#JasonReadsShortStories for March 2018

One of my goals this year is to read and review a short story every day. And here we go with the second month of the year — 31 days in March, 31 short stories read and reviewed.

Below are the reviews for all 31 stories, arranged by author's name. Also listed are the publication and story classification.

If you like my reviews, consider supporting my Patreon.

March 2018 Reviews

"And Yet"
A. T. Greenblatt, Uncanny Magazine, Short Story
A theoretical physicist tries to determine if haunted houses are merely doorways to parallel versions of your life. A moving & emotional look at the choices we make. And I so love the story's opening line: "Only idiots go back to the haunted houses of their childhood. And yet."

"Because Reasons"
Alexandra Renwick, Asimov's Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2018, Short Story
Two future teenagers love historic punk rock but unfriend each other when one leaves to help settle Mars. A funny and insightful story about how cultural trends come and go but truth remains.

"baleen, baleen"
Alexandra Renwick, Interzone 274, Short Story
Zeke hates his life, but every time he almost drowns at sea the world changes. Maybe he can learn to change it for the better. A hypnotic story which dances like an ocean current.

"Four-Point Affective Calibration"
Bogi Takács, Lightspeed Magazine, Flash
An insightful story about how human conformity and neurotypical thoughts/emotions can hinder attempts to communicate with aliens. As the story shows, human communications are always tied in with emotions & cultural contexts. But humanity's neurodiversity also means there's a range of amazing ways to see, experience & communicate about our world. I wish more people understood that.

"A Priest of Vast and Distant Places"
Cassandra Khaw, Apex Magazine, Short Story
Airplanes are actually gods and you are their priest in this emotional tribute to the joys and pains of both home and travel.

"Five Tangibles and One"
D.A. Xiaolin Spires, Vice Motherboard, Short Story
A sexbot helping humans with marital counseling falls for a fellow bot. Or is their love merely a virus? A touching, insightful tale. And I absolutely love how @spireswriter created a world where bots are addicted to smoking kudzu leaves! This is a perfect example of how small, creative details in world building can make a story click into the deeper consciousness of readers.

"The No-One Girl and the Flower of the Farther Shore"
E. Lily Yu, Clarkesworld, Short Story
A girl abandoned by her village learns the truth known by the flowers of the farthest shore, which is that no one is ever truly alone.

"All the Time in the Sky"
H. L. Fullerton, Daily Science Fiction, Flash
The sun splits in two, as seen through the relationship of two people among the billions watching this cosmic mystery. A moving flash story about how every historic or cosmic change is witnessed and felt on a very personal level. Even if we don't understand why it happened.

"Your Damnation Will Be Infinite"
Hadeer Elsbai, The Dark, Short Story
A young woman in Cairo kills her abusive husband as part of a strange ceremony. But now she wonders about what she may have unleashed. A lush, darkly troubling story which presents no easy answers.

"Dragon Meat"
Helen French, Flash Fiction Online, Flash
When a family's dragon dies, the dragon's meat isn't to be wasted. A short, deep tale about the painful results when those we love are degraded by being a mere possession.

"Unplaces: An Atlas of Non-existence"
Izzy Wasserstein, Clarkesworld, Short Story
A woman hiding from a fascist militia writes her story in a book describing imaginary and lost places. This story is fascinating and well told, and a painful look at how any place or ideal can vanish — just as the America in the main character's time likewise becomes a dream which no longer exists.

"Braving the Morrow Candle’s Wane"
J.W. Alden, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
An old woman who lost her religious faith in the foolish wars of her youth has learned to believe in something far better — other people.

"Bury Me with Broken Love Light Bulbs, Bury Me in Shattered Glass"
Jack Westlake, Black Static 62, Short Story
A man addicted to alcohol becomes friends with a man addicted to eating glass. A disturbing and horrifying look at addiction and loneliness.

"Beautiful Quiet of the Roaring Freeway"
James Sallis, Interzone 274, Flash
What does the freedom of the road mean when only self-driving vehicles travel on the freeways? A short, lyrical look at our dreams of driving away.

“A Very Large Number of Moons”
Kai Stewart, Strange Horizons, Flash
A collector of moons shows how much of life is illuminated by moonlight. A touching, beautifully moonlit slice of flash fiction.

"Cosmic Spring"
Ken Liu, Lightspeed Magazine, Short Story
A sailor steers an island-ship through the heat death of the universe while trying to remember all that was. "Cosmic Spring" is a beautiful story of eternity, memory & spending time with friends as the universe ends. The sense of wonder in this story — wow. One of the year's best. And so many great lines like "It’s not home, but at least we don’t have to die alone."

"Tool-Using Mimics"
Kij Johnson, Clarkesworld, Short Story
The many different versions of the life of a girl with tentacles. In this story as in life, truth is a colorful, many limbed thing, just like an octopus. A beautiful, subtle story which moved me even as it flits beyond simple explanations or narratives. One of the best stories I've read this year.

The Mansion of Endless Rooms"
L. Chan, Syntax and Salt, Flash
A man carries his dead father to a mansion outside time, where his father's memories can live forever. a beautiful merger of truth & words, reaching deeper into sorrow and pain than stories a hundred times the length. A must read tale & one of the year's best.

Lilliam Rivera, Nightmare Magazine, Short Story
To stop a monster from feeding on people, families gift her food. But one starving girl hates being part of this. A moving, disturbing story on the horror of mistreating women.

"Domestic Violence"
Madeline Ashby, Slate, Short Story
An HR manager at a future workplace counsels a domestic violence victim to keep her performing like any good employee. Or is the manager really counseling herself? A subtle, eye-opening story which demonstrates how abusers can and will use technology to maintain control and hurt people. A must-read story of a troubling future.

"A Swim and a Crawl"
Marc Laidlaw, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Mar/Apr. 2018, Short Story
A man allows himself to be swept away to sea but eventually he swims back to shore and the cliff leading to safety. But what is that voice he hears? A disturbing little horror story.

"The Ghost In Angelica’s Room"
Maria Haskins, Flash Fiction Online, Flash
A young woman's ghostly father visits her every evening and asks how her day went. a painful scream of a story, begging us to remember that everyone lives alongside the ghosts of those who were as scared as we are. And that living can be far harder than dying.

"Never the Twain"
Michael Reid, Interzone 274, Short Story
A person living simultaneous lives in the present & far future faces the death of one self, even if their future half knows how to save them. A touching time paradox story.

"Child of Snow"
Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Daily Science Fiction, Short Story
A young man born of snow goes out into the world with his father, who aims to do him harm.

"In Event of Moon Disaster"
Rich Larson, Asimov's Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2018, Short Story
After a strange asteroid hits the moon, a 2-person spaceship finds person after person knocking on their airlock door. Echoes of "The Cold Equations" in this story.

“The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea”
Sara Saab, Shimmer, Short Story
A competitive eater travels endlessly by train along a coastal sea. A chillingly beautiful slipstream story of loneliness and the hunger which eating can never fill. And I love Saab's writing: "Loneliness is not the consistency of coal — it is not dry or porous or easy to palm. It is a fish, a thing of the ocean, slapping forever in the chest, eroding a space in the heart shaped like its own body."

"Do As I Do, Sing As I Sing"
Sarah Pinsker, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Novelette
A young cropsinger is determined to aid her village despite her brother's jealousy. I love Pinsker's storytelling as I fell in love with the main character & setting. And the story showcases how envy and anger are bad reasons to aim to change the world, even if they're behind so many of our world's technological advances.

"Occasionally in the Night, a Vague Craving Arose"
Sean Ennis, Tin House, Short Story
Benny the Therapist & everyone in an extended rehab decide candy helps them fight their addictions. A quirky, insightful look at how so much of life is addiction.

"Opium for Ezra"
T.R. Napper, Interzone 274, Short Story
The commander of a nearly indestructible tank has survived for 9 months on a devastated battlefield. Now he battles a new enemy along with reality. A powerful, gritty and painful SF war story, with a hell of a plot twist at the end.

"A Dog of Wu"
Ted Rabinowitz, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2018, Novelette
In a far future where families of genetic clones control Earth, a culler searches for those who have gone against the pre-ordained way. An excellent story, mixing Brave New World w modern ideas.

"Traces of Us"
Vanessa Fogg, GigaNotoSaurus, Short Story
A beautiful, touching science fiction story of two people embracing each other across eternity. This is me crying over this joyous song of a love story.


Retreat to the Springs writers’ workshop, Oct. 26 to 28, 2018

This fall I'm teaching at the Retreat to the Springs, a roaming writers’ workshop previously held in Capon Springs WV, and Steamboat Springs CO. The next one will be in Yellow Springs, Ohio, at the John Bryan Community Center from October 26 to 28, 2018.

My fellow teachers will be authors Ann Hagedorn, Donna MacMeans, and Valerie Coleman. I'll specifically focus on strategies and tactics for successful short fiction writing while also giving optional one-on-one manuscript critiques. Even though I mainly write science fiction and fantasy stories, I'll cover all genres of short fiction along with tips and insight on getting your short fiction published.

The cost for the workshop, which runs from Friday evening through Sunday morning, is $195.

I rarely teach writing workshops, so if you've ever wanted to know about my theories of fiction writing or receive feedback and critiques from me, this is your chance. And Yellow Springs totally rocks as a place for a writing workshop. Definitely one of the artsiest villages in the country.

More details and to register.>>

The Emotionless, in Love

My novella "The Emotionless, in Love" is out in the special science-fantasy issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The novella is a stand-alone sequel to my "Blood Grains Speak Through Memories," which was a finalist for the Nebula Award. But readers don't have to read "Blood Grains" first to enjoy this novella.

Many thanks to Scott H. Andrews for both accepting the novella and for his excellent edits. Also many thanks to everyone who read and loved "Blood Grains" and asked me to return to that world with a new story.

So far the novella is receiving great reviews.

Maria Haskins said:

"Wow. WOW. This novella by Jason Sanford is part of Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ science fantasy month, and it is an absolute stunner of a tale: dramatic, even brutal at times, but also an unlikely and unusual love story that showcases Sanford’s talent for world-building. It is set in the same world as Sanford’s 2016 story “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” (a finalist for the 2016 Nebula Awards in the novelette category), but you can read the new story as a stand-alone (then go back and read the first story, just because it’s so darn excellent). Sanford weaves an epic tale with fierce and memorable characters fighting to stay alive in a hostile world."

Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews said:

"In the end, the story for me thrives on the power of its characters and the strange and haunting beauty of its world. Colton is compelling but comes so much more alive with Ae and Mita and Sri Sa around him, teaching him in ways that he needs to be taught. It’s not always a happy story, or a traditionally pretty one. There are monsters and there is blood and there are wrongs done. For me, the story reveals a setting messy and real, full of agendas and the people caught between them. But it brings the characters to a place where they can move forward, where they can work at honoring the past and moving into a future where they don’t have to remake the same old mistakes. It’s a wonderful and complex novella that you should definitely check out!"

X Marks the Story at The Book Smugglers:

Being able to sink my teeth into a truly substantive fantasy offering at an online venue is fairly rare, and this story is a treat in terms of scale, scope, and setting. ... It’s a relentless read, tinged with darkness and blood, but also glowing with a hope that people can overcome their mistakes, and that the family you find for yourself can often end up meaning more than the one you were born into.

RocketStackRank called the novella "Hugo worthy and gave it 5 stars.

SF Magazines gave the novella 4 stars and added:

It is a gripping story. One for the ‘Best of the Year’ anthologies, and I will be interested to see how it does in the Nebula Awards.

And the novella is also receiving praise on Goodreads:

This story is one of the most original I have read in some time. The world-building is spectacular, the character development excellent and the story line itself is fascinating. A totally worthwhile read!

You can read the story online or purchase issue 246 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies for only $1.99 for the Kindle or through Weightless Books.

#JasonReadsShortStories for February 2018

One of my goals this year is to read and review a short story every day. And here we go with the second month of the year — 28 days in February, 28 short stories read and reviewed.

Below are the reviews for all 28 stories, arranged by author's name. Also listed are the publication and story classification.

For the January reviews, go here. And if you like my reviews, consider supporting my Patreon.

February 2018 Reviews

"Dances With Snoglafanians"
Aimee Ogden, Daily Science Fiction, Flash
Forget everything you know about the white savior narrative in film b/c this is how Avatar and Dances with Wolves should have gone. A funny and truth-telling satire.

"Granny Death & the Drag King of London"
AJ Fitzwater, GlitterShip, Short Story
Lacey mourns for Freddie Mercury and her life at the height of the AIDs epidemic while being recruited by a grandmother of death. An excellent story which made me want to read more tales about these characters.

"Ten and Ten"
Alan Dean Foster, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Short Story
A researcher tries to communicate with a Pacific cuttlefish but time is running out. A good "slice of life plus science" SF story.

"A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies"
Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine, Short Story
Because all true librarians are witches who help readers connect with the book they need most. I love this story!

"Birth of the Ant Rights Movement"
Annalee Newitz, Spectacle Magazine, Short Story
A historic examination of the mutual discovery by ants and humans that the other species is sentient and can communicate. A quirky, thought-provoking story.

The Goddess Has Many Faces"
Ashok K. Banker, Lightspeed, Short Story
An assassin aims to kill the leader of an all-female breakaway region of India. This is a disturbing and violent yet ultimately insightful story showcasing the lengths some people will go to stop women from challenging the world's status quo. But as always, the soul of a movement is hard to kill.

"Where the Anchor Lies"
Benjamin C. Kinney, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
An aged general treks to the graveyard of her former warship/lover while contemplating how politicians use the military to manipulate citizens.

Carolyn Ives Gilman, Clarkesworld, Novella
An exciting hard SF tale of colonists on an alien world with tons of sensawunda, danger, and insight. Once I started reading this story I couldn't put it down. "Umbernight" merges Golden Age SF excitement with modern sensibilities as this world's new generation of colonists pay for their parents' sins. Also a great look at the clash between the rationalists & dreamers in every society & how both are needed. Highly recommended.

"Where Would You Be Now?"
Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com, Short Story
It's the end of the world and a group of doctors sets up an armed outpost to treat people in a Mad Max style USA. What I particularly like about Vaughn's story is it covers issues many male-focused post-apocalyptic tales ignore, including how without modern medical care both child birth and high infant mortality will kill a great many people.

"The Quiet Like a Homecoming"
Cassandra Khaw, Lightspeed, Short Story
A cat wife travels to Scandinavia to revisit places seen before. Beautifully written and hypnotic. There are lines in @casskhaw's story which grabbed my mind and made me pause. "...the color is absolute as a rich man’s confidence." and "Animal wives are performative, performances, a menagerie of curated expression and long-lashed silences." Wow!

"A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting"
Charles Payseur, Flash Fiction Online, Flash
A bittersweet yet beautiful slice of life about a lumberjack who will do anything to keep his dream of life and love. I don't read many stories twice in one hour, but I did with this great flash fiction story.

"Endless City"
David Gerrold, Jan/Feb 2018 Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Novelette
A hard-boiled detective is hired to investigate a client's murder moments before it happens in this merging of cyberspace & reality, where performance is everything & nothing. This novelette is hypnotic and dazzling, with something to insult everyone in a world where privacy might be the only unobtainable dream.

"The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington"
Henderson Djèlí Clark, Fireside Fiction, Short Story
A moving story melding ghosts and magic and humanity into something far truer than either fantasy or history. "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" proves that Clark is a writer to both watch and read. I wouldn't be surprised if this story earns award nominations and reprints in various year's best anthologies.

"Early Morning Service"
Irette Y. Patterson, Strange Horizons, Short Story
An immortal church usher lives off the faith and love of her dwindling congregation. A sad, touching, yet ultimately hopeful story.

"Deep Down in the Cloud"
Julie Novakova, Clarkesworld, Short Story
A hard SF scuba diving hacker story (yes, you read that correctly). A fast paced, exciting story. I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of putting server farms underwater to protect against a large increase in solar activity, which would damage all our modern tech.

"Just Another Love Song"
Kat Howard, Robots Vs Fairies, Short Story
A busking banshee takes on a jerk of a bro-culture fairy who forces people to fall in love with him. A fun, sweet story.

"Fairyless Tales"
Kyle Kirrin, Daily Science Fiction, Flash
Funny and sacrilegious takes on fables, as if Monty Python channeled the spirits of the Brothers Grimm.

"On the Occasion of a Burial of Ernest Zach Ulrich"
Mary Kuryla, Strange Horizons, Short Story
A powerful, language-twisting story which is also disturbing as hell (be sure to read the content warnings). To sumarize the story is near impossible, except to say it involves a shape-changing bear, an abandoned girl, and a man who needs to pay the local tax collector. The story left me shuddering in despair by the end.

"El is a Spaceship Melody"
Maurice Broaddus, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Novelette
Forget space opera, this story is pure space jazz as the starship Arkestra and her captain discover the human spirit is as limitless as the cosmos. For optimum enjoyment of Maurice Broaddus' jazz creation, I suggest playing Sun Ra while reading this story.

"He Dies Where I Die"
Michael Harris Cohen, The Dark, Short Story
A zama zamas miner goes too deep in the illegal search for gold. A disturbingly excellent horror story of both claustrophobia & darkness.

“Mother of Invention”
Nnedi Okorafor, Slate.com, Short Story
An excellent science fiction story looking at the future of truly smart homes, and how technology doesn't stop people from still hurting other people.

Ogbewe Amadin, Fireside Fiction, Short Story
A young girl explores why her mother said all witches are evil instead of calling out the people actually doing wrong in their village.This appears to be one of the first published stories by Ogbewe Amadin. Definitely a writer I'll make a point of reading again, and I look forward to seeing more stories from him.

"A Coward's Death"
Rahul Kanakia, Lightspeed, Short Story
The emperor orders first sons into slavery, but one man objects. Is his objection moral or merely selfish? A disturbing philosophical tale about taking a stand. While I disagree with the theory behind the story and its ultimate outcome and theory, reading it still made me reflect on what it means to stand up for your beliefs.  

Rich Larson, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
A black cube dances human survivors across a devastated and destroyed Earth. This is Sci-Fi Strange at it's best, almost a dark-mirror reverse of Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"The Court Magician"
Sarah Pinsker, Lightspeed, Short Story
A young man learns the price of going from sleight of hand tricks to true magic. And the worst trick? That those in power never pay the same price. This story accomplishes more in 3000 words than many novel-length tales, and showcases how at its best fantasy can touch on deeper issues than much of what passes these days for "realistic" or "literary" mainstream fiction.

"Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor"
Sunny Moraine, Uncanny Magazine, Short Story
A young woman who is a living bomb represses her anger until she falls in love with another woman with explosive powers. The sparks literally fly in this story. And I love these lines: "She’s saying that fear is its own form of control and it’s immensely powerful. If you’re different—and they can tell, they can always tell—they’ll punish you for it."

"The Starship and the Temple Cat"
Yoon Ha Lee, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Short Story
The ghost of a temple cat and a sentient starship meet above the ruins of a dead city. A fun, witty story with lots of sensawunda. And SPACE CATS!

Eligible for Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer