For a while now I've been highlighting a favorite story of each week through the literary journal I edit, storySouth. However, the focus of storySouth is on Southern literature, while many of the stories I wish to highlight are science fiction and fantasy. To avoid blowing the minds of readers who came looking for Southern Gothic or the next William Faulkner and instead found my recommendation for Ted Chiang's "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," from now on I'll make all my SF/F story picks here.
Like Ted Chiang's tale, today's story of the week is also from the magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, specifically the December 2007 issue. The story is "Finisterra" by David Moles, who blogs at the Chrononautic Log. If you just looked at the title of his blog and went "What the hell is a chrononautic?" then his story may not be up your alley. But if you are the type of person who is intrigued by a strange word and curious enough to delve further, then "Finisterra" is for you. The story follows one Bianca Nazario, an aeronautical engineer who wants to escape from the life she's trapped in but slowly realizes the cost of escape is not always worth paying. As Moles says of the story, "It’s a riff on an old theme--the skilled protagonist who's called on to travel to a strange locale to do a job that only that protagonist can do, and who ends up changed by the experience. 'Finisterra' would mostly make sense, I think, to any SF reader back to the Golden Age--apart from the setting, it would probably make sense to Joseph Conrad and Mark Twain."
I strongly recommend this story (in fact, this story convinced me to finally subscribe to F&SF, which I did today). I also want to echo a comment Moles made on his blog: "I think I’m going to start describing all SF I like as 'literary' ... if only because the term apparently gets up so many people's noses." Amen to that. "Finisterra" is literary in the best possible meaning of that word, and if that gets up some people's noses, that's only because those people haven't read great fiction in far too long.