I have written a list of favorites and least favorites novellas, and I will do the same for novels later. Today, I wanted to talk about my favorite short stories and novelettes, but I didn’t want to rank them – can you really rank them, anyway? – so this will be a list of short stories I recommend.
I Built This City For You by Cassandra Khaw
I Built This City For You is creepy and unapologetically weird, and just like everything Cassandra Khaw has ever written, it’s perfect to read out loud. It follows Anisa, a woman whose girlfriend has left recently. Now, Anisa is making a pact with a supernatural entity to get her back, but things do not go exactly as planned.
The focus on the city speaks to me on a personal level, and in this short story there’s some of the best writing I’ve ever seen.
The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo
Every short story in The Language of Thorns anthology is worth reading, even if you didn’t like Leigh Bardugo’s novels, but The Witch of Duva is my favorite out of all of them. It’s a dark, twisted fairytale about hunger, and a very loose retelling of Hansel and Gretel. It’s set in the Grishaverse, but you don’t have to read the novel to understand it.
The Battle of Candle Arc & Extracurricular Activities by Yoon Ha Lee
These two stories are set in the Ninefox Gambit universe, but you don’t need to read the novels to understand what is happening. Both stories follow Shuos Jedao and are set more than three hundred years before the first book. The Battle of Candle Arc is about a space battle inspired by the Battle of Noryang of 1598. Extracurricular Activities is a lighter read and it follows an undercover operation. These two stories made me fall in love with this space fantasy dystopia before I started Ninefox Gambit.
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong
I talked about this one in my The New Voices of Fantasy review. It’s amazing, and if you want to read about a (kind of?) creepy f/f/f love triangle with vampire-like creatures, this is perfect.
Death Knell by Victoria Schwab
This was the only short story worth reading in the Because You Love To Hate Me anthology, and it was worth all the mediocrity around it. It’s about Death, who wakes up at the bottom of a well. It’s eerie and atmospheric in the best way.
That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn
This one was lovely. It’s about the aftermath of a war, and the reunion of two people from opposite sides who met during it. It’s so hopeful, and I loved it because of that. Also, game/war metaphors.
The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars by Yoon Ha Lee
This one takes a different approach on the game/war metaphors. It’s about a game between the warden of games and a strategist who always wins, who wants to solve an unwinnable space war with this game. Here you’ll find magical math, reflections on the game of Go, and stunning writing.
Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang
Sad but hopeful, beautiful and gay, this novelette is about a space rebellion and a f/f love story. It’s space fantasy, and JY Yang’s writing doesn’t disappoint.
Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara
This is about a gay trans man who is bitten by a vampire, and it talks about the parallels between this transformation and transition. It’s really interesting, but it’s also violent, explicit and deals with dysphoria, so keep that in mind.
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
I read three stories by Alyssa Wong this year. Two I loved, one was mediocre. A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers is one of the two I loved. It talks about storm magic, sisterly bonds, death and time travel. The writing is beautiful, as usual.
Have you read any of these? What are your favorite short stories?