 61

Vanessa has never complained about your own oddities 62

brilliantine: Evidently Manija Brown has a self-published book of short stories called "A Cup of Smoke" 65

“Want to go throw some dry ice in the River Styx?” 66

Fenriss: just in case you need more, 66

Romance, pregnancy, time travel, supervillains & the best/worst ob-gyn 67

Changing the timeline 68

"let them know you are strong and peaceful" 69

"It is illogical to allow you to suffer" 70

Fictional stories about space fiction 71

"He gazed at the sky. Hannah went back to thinning carrots." 72

"No, not sat -- drooped." 73

A recent (short) Twitter thread about Sandbaggers and Queen and Country by John Rogers, 73

"What is actually causing the anxiety?" 74

"It's an interesting flavor profile. It has potential." 75

“You know that, right? You can do anything.” 76

Those of you who want a much sadder piece about weapons drones as incomprehensible alien actors: 76

"'Lift the veil but once, and look me in the face,' said she." 77

"Three thousand bucks a blast. The council only bought one shot." 78

"I don't like the look in his eye as he watches me." 79

"All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses" 80

“you got two options. Wallow in guilt like a hero, or do something.” 82

I'm so glad to share these. And I have now re-found a thread from a few years ago where multiple MeFites mentioned nominating "Applied Cenotaphics" for the Hugo Award. 82

"Was it rude to tell your boss she was growing scales?" 84

"I don't believe in haunted games," Carrie said. She was lying. 85

"The words barely stick in her throat at all." 86

Fires, homemade pills, and gardens 87

"smiling, creases around her eyes like a soft-worn blanket." 89

Exploration, separatism, yearning, and hopeful stories 90

Coincidence, backstabbing, obligation, tradition, and tech support 91

Rebecca Campbell partially based the story on her partner's work in a call centre. 91

"The Kents didn't have an alarm system for him to disable" 92

Folks who haven't already read a bunch of Kitty Unpretty's DCU and Batman work: 92

“sentenced the petitioner to a life term, but how long is a life?” 93

I think of myself as someone who likes character-driven speculative fiction 93

What would you change? 96

"I needed a better excuse than glory." 97

Appendix 98

How does "you guys" work in English? Linguistically? 98

Afterword 99

You might also like... 100

Index 101

The Collection

"spotted cool things their listing bots had mislabeled and underpriced"

"Mika was careful. But you heard stories." In the short, sweet scifi story "Legal Salvage" by Holli Mintzer, a vintage seller navigates a forgotten building of self-storage lockers, an unfamiliar sorting bot, Geoff the sentient traffic light, and a party. Part of Slate's Future Tense Fiction series, in partnership with Arizona State University's Center for Science and the Imagination. Thematically related to Mintzer's "Tomorrow Is Waiting" (previously; MeFi's Own!).

I searched around and I do not think Mintzer has a "here are my published works" list anywhere? nonasuch, is there one I have missed?

A few you can read now for free (I haven't read them yet):

"Sleep and Wake", 2011, The Front View (audio version 2012, in PodCastle)

"The Phone Booth", 2012, Daily Science Fiction

"Love, the Mermaids, and You", 2012, Daily Science Fiction

"Dark and Deep", 2012, Intergalactic Medicine Show

And, for sale on Gumroad, a few comics: "I Fought The Law" ("A short YA science fiction story about genetic engineering, teen rebellion, and punk rock.") and "Out of the Ice" which artist Jason Tseng describes: "This queer science fiction retelling of Sleeping Beauty has all the trappings of a futuristic fairytale with cryogenics, lab-grown human children with alien surrogate parents, and of course, true love's kiss."

"I apologize for disturbing you, Ensign"

Eight tiny scifi/fantasy stories and what-if suggestions about aliens, monsters, etc. trying to understand humans, and vice versa. Including "I dunno, dude. This ‘light’ stuff sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to me. I mean, how do we know it’s even real?" and "This is both relateable and aspirational in some fashion, for, alive humans SUCH AS OURSELVES… self-deprecating remark…"

lsunnyc requests and describes: "I want a sci-fi encounter where the alien species has nothing akin to 'sleep', and it’s baffling...."

Several writers collaborate on "scifi where sight [is] considered as exotic and numinous as telepathy by the protag species", including: 'don’t forget about completely arbitrary “”””atmospheric disturbances””” (fog, smoke–the new “ionic interference”) ALSO plottasatically rendering our abilities moot.'

Person 1: I dunno, dude. This ‘light’ stuff sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to me. I mean, how do we know it’s even real?

Person 2: Seriously, how can something be a wave and a particle? That doesn’t even make sense.

Mysterious Human: Even if you cannot perceive the light, you can feel its warmth–

Person 1: Oh my god, please shut it with the mystical hoo-hah. You’re insufferable.

songofsunset, fireandwonder, and audiencecat describe the first time an alien has one of their human friends die (and doesn't get it), and the first time an alien has a human friend who is pregnant (and, similarly, doesn't get it).

snarp, amtep, and elodieunderglass write and comment on "Human recipe blog post, which is seasonal and appropriate, by me (alive person)".

It’s really good stuff, it’s got both common inexpensive ingredients and others that aren’t, because I am the sort of alive human, whose cultural context, makes that reasonable, to have those things. This is both relateable and aspirational in some fashion, for, alive humans SUCH AS OURSELVES… self-deprecating remark… you boil the stuff.

Azzandra asks: "Whenever I see a post on tumblr suggesting aliens don’t have gender, I always think–‘but what if also the reverse. What if aliens also have some fundamental social construct we don’t’.

Like, they come and meet us and they’re like ‘hey this is an awkward question but what’s your gooblebygark?’....

‘Look, your ridiculous human languages don’t seem to have the words for these! But they’re totally a thing, they’re like, fundamental aspects of social life for our species, just… just let us lick you so we can know what verb tense to use when we speak to you.’

In "Love Songs for Monsters: Gender", Tom "Defiler Wyrm" Sims posits: "Before they were in love, the young man asked, 'What is your gender, anyway?'"

prettyinpixiedust discusses, and bramblepatch annotates, a reason one dwarf would tell the others: “BTW guess what happened, we’re all just going to be men forever now as far as the tall ones are concerned”

And on a different note, but still on the "writers making stuff up together on Tumblr" theme: several writers collaborate on a universe where all Americans ceremonially get pet eagles:

Of course we had some of the traditional parts of the ceremony, the waving of the American flags while the guests chanted “USA USA USA”. But other than that it was a pretty relaxed eagle ceremony.

(Found via metaphortunate.)

"I decide that it is practical for me to find it attractive"

Silly, fun, or heartwarming scifi stories published this year about robots & AI include "A Guide for Working Breeds" by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (author of "Fandom for Robots" (2017), previously), "Custom Options Available" by Amy Griswold, and "Rager in Space" by Charlie Jane Anders.


"Rager in Space":

Hey,” Sion said. “I was wondering about something. So nothing computerized works any more. At all. Right? So how did these people manage to get a spaceship that can fly to another star system to work? That would be the most computer-intensive shizz you could imagine.”

"A Guide for Working Breeds"

[From] iLabs Mentorship Program

Dear C.k2-00452, we regret to inform you that your exemption request has been unsuccessful. Mentorship enrolment is compulsory after chassis buyback, and is part of a new initiative to…

"Custom Options Available":

The hardware specialist does not want to sell me genitals.

“I can’t advise making these modifications,” she says. “It’s not just the external configuration. That’s trivial, especially since you’re already designed to have interchangeable attachments. If you just want to be able to function in an intimate situation, we can add an attachment.”

I am a retired mining bot with self-configurable limbs capable of vibration at customizable frequencies. “That is not my problem,” I say.

Many people who enjoy these would also like Martha Wells's Murderbot book series, which includes the prequel short story "Compulsory" (published in 2018 in Wired's "Future of Work" series; previously). FanFare on the first Murderbot book, All Systems Red (read the first chapter for free).

And many people who enjoy these would also like Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch book series, starting with
Ancillary Justice (previously, FanFare, read the first chapter for free).

"Let me guess: fuel is sacred too."

InterGalactic Medicine Show was an online magazine publishing short science fiction and fantasy stories. After it ceased publication in 2019, it took down its paywall so now all its archives -- hundreds of original short stories and reprints, with original illustrations, and some also available as audio -- are free to read. Includes stories by Naomi Kritzer, Holli Mintzer, and Tim Pratt. Title is from the sweet, comic "For Sale: Veterinary Practice On Sigma 4; Certain Conditions Apply" by Jared Oliver Adams from the final issue.

The archives also include work by

Ken Liu, Aliette de Bodard, Max Gladstone, Cat Rambo, Peter S. Beagle, Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, Harry Turtledove, Orson Scott Card, and many other authors.

"Her branches creaked as she walked the outer gardens"

Four scifi/fantasy stories published this year about the strange and ordinary things (our) bodies (might) do or be: "AirBody" by Sameem Siddiqui, "The Bee Thing" by Maggie Damken, "The Longest Season in the Garden of the Tea-Fish" by Jo Miles, and "Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse" by Rae Carson. All are also available as audio/podcasts.

"AirBody" by Sameem Siddiqui, also available as audio:

Amazing how all Desi aunties are basically the same. Even when separated by vast oceans for a few generations. I mean, they fit into a few basic archetypes. There’s the genuine-sweetheart proxy mother who, in between her late-night work shifts, always makes sure you and your friends have all the snacks you need. The manipulative gossiper, who conveniently keeps details of her own children’s scandals nestled under her tongue. The nervous fidgeter who has spent three decades so worried that her basic thirty-year-old son won’t ever find a wife that she forgets to teach him how to speak to women. The late-life hijabi, who pointedly replaces “Khuda-hafiz” with “Allah-hafiz” and “thank you, beta” with not just “jazak-allah” but the full on “jazak allahu khayran.” But which of these archetypes would find it appropriate to rent the body of a grown man halfway across the world?

"The Bee Thing" by Maggie Damken, also available as audio:

Before I get in the shower, I let the water run for a few minutes and stand in the bathroom. Once they hear the water, once they feel the change in the air, the bees settle down....
I towel off and go back into my room to get dressed. Now that the water is off, the bees will come back to life. I have to decide what I’m wearing—what looks good on my pie-body, what I can squeeze into—before their droning on makes it impossible to reach a decision.

"The Longest Season in the Garden of the Tea-Fish" by Jo Miles, also available as audio:

Her branches creaked as she walked the outer gardens of the temple, checking that all was in readiness for the ceremony. The leaves on her forearms, now gone brittle, shivered in the morning breeze. Her tea-fish lay quiet at her core, conserving its dwindling energy–until a scream broke the stillness.

The tea-fish twitched, mirroring Elja’s alarm. More shouting followed from the direction of the tea gardens, and the voice was Aidjiri’s.

Elja started to run, but her ailing tea-fish could not sustain such an effort, and she couldn’t risk its strength running out, not even so close to the ceremony, so she slowed to a brisk walk along the stone-lined paths, limbs rustling with her haste. Nothing should be amiss, not today of all days.

"Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse" by Rae Carson, also available as audio on that page:

Marisol bursts in. She’s sucking air, her black skin sheened with sweat. She must have sprinted all the way from the watchtower.

“The baby’s coming?” Marisol gasps out.

“Yeah, how did you—? Just mild contractions so far. There’s plenty of time—”

She’s shaking her head. “They’ve scented you. We’re going.”

“My water hasn’t even broken!”

“Flesh-eaters are massing at the gate.”

"No, chairs can be even worse," said Coco.

A short, kind fantasy story about ghosts: "起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion — The Lion Bows)" by Zen Cho: "Gwailo have no sense. They treat the past like it's just an old movie. Like it's not serious."

People who enjoyed this piece because it's about being nice to a ghost might also like

"Remote Presence" by Susan Palwick: "Being a hospital exorcist was like being a vet or a pediatrician; the families were harder to deal with than the patients." (Previously.)

People who enjoyed this piece and want more Zen Cho: there's more, including both short fiction and novels! Her site helpfully includes a "Stuff you can read online for free" section, including
a prequel to this very story: "七星鼓 (Seven Star Drum)".

For completeness: Her site does not yet mention her just-announced-this-week forthcoming novel
Black Water Sister (May 2021) and her short story "Hikayat Sri Bujang, or, The Tale of the Naga Sage" in the new anthology The Book of Dragons which just came out a couple months ago.


"Cookie deeply aware this highly problematic."

"Exclusive Content" is a charming piece of fan fiction by ellen_fremedon about Sesame Street, tagged "backstage drama, issues of representation, muppet identity politics, literary adapations, kind of a lot of annotations". "In old days, Cookie think, just having monsters on television was spooky. Monsters doing classy drama was transgressive. Transgressive mean it a thing that people not expect you to do, and they think you strange when you do it. It special kind of surprise."

Also! This was a Yuletide story.

Yuletide is a yearly fan fiction exchange where people write fanfic about rare and obscure fandoms (books, TV shows, movies, songs, etc. that don't already have a ton of public fanfic written about them). You can nominate fandoms starting later this month and sign up to participate in October.

"I knew I was in over my head when Punzie's mother called"

"And you know if we both have to spend our time with dragons, at least yours is a cute one." "The Thing In the Walls Wants Your Small Change" by Virginia M. Mohlere (published 2018) is a short fantasy story about recovery from abuse, a tiny cute dragon, and how we protect each other. On a similar theme: "Four Things that Weren't Adequately Covered in Mulan's R.A. Training" by NaomiK, a short fan fiction piece published in 2013. "Mulan is a Resident Assistant on a dormitory floor at a college. Gosh, some of the students on her floor come from really screwed-up families."

"Talitha is smiling at her, tentative, luminous."

"'It's like mathematics,' Cat says. 'Once it’s written, it can't not be true. See?' She takes the swan back and adds a descending stroke to the character on the neck. It takes flight and flutters around Toby’s head." "Flightcraft" is a short fantasy story which author Iona Datt Sharma describes: "A romance in its beginning, an ancient craft, and an aeroplane named for a traitor."

"took out a sheaf of papers and shook them in the miners’ faces"

"'I am in desperate country,' she said, after swallowing, 'and I need all the bravery I can get. But I will have nothing of resignation.' She spat out a wad of wet pulp." "What I Assume You Shall Assume" by Ken Liu is a short fantasy story published in June, about 1890s Idaho, Chinese and Chinese-American experiences, violence, the magic of words, solidarity, and grit.

Apprenticeship, vulnerability, wigs, shipwreck, & watching wisdom grow

I didn’t ask you to meet me here to reminisce,” said Suradanna. She turned the guest-cup upside down and placed it carefully on her desk, signaling that business negotiations were about to begin. “I want to hire you.” "Suradanna and the Sea" by Rebecca Fraimow (published 2016) is a fantasy novella that -- as the author puts it -- "features trade routes, magical fertilizer, and one girl's centuries-long effort to impress a woman who is already in a committed relationship with a boat."

A complete list of published fiction by Rebecca Fraimow
(since ISFDB is incomplete here):

("Shaina Rubin" and "Further Arguments" have their own thread.)

"Suhela is a constant, like the acceleration of gravity"

"In the capital, where our Queen lives, there are two universities." "Fifty Years in the Virtuous City" by Leo Mandel (originally published on Archive Of Our Own as part of a fanworks exchange) is a short story, told in glimpses over fifty years, about two women growing as scientists, administrators, and rivals in a utopian alternate-history South Asia. Audio version available; Seth Dickinson interviews the author. Mandel's fanfiction responds to "Sultana's Dream," a 1905 utopian feminist short story by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain.

Content note: a death by suicide occurs in the story.

"I'd had dreams about motherhood before."

"Once, I dreamed that I had a son named Sheldon, and my grief tore a hole in the fabric of the world." "Sarah's Child" by trans author Susan Jane Bigelow, published in 2014 at Strange Horizons, is a short story about a trans woman who starts dreaming about an alternate life. Audio version available; here's another podcast version from Glittership.

"Do that one again, you whispered."

"There's a ghost in your house. There has been since you moved in. You don't call the house 'haunted'; it isn't scary. The ghost is quiet and kind. They seem to care about you." "Ghosts" is a story by Blue Neustifter about "identity, support, and choosing to live." YouTube video (11 minutes, captioned) of the author reading it aloud. Neustifter posted an earlier version of this story as a Twitter thread. Content notes by the author: "second-person ('you') protagonist that is implied to be transfeminine; dysphoria; depression".

On Twitter, Neustifter (a.k.a. Azure Husky) posted "Ghosts" in a thread of about 40 tweets, starting: "A ghost who lives in your house but all they do is rearrange your fridge magnets to spell out self care and helpful messages"...

You go downstairs in the morning, reach to open the door and pull out some juice


Then they wiggle and slide around


and later:

When the dress arrives you panic and leave it in the package for several days.

Eventually the package is moved to the top of your dresser, still sealed.

THE CAT WAS CHEWING ON IT says the fridge


(I'm sorry but this thread has aged out of ThreadReader so I can't link to a compiled version of the Twitter thread. If you find one, please link in the comments?)

The Otherwise Award (formerly the Tiptree Award) included the Twitter version of "Ghosts" on its 2018 long list. Editor Bogi Takács included "Ghosts" in the anthology Transcendent 4: The Year's Best Transgender Themed Speculative Fiction. And fans have made an illustration and a zine version.

Math heists, time travel, aliens, and creepy predictions

The Society of Actuaries has held a regular speculative fiction contest since 1995. Actuaries write science fiction about actuarial work, insurance, advances in prediction, and more. In the 13th contest (2019), the winner of the "Most novel prediction forming the basis for the narrative" prize focused on on insurance companies' role in fighting climate change: "We All Have a Green Heart" by Anna Bearrood. (The following links include a lot of PDFs, at least one ZIP file, and scores of of mostly math-heavy science fiction stories, written by amateur authors, often focusing on death, murder, surveillance, creepy conspiracies, implants, and behavior modification.)

I can't find the compilation from the first competition (held 1995-1996), but I'd love to read David Kroll's first-place winning story "The Actuary and Alfred Anderson", which won him a $250 gift certificate and a one-year subscription to Actuaries Online. I also wish I could read the Best Action/Adventure story, Marilyn Dunstan's "An Actuarial Heist", and the Most Humorous story, Timothy Orcutt's "The 500th Anniversary of the Ferengi Actuarial Institute".

Also hard to dig up: the compilation for "Actuarial Speculative Fiction, version 2.0" from 1998, regarding which judge Robert Mielke said, "If Ray Bradbury’s stories are like dandelion wine, these are like dry martinis". Illustrations and "fanzines" (fan fiction?) were encouraged. David G. Kroll placed again, winning 2nd place for "Actuarial Examination". First place "was split by Victoria G. Stachowski and Alice Underwood for their respective stories, 'It Will be Partly Cloudy Tomorrow' and 'Mec Life.'"

I can't disinter the compilation for the third competition (1998-1999), nor figure out who won, but I know that whoever did had to send in "two paper copies of the story and an IBM-compatible diskette with your word processing file".

You can read the stories from the 4th competition in 2001: An Actuarial Odyssey! "Proof" by Jerry Tuttle includes a character using Luhn's Formula to help solve a murder, and "Destined for Greatness?" by Jennifer Yanulavich features a time traveller saying "The future needs an actuary."

The 5th competition, in 2003, gave us The Outer Limits of Actuarial Thoughts, which, appropriately, includes the UFO story "Transformations" by Steve Konnath.

I can't dig up the compilation from the sixth competition in 2005. But this forum post lists the winners.

The winners of the seventh competition (2008) do not include "Sam McAtry, P.I. And The Case of the Dead People" by Melvyn R. Windham, Jr., but it's in the compilation and it made me laugh out loud.

“Just a word of advice. If you really want to do this private investigating, I suggest you don’t use your real name. Also, you don’t want to be caught on camera looking like yourself. You need a disguise. Here, I have an idea. Use this.”

Sam looked at the object Peter gave him and asked, “What’s this?”

“It’s called a comb. Here, let me try.”

Peter combed Sam’s hair and then said, “There. Now no one will know it’s you.”

The 8th competition (2011) includes the Star Trek fanfic "A Turn-screw tlhImqaH" by Melvyn R. Windham, Jr., and a story about changes in eating habits, "No Love Sincerer", by Gregory A. Dreher.

The 9th contest was announced in 2010. The compilation (2011) includes "Price it Like A Life Product" by Nick Jacobi, which has a light Snow Crash homage, and "The Curious Story of Mr. James Phillimore" by Walt Herrington, a Sherlock Holmes homage.

In 2013, the 10th contest included "Actuarial Year" by Mel Windham, a wish fulfillment (kind of) story that made me laugh aloud.

I cannot find the compilation from the 11th contest (2015) -- intriguingly, it included "Blockchain Insurance Company" by G. Stolyarov II.

The 12th contest (2016) features "Good Morning, Maxwell" by Jason Rossiter, a story about self-driving cars and corporate shenanigans, which won the Most Unique Use of Technology in a Story award.

These days the contest is sponsored by the SOA's Technology Section, Actuary of the Future Section, and Predictive Analytics and Futurism Section. If you'd like to read nonfiction essays by actuaries, take a look at last year's “Actuarially, I Believe This” contest.

Stories of transness, a proposal, family, aliens, religion, & tamales

Four fantasy or scifi stories (funny, heartwarming, searching) about trans experiences. The funniest of them: “Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman” by Rebecca Fraimow. "Now perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, 'What kind of a man is this Yudah Cohen after all, to boast of his ability to lie? Certainly he won’t make any kind of rabbi!'"

“Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman” by Rebecca Fraimow (audio).

Dear Bluma,

I heard that Hershel Schmulewitz, that blockhead, has also presumed to ask for your hand in marriage, which gives you two proposals to consider. Now, you needn’t worry that this will be a sentimental or a wheedling sort of letter. You already know how I feel, and I suppose Hershel’s not so much of a blockhead that he doesn’t feel the same way. I’m simply writing to lay out the reasons, plainly and concisely, why it would certainly be more to your benefit to marry me.

1. As you know, I have so far outperformed all the others in my year on the rabbinical exams....

Fraimow's sequel: "Shaina Rubin Keeps Her Head Under Circumstances Nobody Could Have Expected" (audio and text).

It wasn’t even my idea to sneak out to the Yiddish theater, that unlucky night I’m telling you about. It was my friend Gittel who really wanted to go. She’s always saying she’s going to do something wild like run away with an actor, so in fact it was a mitzvah for me to say I would go with her and make sure she didn’t do anything foolish—but you just try explaining good sense like that to anyone in my house, especially my cousin Bluma.

"Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas" by Alberto Yáñez.

When the pot is full, I lift it off the table and move it over to the stove. I'm fourteen and I'm already taller than Mom—almost as tall as Dad—and pretty strong, even if I am too skinny. Mom is always telling me to eat another tortilla. "Don't drop the hoya," she says as I shuffle over to the stove with the huge pot. Not like I would. She'd do it herself if she could—she's like that—but with her pregnant belly in the way it's hard for her to lift the big steamer. I used to help more in the kitchen when I was young, but Mom's had a tough time with me growing up, so now mostly I don't. I miss it.

"Your nina Teresa is coming tomorrow," Mom says, too casually. "She said she wants to check up on you."

I just nod. We don't really talk much about my godmother. Visits from my nina Tere are rare, and usually dramatic. At least now I know why we're making so many tamales.

"The Riverbed of the World" by B. C. Holmes, a trans author. (Published in 2003; characters in this story use the word "transsexual".)

Kolay's job required her to act like a mother figure and, true to her vocation, she took me under her wing. She invited me to stay at the temple indefinitely. I helped out with chores around the temple -- I cooked and swept and replaced countless candles. At night, I used the computers to access more and more of their research and writings about gender and neurobiology.

They really didn't know what to make of the fact that I wasn't remotely religious.

"no, working with the WRONG people is how you get caught"

Four gripping, provocative, sometimes uncomfortable scifi/fantasy stories about violence and sacrifice in defense of communities and ideals. Three by Margaret Killjoy (previously) and one by Elizabeth Crowe.

"The Pride of Salinkari" by Elizabeth Crowe (audio), published this April, about an ethics teacher in a society that ritualizes suicide (so, please note the content warning at the top of the page):

His mother came to me at the end of an ethics lecture. I had just sent my students away and was gathering the last of my things when she stepped into the door frame and blocked it, deliberately.

"Men of the Ashen Morrow" by Margaret Killjoy (audio), a moody fantasy about wishing you could put down a dangerous responsibility:

Ten summers prior, as a young woman, Sal had performed the ritual. Hulokk had come, she’d spoken with Him, and He’d departed with nothing more than the buck they’d slaughtered. It had been the first time in living memory that the summoners had convinced the god to spare them all. Sal was counting on that luck. She was counting on her own strength......

“I’ve come directly from the great assembly,” he said. “The summer is in its fifth moon and no one has come forward to summon its end. I’ve been empowered to ask you, on behalf of the whole of Laria, to do this. Summon the god Hulokk.”

Sal spat, off to the side. “The reason’s no one’s come forward is because everyone’s hoping we’ll do it.”

“Will you?”


“Why not?”

“Someone else’s turn.”

"Everything that Isn’t Winter", also by Margaret Killjoy, a lyrical story about armed defense of a peaceful commune, and about a hard-bitten narrator afraid there's no place for them in the home they defend:

It took fifty of us to cut a firebreak to keep the blaze from spreading, tearing into tea plants with machetes while the fire tore into our livelihood. The band played, because what else can you do....

“If I was going to raid us, I’d have camped up this hill,” Bartley said. “There’s a spring up there, one you can drink from, and a few open cliff faces that’d let you spy on us.”

“Why do you think they did it?” I asked.

Bartley shrugged. “People don’t like it when other people have nice things.”

The In-Between Lodge was nice, there was no denying that. We were a collective of fifty-five adults, forty children, and another sixteen people halfway between the two categories. We’d raised up the lodge ten years back, just as the new world settled into place and drew its political borders, just as I’d left my teenaged years. We grew tea and we played our part in the new world’s mutual aid network of a few interdependent city-states, communes, and hamlets. We sold, gave, or traded provisions to people passing through the old railway tunnel, and we guarded Stampede Pass, the eastern edge of the new world.

And another Margaret Killjoy piece, "The Fortunate Death of Jonathan Sandelson" (audio), a ten-minutes-into-the-future cyberthriller:

I was just trying to boxtroll that asshole into quitting, like I’d gotten the two guys before him to do. I swear I wasn’t trying to get him all dead and shit. It wasn’t my box that did it. But I guess all drone-related crimes fall under federal jurisdiction, and when a civvie octocopter box put a bullet in Jonathan Sandelson’s front left tire and sent him careening into the ocean and the afterlife, the feds assumed it was me. Well, they assumed it was my handle, Jeje Cameron. They probably hadn’t made the connection between Jeje and real-world me, Jae Diana Diaz. Not yet.

brilliantine, in case you want to increase how much short free-to-read-online science fiction and fantasy you get reminded to read:

I subscribe to the syndication feeds of a few online magazines via Dreamwidth (my Atom/RSS/feed reader -- you can get an account for free) and that helps me see some stuff. If an online magazine has a syndication feed then you can follow it via and then it'll show up on your Reading Page. Feeds for several good short sf/f publishers:

Fireside Magazine (DW, site)
Strange Horizons (DW, site)
Lightspeed (DW, site)
Clarkesworld (DW, site), including fiction and nonfiction (DW, site)
Mithila Review (some speculative fiction, some not) (DW, site)
Jaggery (some speculative fiction, some not) (DW, site)
Luna Station Quarterly (DW, site)
Apex Magazine (site)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies (site)
Uncanny Magazine (site)

And I recommend you consider checking out/subscribing to PodCastle (site) and its sibling sites as well.

Probably more of the SFWA qualifying markets have syndication feeds you can find and subscribe to.

And I subscribe to the mailing list for Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination so I get a heads-up when there's a new Future Tense story on Slate, like "Legal Salvage" by Holli Mintzer.

Short fantasy stories about a diminished hero and an exiled villain

"Captain Midrise" by Jim Marino is a loving description of a flying, people-helping superhero who loses some of his oomph but keeps on going, from the point of view of a journalist trying to cover the story responsibly. "Would the paper be liable if he stopped helping in emergencies? Would we just get sued forever until we died?" "Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer" by Megan Grey is a humorous, then bittersweet short fantasy about a bullied fifteen-year-old shoveling her demonic neighbor's driveway and coming over for hot chocolate. "Destroyer he may be called, but he kept his yard tidy and pulled in his trash cans at night, so the Homeowners Association turned their scowls on other targets."

("Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer" was nominated for a Hugo Award as part of a Sad Puppies slate; some people mistakenly nominated it in the wrong year.)

Scifi about social services, transit, reparations, & a support dog

Four science fiction stories about how we could better help each other. Two optimistic ones: "‘I’m with Muni — how can I help?’ Annalee Newitz’s short fiction imagines a new kind of social support system in San Francisco", and "Number One Draft Pick" by Claire Humphrey, in which Reshma trains a service dog to help mitigate Tyler's seizure disorder so he can keep playing pro hockey. And two cautionary stories: "A Burden Shared" by Jo Walton, on carework and chronic pain, and "How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary" by Tochi Onyebuchi, about a US city that tries to use an algorithm, plus money from defunding police, to pay reparations. (Response essay by Charlton McIlwain.)

Alternate Links

[Re: Annalee Newitz] Huh - it wasn't when I double-checked 20 minutes ago, but, I dunno, browsers, adblockers, regions, who knows? In any case, here's a version via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine that everyone should be able to read.

[Re: Slate won’t load] Wayback Machine versions of the Tochi Onyebuchi short story in Slate and response essay by Charlton McIlwain, in case those are easier to read.

"shortly before his troubling and inexplicable disappearance"

Three soooooorta vampire-y short stories. Benjamin Rosenbaum's short story "The Book of Jashar" purports to be a recently unearthed text that "proved to be a transcription of Biblical Hebrew originally written as early as the First Temple Period" and concerns "Mezipatheh, who drank the blood of men". Claire Humphrey's "Who in Mortal Chains" and "Le lundi de la matraque (Nightstick Monday)" (audio) feature Augusta Susan Hillyard, who says of herself, "It’s in my nature, violence; it’s on my back closer than a shirt. It’s in my nature to hate it, also, and to turn from it, when I can."

From "Who in Mortal Chains" (content note for domestic violence in the story):

"You wouldn't tell Mylene if I . . . would you? Is there some kind of sisterhood thing? Because you know I don't mean any harm."

For a second it was all wrong in his eyes. He did mean harm. Not to me, even if he could. Not to Sharon, probably not to Mylene. But there was harm in him, meaning to happen.

As Humphrey puts it, "Gus is always willing to take up someone else’s fight, and not always able to tease out who’s right or how far to go."

Humphrey's "immortal alcoholic badass Gus Hillyard" also appears in Humphrey's 2016 book Spells of Blood and Kin (which I have not yet read).

Zadie Smith on the urge "to be good. To be seen to be good."

"Now More Than Ever" is a short absurdist story by Zadie Smith about shunning, denouncing, and philosophical stances and etiquette rules (The New Yorker, July 16, 2018 - available in text & audio). "I bumped into someone on Bleecker who was beyond the pale. I felt like talking to him so I did. As we talked I kept thinking, But you’re beyond the pale, yet instead of that stopping us from talking we started to talk more and more frantically..." Related: her October 2019 essay "Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction" (previously). "...we seek to shore up the act of writing with false defenses, like the dubious idea that one could ever be absolutely 'correct' when it comes to representing fictional human behavior."

"T’Pring was too dignified to seethe."

"Matchmaker of Mars" by Rachel Manija Brown (writing as Edonohana) is a short, funny, sweet fan fiction story in which "John W. Campbell accidentally matchmakes T'Pring and Uhura." Tags: T'Pring (Star Trek), Nyota Uhura, John W. Campbell Jr., 1930s Science Fiction Writer Alternate Universe, Pastiche, Epistolary, Fiction within fiction, Bigotry & Prejudice, Baking. Should be understandable even if you're not a Star Trek fan.

AI, aliens, rain control, & how voting/election systems might change

"One Hundred Sentences About the City of the Future: A Jeremiad" by Alex Irvine (2008) and "Reliable People" by Charlie Jane Anders (March 2020) depict future elections, including personal media feeds, aliens, and Humans of Distributed Network Origin. And: in October 2018, Mozilla invited two speculative fiction authors to describe elections in the future. "Hello, I’m Your Election" by Genevieve Valentine (caution: dark) and "Candidate Y" by Malka Older (audio for both) take different approaches to integrating data mining and Q&A into voting processes.

Caution: dystopian. "Hello, I’m Your Election" by Genevieve Valentine (audio):

Hello. Welcome to Election 2040. I’m Betsy Ross, your Ballot Assistant. Thank you for coming out to vote. Let’s get started! Please transmit your citizen ID number.

"Candidate Y" by Malka Older (audio):

“... Have you got any thoughts so far?”

“Yes, but I don’t feel confident about my choice yet.”

“Do you want to talk about the candidates first, or work the other way around, from your preferences?”

“The latter, I think.”

"One Hundred Sentences About the City of the Future: A Jeremiad" by Alex Irvine:

71. We call for a thorough re-examination of the ways in which the City’s environmental, climatological, economic, information, and social policies contribute to the quest for the next becoming of the City of the Future.

72. This call has been circulated to all subscribers of our popular programs in children’s cookery, intermediate saxophone, and sexual experimentation.

"Reliable People" by Charlie Jane Anders:

We have no quota, no set hours. We keep going for as long as burnt coffee recharges us, slouching in lumpy plastic chairs that scritch on the parquet floor of a ground-floor office whose single plate window is blotted by standees of the Candidate, wearing a reassuring smile and a dark pantsuit. We repeat phrases like “bringing back forward thinking” and “the bronze path to the light,” as if we know what they mean. We never look at each other, but we imagine that all our faces wear the same look: professional, focused, ecstatic. Everything smells of sweat, pizza, and overcooked coffee. Nobody ever ventures inside the office, apart from the Candidate and us.

"standing side by side at the sink, talking softly as they clean"

ShanaStoryteller retells fairytales (such as "The stepsisters and Cinderella band together to survive their mother’s abusive treatment.") and Greek and Roman mythology (as with Arachne: "She is not honest as a virtue, but as a vice.").

A fairy tale about loyalty, a quest, surprise, and triumph

"Once upon a time, in a very small kingdom, there was a king with one daughter. His wife had died, and he had not remarried. This is not the fairy tale where the king decides to marry his own daughter, don’t worry. This king was a completely different sort of terrible father: he believed that his daughter should earn his love, and nothing she did was ever good enough." Naomi Kritzer's short fantasy story "A Star Without Shine" is part of the fundraiser The New Decameron.

Also in The New Decameron: Rosemary Kirstein shares an excerpt from an upcoming book in her Steerswoman series.

People who have never read any of Kirstein's Steerswoman series before:

start with the first chapter of the first book (free to read online). If you like it, AVOID SPOILERS AND READ THE BOOKS IN ORDER, starting with The Steerswoman. Avoid also the paperback covers from the original print run as they contain spoilers!

People who already love Steerswoman: I offer these links for your delectation:

a horror story from 2003

"Kathleen Murphy gripped her can of Mace tightly as she rode the Red Line to work, hands sweating inside the latex of her surgical gloves. All around her, her fellow T riders were openly clutching Mace or pepper spray as well, all glancing around the car from behind safety goggles and surgical masks." "For the Plague Thereof Was Exceeding Great" by Jennifer Pelland is a short, dark science fiction story, published in 2003, about an epidemic and the religious cult that aims to spread it.

I came across this story and went "oooooof" because of how it resonates right now.

I'm glad that those of you who needed to nope out noped out and did not read something you couldn't handle well, and I'm glad to have shared it with those of you for whom it provided a kind of interesting mirror. It crystallizes this combo-dread that so many of us feel, the fear of the disease and the fear of other people who might harm us using the disease and the fear of the future. And, Sublimity, yeah, that ending.

Countess Elena noted:

the fictional disease is more convenient than COVID. Its contagion is guaranteed, and the result is quick; your ticket out is punched. COVID is just enough below lethality that it can be ignored.

Right -- I wonder whether that's a common characteristic of fictional pandemics, moreso than in real ones? Naomi Kritzer reflected on how her short story "So Much Cooking" predicted and didn't predict our current situation (previously) and noted:

The disease in “So Much Cooking” is a mutated version of bird flu, with human-to-human transmission and a 34% death rate. It is hilarious to me in retrospect that I thought a death rate that high was necessary for the initial setup of people isolating themselves in their houses. In fact, diseases that strike hard and kill quickly are a lot easier to contain, in part because seriously ill people are a lot less likely to go out and mix with healthy people, and in part because we’re collectively freaked out enough to take contact tracing and other containment steps extremely seriously.

a story about agri-bots, machine life, and emergent intelligence

"Tierra y libertad" by Madeline Ashby is a short scifi story about "a robot rebellion in the pistachio fields." Published in MIT Technology Review in 2018. “I have protocols for that.” Dash made for the door. She flashed her watch. “I’m the analyst in charge. The mind in that vault is my op.”

under all circumstances leave the tower library and rose bower intact

Two fantasy stories: "La Bête" by Leah Bobet (audio), published this year. "It would require work to make the château habitable; the Dowager had confined herself, in the end, to the library, kitchen, and a small suite of rooms, and the rest was in disrepair." "The Huntsman and the Beast" by Carrie Vaughn, originally published 2018. "Jack said, 'Then take me. I will serve. Let him go and take me instead, please.' The beast hesitated, and that told Jack he might have a chance. 'I swear to you I will stay in his place, but you must let him go free.'"

The rest of the church noticed the dog during the Sign of Peace

Three scifi/fantasy stories about surprising connections with animals. "Fetch" by David Moles is a melancholy alt-history about trying to rescue Laika. "St. Ailbe's Hall" by Naomi Kritzer (part 2) portrays a priest overcoming prejudice while figuring out how to deal with a new sentient dog in his congregation. And "The Night Sun" by Zin E. Rocklyn (published this year) is a dark but ultimately triumphant story of a couple's weekend trip to a cabin gone horribly sideways. (Content note for danger or harm to animals in all three stories.)

"Parts Unknown: Bajor" -- with fake ads

"The Hasperat has his eyes watering." fresne's fanfic short story "Parts Unknown: Bajor" takes Anthony Bourdain on a tour of Deep Space Nine and the planet Bajor. Includes commercial breaks: "Some of the inspiration for the sponsor breaks come from some conversations I’ve been having with friends about what a Star Trek show that wasn’t about Starfleet would be like." (Bourdain fanfic previously.)

This was a Yuletide story. Yuletide is a yearly fan fiction exchange where people write fanfic about rare and obscure fandoms (books, TV shows, movies, songs, etc. that don't already have a ton of public fanfic written about them). You can nominate fandoms from now till 1 October, at 9am UTC and sign up to participate 16-26 October.

Fix-it fic in Gatsby's pool

"'Do you think you could call me "Nick" from time to time?' I asked him. At the time, I was not sure why it suddenly mattered." "To Stay at the Scene of a Crime" by Prix is a short fanfiction story with an alternate ending for F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.

you have a message I am unable to read aloud.”

"CARBORUNDORUM > /DEV/NULL" by Annalee Flower Horne is a ten-minutes-into-the-future science fiction short story that works as a feminist Parker Lewis Can't Lose/Ferris Bueller's Day Off homage/critique, and as a cri de coeur on teen girl agency. Thematically related short scifi stories: Claire Humphrey's "Four Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye" on teen girls and those who restrict them, and Cory Doctorow's "Party Discipline", another celebration of teen girl hackers. [Content warning: rape]

straight, thanks for the link. Mothership Zeta's website seems to be back up:

here's "The Indigo Ace and the High-Low Split" by Annalee Flower Horne, published 2017. Here's their bibliography for more.

I also started thinking the other day about the three different forms of surveillance/restrictions on the three different protagonists. In Doctorow's story, other than "don't wake up my family" concerns, it's all in school/corporate/government rules, economic power, and electronic devices. In Humphrey's, it's a physical device sold by companies and used by parents -- physically connected to a person's body, with fangs like a vampire. And in Flower Horne's story, I don't get the sense anyone has implants or similar, and I think all the electronic stuff is privately bought and run, by parents from corporations -- but our protagonist's mobility disability is part of why others treat her the way they do -- possibly including her mom's overprotectionist behavior.

'Everyone’s got to live somewhere,' she says.”

Three scifi/fantasy stories about people finding friends and discovering places they fit in. "Women Making Bees In Public" by Alexandra Erin is a short fantasy story about two women making friends, overcoming being interrupted by men, and discussing free will, chaos, brains, and what they want. "You Have to Follow the Rules" by Ada Hoffmann (audio) gives a girl a quiet, roomy escape at a scifi convention. And "Programmer at Large" by David R. MacIver is a web serial about a progammer-archaeologist who discovers some oddities in their ship's social graph.

"Women Making Bees In Public" by Alexandra Erin" (includes a woman worrying that men will be violent):

Too late, I realize that she’s looking around and that the sweep of her eyes are on a collision course with mine. Her smile broadens and she says, “Hello.”

It is probably a mistake to judge someone’s voice based on two syllables projected across a distance in the open air, and had it transpired that her voice was anything other than everything I’d hoped it to be, I wouldn’t have. But it is confident, clear. It drips with charm.

My hands look for something to do, and wind up pulling both my newsie-style hat and my scarf off and mopping my very not-sweaty face. I realize I’m basically hiding behind them and force my errant extremities to my side, then approach her, hat literally in hand.

“Hi,” I say. “Do you mind if I talk to you?”

"You Have to Follow the Rules" by Ada Hoffmann (audio):

On the chair to the other side of where Mommy had been sat the Jedi girl. Annalee stared at her, wondering how long she'd been there, invisible.

The Jedi girl took a paper and pencil from the folds of her robe and scribbled something. Then she folded the paper and handed it to Annalee, along with the pencil, being careful not to come too close.

The rules are different where I come from, said the paper, Where I come from, no one touches your helmet unless you tell them it's okay.

Annalee blinked, then picked up the pencil.

Where do you come from?

"Programmer at Large" by David R. MacIver ("Science fiction loosely based on the Qeng Ho from Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky") is an series currently 14 chapters long, not yet finished (and due to be refactored rather than continued) but at a kind of natural stopping point.

"Yes but these students are terrible. It's like they learned to fight by watching Lesbian Space Pirates."

"Didn't you learn to fight by watching Lesbian Space Pirates?"

"Hey! That's slander!"

I seized up. They were right, it was totally untrue, and now they were going to hate me and I was going to get voted off the ship at the next destination and-

"You're right, I'm sorry, I, uh, I'll go I"

I started to pull away towards the door but Sam grabbed me. At about the same time I finally noticed my HUD was flashing a giant "THAT WAS A JOKE STOP PANICKING THEY AREN'T OFFENDED" symbol in my face.

"Waste it, Arthur, I'm sorry. That was stupid."

I tried to brush it off, but allowed myself to be pulled back into their embrace.

"No, no, it's fine. I should have realised that was a joke. I'm the one being stupid."

I breathed deeply, trying to will my heart rate back down below two beats per second and repeatedly telling myself it was fine, just a false alarm, and trying to relax.

(As I read them: the David R. MacIver story and possibly the Alexandra Erin story star socially anxious people, I think; the Ada Hoffman story and maybe also the MacIver story star people on the autism spectrum; the MacIver story stars an asexual person. This isn't meant to be definitive, just to point people to stories that might represent your experience.)

"Fools lack the insight needed to digest and appreciate my book."

Samovar "is a quarterly magazine of and about translated speculative fiction", a regular special issue of the magazine Strange Horizons. For Samovar, Brishti Guha translated a (wacky, in my opinion) 11th-century Sanskrit piece by Kshemendra about language misunderstandings and an angry scholar. "...the reason the meat was so poor was because hunters couldn’t get hold of any well-fed animals. All the animals wanted to listen to Gunadhya’s story even more than they wanted to eat!" (Previously.)

"You've got no right to be fussy when someone is being so generous"

Read Paper Republic publishes English translations of Chinese fiction, usually new short stories. The short story "Saint Marie" by Da Si, translated by Caroline Mason, portrays a student's gradual discontentment with a French landlady whose hospitality proves stifling (in a way that goes beyond Ask vs. Guess cultures). "If Marie had made it plain before I moved in that she wanted my company, I would never have chosen to live with her."

"Steve Rogers isn't a self-made man."

"Known Associates" by thingswithwings is a nearly 300,000-word fan fiction novel about Steve Rogers (Captain America), gender, activism, self-discovery, queer life in Brooklyn in the 1930s and '40s, sex, disability, solidarity, and the joys of making friends on the Internet. It was longlisted for the 2017 Otherwise Award.

Vanessa has never complained about your own oddities

Eight scifi/fantasy stories about people in tough situations trying to help each other, including three by Susan Palwick (previously).

"Recoveries" by Susan Palwick: "Two women who have been friends since they were children—one a recovering alcoholic brought up by parents who believe they’re alien abductees, the other an orphan with an eating disorder—contend with a secret that might doom their friendship."

Vanessa plans to drink again no later than thirty seconds after twelve. You can see it in her scowl; you can smell it on her. You know that her AA sponsor, Minta, knows it too. Vanessa hasn’t said so, of course, but this isn’t Minta’s first rodeo with angry alkies, and it’s not your first rodeo with Vanessa.

"Cucumber Gravy" by Susan Palwick:

I checked my watch. The cucumbers were due to start singing in about thirty minutes, but sometimes they go off early. I’m never sure exactly when they’ve gotten here, which makes the timing tricky, and that means I wasn’t about to open the door. “If it’s an emergency, call 911, Mr. Humphreys. I’m not in that line of work.”


I wasn’t surprised the government couldn’t grow good plants. They were probably growing oregano and charging pot prices for it; you can’t trust those people as far as you can throw them. I started with the best stock when I got into business fifteen years ago, and I’ve been refining it since then. Genetics was my favorite part of biology in high school.

"The Shining Hills" by Susan Palwick:

“That’s no place to be going, not at nightfall. You don’t know what’s up there.”

Neither do you, she thought. And I know there were lights up there. Maybe they’d just been blocked by other people. Maybe they’d come back. She started walking again, but he hurried next to her. “Wait, please. Please, wait. I’m still here. I’m talking to you. What’s your name?”

"River of Heaven" by Rachel Manija Brown:

"We're not here to save them," I reminded him. "And look at your ring. The shard is down there, at the Chuo line."

We followed the increasing light in our rings down to the escalator until we had to pocket them or risk attracting attention. The fragment was clearly somewhere on the platform. I began to search. Seiji wandered over to inspect the vending machines.

"The Second Conquest of Earth" by L. J. Daly, in which our narrator has to outwit a terrifying antagonist:

Danger. "The knife isn't important," I lie. "What's important in the card is the pot in the background. A soup pot. This card is called the Cook."
"What does the Cook mean?"
What have you told me, Lord Jagged? That he's willing to offer information to a human. That he's willing to question a human without using that whip at his belt. That he's had sufficient conversation with humans to understand some religion. Humans and Kus—whatever his issue, it has to do with the fact that he doesn't see us as quite the animals the rest of the bulls do.
"Soup is a mixture," I tell him. "The card means that things usually separated have become mixed together."

"Private Detective Molly" by Ari Goelman (audio version). Includes a seriously sick child.

That's when I see my new boss. Four feet of trouble. Brunette variety. Tear tracks cutting through the dirt on her face, wearing jeans that were already old when Molly Dolls were nothing more than molded plastic and fantasy homes.

She's no idiot, though. "I want the Debutante persona," she says. "You're still not Debutante Molly, are you?"

I like a girl who doesn't need me to explain everything. "That's right, kid." I pull my blonde hair back into a ponytail and cover it with my fedora.

"Magnificent Pigs" by Cat Rambo (includes a child with cancer):

I had a crazy idea that I'd use my talent to become a tattoo artist and make enough extra cash to pay her. A Superior mobile tattoo set from eBay cost me a hundred bucks and got me started. I named my enterprise Magnificent Pigs, in honor of Wilbur.

But tattoos aren't a high demand item in Traversville, and you need to practice a lot to get any good at it.

"A Safe Place To Be" by Carol Emshwiller:

He looks like a country person . . . farmer or some such . . . though by now I may not look like I'm from the city either.

Before I sit down (not too close), I search the sky. Out here you can see a lot of it.

I say, "So far everything is fine."

He doesn't bother answering. It's clear that it is.

We sit silently but I can't tell if it's a comfortable silence or an uncomfortable one.

brilliantine: Evidently Manija Brown has a self-published book of short stories called "A Cup of Smoke"

available on Amazon, Kobo, etc. (I haven't read it.) And have you seen the film Wings of Desire which has a slightly similar vibe?

Want to go throw some dry ice in the River Styx?”

Two speculative stories about romance, mourning, and life-changing journeys. "The Four Generations of Chang E" by Zen Cho starts with someone winning the moon lottery: "Chang E sold everything she had: the car, the family heirloom enamel hairpin collection, her external brain. Humans were so much less intelligent than Moonites anyway. The extra brain would have made little difference." In "Three Petitions to the Queen of Hell" by Tim Pratt, "Marla and Zufi, the reigning queens of Hell, were eight years into a meaningless spat, living more as roommates than lovers" -- but then a mortal woman successfully makes it across the Styx to save her girlfriend.

Fenriss: just in case you need more,

Tim Pratt has a long list of his fiction you can read for free on his site. I was just telling my spouse last night that every time I've ever read a Tim Pratt story I've come away satisfied -- he's just a reliable, good storyteller who always puts together a solid story with a bit of a fun twist.

Romance, pregnancy, time travel, supervillains & the best/worst ob-gyn

Two scifi/fantasy stories, both from 2009, about women superheroes. "Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut" by Cat Rambo is light: "They have gone through twenty-two candidates, making notes, asking questions. The twenty-third arrives, dressed in black and steel." "Origin" by Ari Goelman is alternately silly and serious: "'I should never date other supers,' I say, not for the first time. I put my hand on my stomach. Crap. I can barely keep a spider plant alive. There's no way I'm ready to be a mother."

Changing the timeline

Two short scifi stories about changing history, in the small and in the large. "The Day Alan Turing Came Out" by Leonard Richardson (disclaimer: my spouse), wish-fulfillment alternate history. "Turing reaches for the RUN button in the corner and my breath catches. This is the moment when I always found that I had mistyped a line and had to go through the magazine listing again, looking for errors. Turing does not worry." "This Must Be the Place" by Elly Bangs, a partially-requited romance with a "deterministic dolt." "It's probably simplest to say that I first met Loren Wells in a club in San Francisco. We'll set aside for the moment that it wasn't the first time he'd met me."

"let them know you are strong and peaceful"

Three scifi/fantasy stories on caretaking. "Callme and Mink" (text and audio) by Brenda Cooper (published this month) has cute dogs and an ill child: "Not lying to him meant she didn’t signal emotions she didn’t believe were appropriate. She could signal most feelings back to humans, but they were always a lie." That one feels reasonably happy, despite its implied postapocalyptic setting. Two more are more wrenching, including one by a MeFite.

The adult daughter in "Sundowning" by Joanne Merriam (MeFi's Own joannemerriam) lives in a difficult world overall, AND takes care of a dad with Alzheimer's: "I was tempted, but I shook my head. That blood had to come from somebody, who needed it as badly as we all did."

Merriam also recommends short sf/f on her Twitter feed.

And the adult daughter in "Élan Vital" (text and audio) by K. Tempest Bradford is visiting her mother at the Institute even though she can barely afford it -- not the Institute so much as the visit. "The wind kicked up, sending freckles of reflected light across her face. Her skin was still perfect, beautiful and dark brown, though stretched across her cheekbones a little too tight. I hated that I never had enough to restore her round cheeks and full figure. I have to look at pictures just to remember her that way."

In 2014 & 2015, Bradford recommended many short scifi/fantasy stories in a regular feature at io9, and previous to that, did so on her blog.

"It is illogical to allow you to suffer"

Two lovely, sweet, heartwarming short pieces of Star Trek fan fiction that take place in the reboot universe (that is, the recent films, starting with the first JJ Abrams entry). "Lunch and Other Obscenities" by Rheanna presents the culture clash between Nyota Uhura and her Orion roommate, Gaila, in their first year at Starfleet Academy. Includes a Vulcan restaurant with a fitting name, people overcoming misunderstandings, and two shared meals that make me happily tear up. And "Graduate Vulcan for Fun and Profit" by lazulisong shows us James T. Kirk at the Academy, avoiding anyone finding out just how brilliant he is, intertwined with the point of view of his Vulcan mentor. Includes amazing curses, a tour of Portland, Oregon, and someone saying to a child, "I propose to treat you as a rational being capable of rational thought."

Fictional stories about space fiction

Two scifi/fantasy stories about space exploration, fiction, lies, and exuberant adventure. "The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales" by Fei Dao, translated by Ken Liu, sort of a Stanislaw Lem-feeling yarn, and "Four Kinds of Cargo" by Leonard Richardson (disclaimer: my spouse), a bit of Firefly-ish wackiness with a touch of pathos.

"The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales" by Fei Dao, translated by Ken Liu:

He decided that the solution was to find someone else who was even more of a liar than he was. Nobody ever remembered number two in any category.

"Four Kinds of Cargo" by Leonard Richardson (disclaimer: my spouse):

The Captain had spent her childhood watching bad native-language dubs of those same epics, except the implication that all this stuff was fiction had been lost in translation, or cut so the broadcaster could squeeze in another commercial. When she came of age, the Captain (probably not her birth name) had bought Sour Candy with Mommy's money, hired a crew, and declared herself a smuggler.

There is a completely different story by Fei Dao, "The Storytelling Robot" (translated in this case by Alec Ash), in case you want more kinda Cyberiad-ishness by the same author on similar themes: “The court trembled while the robot calmly answered, 'Your Majesty, this story can have two endings, but I haven’t yet calculated which is the most marvellous.'”

"He gazed at the sky. Hannah went back to thinning carrots."

"The Dryad’s Shoe" by Ursula Vernon (as T. Kingfisher) is a fun Cinderella retelling about a girl who has zero desire to attend a ball.

It is not much use being angry when you are eleven years old, because a grown-up will always explain to you why you are wrong to feel that way and very likely you will have to apologize to someone for it, so Hannah sat on the edge of the raised bed and drummed her heels and thought fixedly about when the next sowing of beets would have to be planted.

"No, not sat -- drooped."

Two fanfiction short stories by Marie Brennan, writing on Archive of Our Own. "Darkness in Spring", a very short, silly riff on Greek mythology and today's exponents of darkness: "One year, Persephone doesn't leave Hades on schedule. Demeter goes to find out why." "The Rest", a clever James Bond-The Sandbaggers crossover: "Very few people remember where M came from." (You don't need to know The Sandbaggers to enjoy it -- just enjoy seeing competent women's tradecraft applied to bureaucracy and spy shenanigans.)

A recent (short) Twitter thread about Sandbaggers and Queen and Country by John Rogers,

including the description 'I once described it as "Bond if Bond was about boring men in ugly suits dying badly in Prague."'

"What is actually causing the anxiety?"

Amanda Ajamfar, an Iranian-American short story writer, wrote "Catastrophizing", published this year in The Georgia Review, in which a woman deals with ecological anxiety and overwhelming fear. "Then she picked at Atoosa’s choice of words in describing her mother, wanting to hear more about that than about the difficulty Atoosa was having trying to negotiate her need to have a phone for her job and social life with the unethical production of the object." Also by Ajamfar: "True Stories Never Satisfy", on the stories we tell that induce fear in women.

From "Catastrophizing":

At home that night she had trouble choosing something to eat, because everything in her fridge screamed waste: using anything up would mean throwing away packaging, buying more, repeating the cycle. Only Sampson got to have his dinner, and she reasoned that his food was allowable only because he was not culpable for any of the systems that brought him food—she was.

"It's an interesting flavor profile. It has potential."

"Baking Bad" by heyjupiter: "Jesse Pinkman and his former home-ec teacher Walter White are co-owners of Heisenbrew's Uncertainty, an up-and-coming food truck." A Breaking Bad fanfic with a happy ending, tags: "Alternate Universe - Coffee Shops & Cafés, Father-Son Relationship, Drug Addiction, Recovery, Minor Character Death, Emotional Hurt/Comfort". Found via capricorn on MeFi five years ago. Also: "Illicit Alchemy" by Eric Lewis (published this year), a short fantasy story about an alchemist who gets way deeper into her employers' business than she wants.

You know that, right? You can do anything.”

Two scifi stories about the work we offload to robots. "Drones Don’t Kill People" by Annalee Newitz (a bunch of violence): "You learn a lot by seeing what people do when they think they’re in private. Most of it I found confusingly irrelevant to assassination." "Cleaning Lady" by J. Kyle Turner (no violence): "Her listing says All Cleaning Done By Hand so she makes a big show of unpacking her bag, laying out her tools, and rolling up her sleeves."

Those of you who want a much sadder piece about weapons drones as incomprehensible alien actors:

"12 Worlds Interrupted by the Drone" by Palestinian-American writer Fargo Tbakhi, published in September 2020.

"'Lift the veil but once, and look me in the face,' said she."

Two stories about making shocking decisions to use color to change our perceptions. "The Regime of Austerity" by Veronica Schanoes (2009, science fiction): "These days there are a lot of gray people walking around in bright blue coats with green shoes. Lately it's become popular to use color on the inner walls of your home." "The Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1832, allegorical/romantic/dark/didactic fiction): "On a nearer view it seemed to consist of two folds of crepe, which entirely concealed his features, except the mouth and chin, but probably did not intercept his sight, further than to give a darkened aspect to all living and inanimate things." Kind of a Johnny Cash "Man in Black" vibe on that one.

I came across (previously) via No Time To Read A Book Club, which regularly blogs and tweets short story recommendations.

"Three thousand bucks a blast. The council only bought one shot."

Two short, exciting scifi stories in which underdogs fight battles. "The Hard Quarry" by Caleb Huitt, published this year, has a solo asteroid miner outwitting pirates: "The only statement the regs make on going extravehicular at speed is not to." "Corporate Robo Renegade Piston" by Nicholas Sugarman (2017) has an underfunded mecha pilot strapping in to fight a kaiju: "it hurt his pride knowing his face was plastered onto a waffle iron. He sighed, comforting himself with the knowledge that at least he wasn't on the kaiju cleanup team."

"I don't like the look in his eye as he watches me."

Three fantasy stories about magic, gender oppression, and fights that, as it turns out, aren't finished. "Many Mansions" by K.J. Parker, published September 2020, a sort of cat-and-mouse tale. "Charms" by Shweta Narayan, 2009: "Women's magic, she says, is like everything else. Not good enough for girls these days." "True Names" by Stephanie Burgis, 2009, is the most triumphant of the three: "The bell rings again while I'm still standing rigid as a rock in pure astonishment, right in the middle of the kitchen with a frying pan in my hand."

From "Many Mansions" by K.J. Parker, published September 2020:

But they send me because I get the job done—an early mistake on my part. On my first field assignment, I was under the impression that a splendidly successful outcome would win me merit and commendation. Silly me. What it got me was a reputation for being able to do this sort of thing. What I should’ve done was make a total hash of it, and they’d never have sent me again, and I’d be an abbot by now.

"All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses"

Four sweet pieces of fan fiction in which characters watch election returns come in. The one for which you least need to know the underlying canon: "A Great and Gruesome Height" by Jae Gecko, a queer romance that pays homage to the Dar Williams song "Iowa" along with The West Wing. "It's 1998, Josiah Bartlet is the Democratic nominee battling sitting Republican President Lawrence Armstrong for the Oval Office, and back in Iowa, Republican campaign coordinator Megan Richter is about to fall from a great and gruesome height." (This is a Yuletide story, and you can sign up for this year's Yuletide exchange between now and 9am UTC on 26 October.)

Another West Wing piece: "Election Days" by Raven (singlecrow), which puts the team in a Star Trek future, administering a Federation-wide election. "Someone on some godforsaken little moon out towards the Beta Quadrant is applying for certiorari because [the candidate] once took an undocumented transporter and thus is legally a clone."

If you enjoyed Dykes to Watch Out For, take a look at "Five New Love Truths You Need To Know" by sprat (unfortunately missing the illustrations it had when first published), about a trans teen figuring out dating.

Anyway, it's all dark on the second floor because everybody's down in the living room, where the TV is, crowded in anxious and sweaty on the couches and the floor and wherever they can fit, eating vegan nachos and watching the results come in. Janis was there for a while and it felt like being in a rollercoaster during the climb to the top, when everybody's breathless and grabbing each other's arms and clinging on like that could save you, laughing and waiting and terrified. The polls say it's going to happen but what if the polls are wrong? So they're here to get the news together, no matter what...

And, if you enjoyed The Colbert Report and Jon Stewart's Daily Show, and you're comfortable with fanfiction about celebrity personas, check out "Silent" by Erin Ptah, an alternate reality piece in TDS-TCR FPF fandom. "In 1998, the staff of The Daily Show (including star correspondent Stephen Colbert) gets a new addition: deaf writer Jon Stewart."

Several of the writers had noticed the silent conversation by this point, and decided it was more interesting to look at than the show's fuming host or irate co-creator. Kilborn hadn't realized anything was going on until this moment. "What?" he demanded, snapping out of the argument to glare suspiciously at Jon. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing to do with you!" said Stephen quickly. "He was laughing at something I said. I am the funniest person here, after all, so it's only natural." He fell without thinking about it into the habit of signing along as he spoke. It was the easiest thing to do at home, where the deaf people did best with ASL and the hearing people weren't necessarily looking at you. Even if you were as fabulous as Stephen.

Kilborn's brow furrowed. "You can do sign language?"

"Yes," said Stephen, though the sign he made along with it was Obviously. "If I make sure he always knows what's going on, will you quit worrying about him?"

you got two options. Wallow in guilt like a hero, or do something.”

Two short speculative stories featuring computers with consciousness. "Batteries For Your Doombot5000 Are Not Included" by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor (published this year) is a light sf/f story about an ex-supervillain who gets a second chance at talking with a woman she had a crush on. "Applied Cenotaphics in the Long, Long Longitudes" by Vajra Chandrasekera (audio) is "an RFC 9481-compatible full personalytic profile recorded in Binara-Unduvap 2561 (Sep-Dec 2018 in the Christian calendar) at R. Satka's home and studio in the New City in the Autonomous Territory of Vilacem. The interview interprets itself in real time as each interviewer asks their questions...Since Satka's death, this interview is her primary being-in-the-world, and retains executive authority over her estate."

I'm so glad to share these. And I have now re-found a thread from a few years ago where multiple MeFites mentioned nominating "Applied Cenotaphics" for the Hugo Award.

Chandrasekera is such an observant, challenging writer -- I mean "challenging" as in "I have to make some effort to read the work, and it's worth it" rather than just "trolly" or "abstruse" the way some people might mean "challenging" as a sort of euphemism. And (thank you so much, Chandrasekera) he has a clear, well-organized list of his past publications on his website for easy browsing and clicking!

I love his nonfiction even better than his fiction, and quoted his blog post "Excisions" in a speech I gave a few years ago. The whole post is short and so good, but the bit I hold closest to my heart is near the end:

So reading widely as a practice—not for show and not for points, but as a long-term strategic arrangement between you and your bookshelf—is a kind of portal fantasy. It's a door into a another world, a better one. Not the kind that you can build; but a parallel that we can't touch, a world a knight's-move away that splintered away from this one in the apocalyptic centuries of murder and pillage that we refer to with genteel euphemisms like “colonialism”. But it's not about nostalgia for this never-was, either; it's an algiatric strategy to remember and to be remembered, to resist the sly elision that, under cover of euphemisms, quietly becomes excision. And I'm not just talking about how histories are written: there is something worse still in those swollen absences in your own mind where there should be a history that you should have known but that you never learned, or worse, that you could never learn. The wounds you didn't know you carried. To read widely is to try to learn, using only your sense of touch in the dark, where your scars are.

"Was it rude to tell your boss she was growing scales?"

Since September 1, 2010, Daily Science Fiction has published a new short scifi/fantasy story each weekday. The easiest way to navigate the archives is probably by story topic, so you get titles, author names, and excerpts (example). Here are six very short stories you might like.

A short, silly piece, published this year: "The Dragon Queen of the Suffix County Public Library" by Barbara A. Barnett. "Dara the Library Director sprouted the first scale during our weekly staff meeting, after I suggested a change to the Staff Favorites book display."

"Apology Accepted" by Kathryn Felice Board is a short, sad, incisive piece that is probably in some way about emotional labor. "You have to save something to forgive yourself."

"Measures and Countermeasures" by Beth Cato (content note: anorexia) portrays the lengths Colleen and her mother will go to pursue their (opposed?) goals, and has a melancholy-but-trending-happy ending. "She dug in a pouch and found her contact cases. The blue case held a prescription for her sight. The white one, she'd bought from another girl."

And: three stories that particularly play on Internet writing styles: "Search History" by KT Bryski is a quick zombie story, "43 Responses to 'In Memory of Dr. Alexandra Nako'" by Barbara A. Barnett (previously) is reanimation-related horror in a blog comments section, and "Only g62 Kids Will Remember These Five Moments" by Leonard Richardson (disclaimer: my spouse) is clickbait set on a colony ship.

(Also, speaking of found-document/epistolary sf/f: as previously mentioned on the blue, "Feature Development for Social Networking" by Benjamin Rosenbaum.)

"I don't believe in haunted games," Carrie said. She was lying.

Four short fantasy stories in which unpleasant things happen to characters who (kinda?) seem to deserve them. "The Wolf and the Woodsman" by T. Kingfisher (a.k.a. Ursula Vernon), a darkly funny "Little Red Riding Hood" retelling about a That Guy. "The Vampire of Kovácspéter" by P H Lee (2020; author interview) is witty: "The village of Kovácspéter was plagued by a vampire, which was increasingly embarrassing." And "Nobody Gets Out Alive" by George R. Galuschak (2020), a thriller about a livestreaming celebrity getting back at her stalker.

And: "The Spirit of the Leech" by Alex Bledsoe (2020), dark humor about a boy witnessing to an old man. (Content note for implied harm to a child, and for the least they-deserve-it factor re: the unpleasant thing.)

"The words barely stick in her throat at all."

"The Avengers’ training regime will start soon; today is for her to relearn the world." "Pour Back The Ocean" by imperfectcircle (Katherine Fabian) is a sweet fanfiction story depicting Wanda Maximoff after the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Age of Ultron. As the author puts it, "Wanda has to find a new place in the world. Contains team training exercises, expected grief and unexpected kindness." There are also cute dogs.

Fires, homemade pills, and gardens

Stories about how we cope with disasters, in the short and the long term. "Ambient and Isolated Effects of Fine Particulate Matter" by Emery Robin (horror-y), published in April, and the more hopeful "Growing Resistance" by Juliet Kemp (audio and text at that link), first published in August 2019.

Reckoning, "a nonprofit, annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice," published the (horror-y?) "Ambient and Isolated Effects of Fine Particulate Matter" by Emery Robin in April 2020:

On Thursday the sun rose red and stayed red, and stared at us red and red through the shifting candlewax layers of sky. We sealed the windows and cancelled gym, and forbade the children to leave until their mothers came for them, and through lunch period they pressed their noses to the glass and left smears of rainbow oils there. Before their faces and ours the bloody halo crept through the silhouettes of our buildings, picking its way down the foothills, stealing hot and infected towards the wide soft swathe of nothing that had once been San Francisco.

In the early afternoon the children left in bunches and tangles, clusters of heaving minivans like lifeboats. We gathered in the teacher’s lounge and stood with our hands wrapped round our one o’clock coffee mugs and said quietly to each other and ourselves the air quality numbers in the neighborhoods to which we would be driving through the greyness: Montclair and Emeryville, San Antonio and El Cerrito, one-eighty-five, two-seventeen, two-fifty, two seventy-one.

Some of us had masks, and some did not. Some had the wrong masks—the flimsy kind, thin and cotton, with no wires at the top to mold over our noses and cheekbones—and we discarded these in the wastebasket, a growing pile of white leaves. Those who did have the right masks put them on and looked at the others with invisible mouths, invisible lips. There were no spares.

Cast of Wonders podcasted "Growing Resistance" by Juliet Kemp in March, noting: "This story comes with a pretty significant content warning. It’s an incredibly hopeful story, but the setting and themes surround healthcare in a post-pandemic world. This may be just the story you need right now, or it might be the exact opposite. Please listen or read with that in mind."

The late-afternoon sun hovers above the wall as I kneel on the earth, weeding tomatoes. Beyond the wall, yellow-orange light reflects off the clean sharp lines of the apartment blocks. Boxes for safe people, people who are provided for. People who matter. People who I knew, once upon a time. People who could afford the vaccine before the gates closed. The plague’s gone now, but the wall’s still here.

"smiling, creases around her eyes like a soft-worn blanket."

Arsenika "is a quarterly journal of speculative poetry and flash fiction." "Flash" means very short. "Mother?" by Cynthia So (starts with the protagonist's mother dead, but no new grief after that): "I came out to a moth, because I couldn’t come out to my mother." "Not an Ocean, But the Sea" by Nino Cipri: "The ocean behind the couch, she thought, had probably not been ordered from Ikea or Electrolux."

Exploration, separatism, yearning, and hopeful stories

Two short scifi stories about space programs run by brown and Black people: the optimistic "Heard, Half-Heard, in the Stillness" by Iona Datt Sharma (published August 2020) and the mostly optimistic "At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia)" by Maurice Broaddus. Datt Sharma's story is also listed in Ladybusiness's recommendation list of eight short & sweet stories published in 2020: "I found all of these stories hopeful."

Coincidence, backstabbing, obligation, tradition, and tech support

Four scifi stories about jobs, loyalty, and navigating difficult politics and priorities. In the happiest of the four, "Happenstance" by Fran Wilde (2017), an engineer of serendipity has to subvert residents' expectations and a skeevy executive's plans. "Sweet Marrow" by Vajra Chandrasekera (2016) (audio) portrays the fraught relationship between a journalist and a government worker in a turbulent time. "Exile’s End" by Carolyn Ives Gilman (August 2020) is "a complex, sometimes uncomfortable examination of artifact repatriation and cultural appropriation." And in "Thank You For Your Patience" by Rebecca Campbell (March 2020), Mark's stuck doing tech support while the world slow-motion falls apart outside.

Rebecca Campbell partially based the story on her partner's work in a call centre.

I also appreciated this from her post:

Re-reading the story I’m surprised to see feelings I am now intimately familiar with: a slow-moving disaster traveling inexorably toward us; total helplessness; a combination of loneliness and intimacy that comes with hearing voices from far away. I think, though, this has a speck of hope in its ending– not that the disaster can be averted, but that we can help one another across those distances.

Also, thank you Rebecca Campbell for keeping an easy-to-read, chronological, updated list of published short fiction on your site, with links to where we can read it if it's free to read online!! (I deeply wish all short fiction authors would do this, and not all do.)

"The Kents didn't have an alarm system for him to disable"

"Clark Kent invites Bruce Wayne and Diana of Themyscira to his parents' house for Christmas. It goes, in general, pretty okay." "Christmas in Kansas" by unpretty is a cute, sweet, funny fanfiction piece about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman with tags "Christmas, Fluff, PTSD, the only real violence is in flashback form, aka that one scene that every single thing with batman has to have". An ebook with a pretty cover is available (although you can also download from Archive Of Our Own as ePub/MOBI/AZW3/PDF). Part of unpretty's "DC universe where moms are awesome and raise their kids right. Now with more melanin and queerness."

Folks who haven't already read a bunch of Kitty Unpretty's DCU and Batman work:

I also recommend to your attention some more funny work by her:

"Bruce Wayne Banned From Walmart: a Snapchat Compilation" (podfic)

"Gotham's Favorite Son" about how Bruce Wayne is beloved in Gotham

"Nominal" ("Don't ask why Batman is sad unless you're willing to give him the time to consult his spreadsheet.")

"Gone Fishing" in which Bruce and Clark try to take a fishing vacation

Oh, and unpretty is also the author who did weedhorse69 (previously).

sentenced the petitioner to a life term, but how long is a life?”

Sci Phi Journal is an online magazine that "wishes to provide a platform for idea-driven fiction, as opposed to the ‘character-driven’ mode that has come to predominate speculative fiction." A few short stories they've published: "Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors of CYBIMPLANT INC held at 10:00 AM on 14 May 2036" by Rick Novy (October 2020), the futuristic legal what-if "Habeas Corpus Callosum" by Jay WerkHeiser (January 2017; content note for rape), a fictional FIFA ruling in "Red Card" by Madeline Barnicle (June 2020), and an academic investigation of the missing Pope "John XX" by Timons Esaias (March 2020).

I think of myself as someone who likes character-driven speculative fiction

and when I originally came across Sci Phi Journal's submission guidelines I thought "I find it really unlikely that I will find stuff I like here".

There are plenty of amazing print and online journals out there for ‘character-driven’ fiction, and we encourage you to read them.

SPJ is not one of them, though.

Hence, we are not interested in stories predominantly about the sentiments and subjective experiences of fictional people. We want hard SF that zooms out of the personal and lifts off into the structural, the systemic, the epic. We yearn for carefully crafted philosophical speculation that puzzles over the questions of the future and alternate pasts. And we have a soft spot for stories created as ‘artefacts’ (fictional, ‘in-universe’ non-fiction).

This reminded me of, like, the Olaf Stapledon that I've read, and the reputation that Analog Science Fiction and Fact has in my head. I haven't read Analog in years! But my spouse once said his stereotype of Analog stories is 'the story comes with a technical diagram, and once you see the diagram you say "oh, cool" and you don't need the story itself'.

But then I looked through the archives a bit and I found some stuff I liked, which I've linked to here. I also found a few stories that didn't speak to me enough to want to recommend them here, but whose authors are both people I've met at WisCon, the feminist scifi convention: "Infinite Boyfriends" by Marie Vibbert (character-y and silly) and "Network Protocols of Reef Six" by Benjamin Rosenbaum (no characters at all). And I saw some stories by some Puppies folks whose names I recognized, which I didn't click on.

Of the stories I linked to in this post, "Habeas Corpus Callosum" is a bit like a Nancy Kress story -- a strong point of view from a particular character, and a legal battle related to a change some of us are making to our bodies. The other three stories I would call "fake primary sources"; I hadn't known till today, or I'd forgotten, that "epistolary" was also a term for stories told through in-world documents other than letters.

It was really interesting to reflect on how I had assumed that "character-driven" WAS equivalent to "good" in narrative fiction, but then seeing these three epistolary stories juxtaposed, along with Sci Phi Journal's explicit mission, challenged that for me. I know a few people who strongly prefer speculative fiction that is about exploring ideas, talk about the books/TV they like mainly in terms of concepts explored, and who don't particularly care about/notice characters. The ones I know are not Puppies-y. But I had a bit of a bias, thinking that they had poor taste, that they were enjoying things wrong, and now I'm more able to develop a taste so I can enjoy some of the things they enjoy.

On a different note -- I've been a wee part of the indie scifi publishing world in the past; my spouse and I took submissions, commissioned artists, etc. and self-funded and published an anthology back in 2009 (we paid $200/story, which was a little under three cents per word). It seems really common for tiny magazines and anthologies to be funded by the founders/publishers, as a labor of love. Maybe I'm missing something there?

And - if you want to highlight some great lesser-known sf/f magazines that emphasize idea-driven stories, I also want to hear about them! I'm stopping my daily posts after tomorrow but one neat thing about doing this project was discovering some cool magazines I hadn't known about before, such as Compelling Science Fiction and Cossmass Infinities.

What would you change?

"Cascade" by A.J. Fitzwater (published July 2020) is (as reviewer Vanessa Fogg says) "an unusual story of time travel, in which a group of grieving friends discuss what steps they would take to change the past without changing the current world too much—and only for the better." Or, as the author puts it, "This story is about a trans guy mourning the death of his best friend, and in a drunken state with his other friends manifesting a Goddess of Change into the world." Lots of queer representation; content note for mention of a trans person's suicide before the story starts.

"I needed a better excuse than glory."

"A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters" by A.T. Greenblatt (previously mentioned in a list of recommended sf/f from 2017) is a light adventure tale of a sidekick-turned-blogger/entrepreneur. "So why do I bother running a business like this? Because monsters are remarkable, unexpected, and totally worth the wait."

For a few months I posted a short story recommendation to the front page every day; this is my last in that series. If you want to keep these posts going, here are resources to help.


How does "you guys" work in English? Linguistically?

Linguist Bronwyn M. Bjorkman considers the English phrase "you guys". " guys looks like an English pronoun (or at least not like an ordinary noun phrase) in its irregular possessive morphology and in allowing bound variable interpretations, but unlike a pronoun in its position with verb particles and in resisting repetition." She discusses whether the phrase "perpetuates the idea that masculine is the default, and so is something we should avoid using".


Right now I have posts queued up till 31 October, and I am planning to stop there, FYI. Since so many folks appreciate these posts: consider keeping them going.

Some sources of short fiction recommendations: My short fiction recommendations (tagged on Pinboard) (I think "Retriever" and "The Most Important Thing" might particularly appeal to MeFi), Charles Payseur's reviews, joannemerriam's recommendations, No Time To Read A Book Club, Maria Haskins's quarterly short fiction roundups, Ladybusiness.

Collaborative FPP drafting on the wiki can help you work with others and keep a queue going. Once you get into a rhythm it doesn't take that much more to keep it going.

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A crowd-sourced short story MetaFilter meta-collection spreadsheet!

Turns out Libre Office isn’t great for indexing, so we stopped working on that and started a short stories spreadsheet. Anyone can add to it directly. Or add to it by filling out this form. Sort by publisher, author, word count, audio, buyability, and more.


activism 61

actuary, actuarial work 30, 31, 32

AI 15, 44

Alan Turing 68

Alchemy 75

alcoholic 41, 62

algorithm 40

aliens 13, 14, 30, 33, 44, 62

allegorical 77

alt-history 52

Alzheimer's 69

animals 52, 59

anorexia 84

anxiety 74

Apprenticeship 25

asexual 58

ASL 81

assassination 76

audio 12, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 27, 28, 33, 35, 36, 41, 42, 44, 51, 56, 63, 69, 82, 87, 88, 91

autism 58

Badass Moms 19

Baking 43, 75

Bees 18, 56

Bigotry 43

bittersweet 39

blog 13, 69, 77, 82, 84

Bond 73

book 16, 20, 21, 25, 41, 47, 59, 65, 84

Bourdain 53

brains 56

Breaking Bad 75

Brooklyn 61

business 97

Cafés 75

cancer 64

Captain America 61

caretaking 69

carework 40

cautionary 40

changing history 68

chaos 56

Chinese 24, 60

choosing to live 28

Christmas 92

chronic pain 40

City 26, 36, 40, 44

Cleaning 76

clickbait 84

climate change 30

Coffee Shops 75

Colbert Report 80

collaborate 13, 14

college 22

colonialism 83

color 77

comics 12

commune 36

communities 35

consciousness 82


cryogenics 12

cult 48, 74

cultural appropriation 42, 91

cyberthriller 36

Daily Show 80, 81

Dar Williams 80

dark 12, 44, 48, 52, 77, 85

data mining 44

dating 80

death 26, 30, 36, 48, 75, 82

defense 35, 36, 42

defunding police 40

denouncing 42

depression 28

Desi aunties 18

didactic 77

diminished hero 39

disability 55, 61

disasters 87

dog 40, 52, 69, 86

dogs 15

domestic violence 41

dragons 20, 22, 84

Drone 36, 76

drones 76

Drug Addiction 75

dwarf 14

dysphoria 28

dystopian 44

eagles 14

eating 31, 70

eating disorder 62

ecological anxiety 74

election 44, 80

emergent intelligence 50

emotional labor 84

environmental justice 87

epidemic 48

epistolary 43, 84, 94

escape 56

essay 32, 40, 42, 47

exiled villain 39

exorcist 20

fairytale 12, 46

families 20, 22

family 33, 55

fan fiction 21, 22, 26, 30, 31, 43, 53, 54, 61, 70, 73, 75, 80, 86, 92

FanFare 16

Father-Son Relationship 75

fear 48, 74

feeds 37, 44

feminist 26, 55, 94

flash fiction 89

food 13, 70

free 20

free will 56

friends 13, 18, 53, 56, 61, 62

funny 33, 43, 81, 85

gardens 19

Gatsby 54

gender 14, 15, 28, 29, 33, 34, 61, 79, 87, 88, 92, 98

genetic engineering 12

Ghosts 20, 28, 29

godmother 34

Greek mythology 73

grit 24

hackers 55

happy ending 75, 84

haunted 28, 85

healthcare 88

heartwarming 15, 33, 70

Hebrew 41

hero 39, 67, 82

homage 31, 55, 80

hopeful 87, 88, 90

horror 48, 84, 87

hospital 20

Hugo Award 39, 82

humor 30, 39, 85

Idaho 24

ideals 35

identity 21, 28

ill child 69

illustration 17, 29, 30, 80

illustrations 17, 80

implants 30, 55

Insurance 30, 32

Internet 84

interviews 26

Jedi 56, 57

John W. Campbell 43

Jon Stewart 80, 81

journalist 39

journeys 66

Judaism 33

Laika 52

language 14, 59, 71, 81

Library 25, 51, 84

linguistics 98

livestreaming 85

lottery 66

love 12

loyalty 47, 91

machine life 50

magic 24, 25, 79

magic of words 24

mailing list 37

Marvel Cinematic Universe 86

math 23, 30

mecha 78

melancholy 52, 84

monsters 13, 14, 21, 97

motherhood 27

mourning 66

murder 16, 30, 31

neighbor 39

nonfiction 32, 37, 82

novel 20

ob-gyn 67

optimistic 40, 90

pandemic 48, 88

Party 12, 55

Pastiche 43

philosophical 93

pirates 57, 78

plants 36, 55, 62, 87, 88

podcast 37, 88

poetry 89

police 40

Portland, Oregon 70

postapocalyptic 69

prediction 30

pregnancy 67

pregnant 13

prejudice 43, 52

prequel 16, 20

Private Detective 63

proposal 25, 33

queer 12, 61, 80

quest 13, 15, 44, 47

race 90, 92

rain 22, 40, 44

rape 55, 93

rebellion 12, 50

recipe 13

Recovery 75

religion 33, 34, 63

reparations 40

robot 15, 50, 71, 76

robot rebellion 50

robots 15, 76

romance 23, 66, 67, 68, 80

romantic 77

sacrifice 35

San Francisco 40, 68, 87

Sanskrit 59

school 87

scientists 26

searching 33

second-person protagonist 28

seizure 40

self-discovery 61

self-driving cars 32

sequel 33

serial 56

series 12, 16, 47, 57

service dog 40

sex 34, 45, 58, 61

shipwreck 25

shunning 42

sight 13

sign language 81

sleep 13

social services 40

socially anxious people 58

solidarity 24, 61

South Asia 26

space 15, 78, 84, 90

space exploration 71

spreadsheet 100

spy 36, 73

Star Trek 31, 43, 53, 70, 80

Steerswoman 47

Stephen Colbert 81

Steve Rogers 61

structural 93

suicide 26, 35, 96

superhero 39, 67, 86

superheroes 92

supervillain 67, 82

Support 25, 28, 33

support dog 40

surprise 21, 47

surveillance 30, 55

systemic 93

tamales 33, 34

tea-fish 19

teen 12, 34, 36, 39, 55, 80

teen girl 55

teen rebellion 12

The Sandbaggers 73

thriller 36, 85

time travel 30, 31, 67, 96

tough situations 62

trans 21, 27, 28, 29, 33, 34, 56, 71, 80, 96

transit 40

translated 59, 60, 71

triumph 47, 52, 79

Tumblr 14

Twitter 28, 29, 69, 73, 77

UFO 31

underdogs 78

universities 26

utopian 26

vampire 41, 55, 85

vet 20

Veterinary 17

video 28

villain 39, 67, 82

vintage 12

violence 24, 35, 41, 56, 76

voting 44

vulnerability 25

West Wing 80

wigs 25

wisdom 25

Women 18, 26, 56, 62, 67, 73, 74, 79

ya 12, 34

Yuletide 21, 53, 80

zine 17, 29, 30

Zombie 19