My short story reading is scattershot at best, but I have come across some serious favorites over the last few years. When a friend asked for recs, I realized I didn’t have them easily to hand. So here’s a good start, and I’m sure I’ll add more later as they occur to me. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)
Any book on this list I loved at the time I read it, whether I had a chance to write a review or not. Obviously a re-read years later might reveal a problematic aspect I didn’t pick up on back then. Please let me know via my contact form if you find something yikes in a book I recommend.
Available To Buy Individually
I highly recommend this aromantic Chinese fairytale about two immortal beings – a dragon and a phoenix, passing as humans – who make their living at an opera house. Love to see representation of queerplatonic relationships, and Kan did a great job biting off just a small little bit of story and doing it justice.
Kan has written that it “explores the love that comes from a millennia-long companionship, as well as the love one can have for one’s passions.” That rings quite true after reading it.
“When an uncommon housekeeper meets an unconventional mage, both women’s lives are irrevocably changed. Ancient peril threatens from another world, but their bond could be the catalyst for deliverance.”
Wonderful fantasy short story with so much subtle worldbuilding, a truly scary magical threat, and the quiet beginnings of a sapphic romance.
I’m not sure how Green packed so much into such a small space but I’m impressed. Definitely worth reading!
Interesting and lovely historical paranormal novella set in Cornwall, about smugglers and magic, with a sapphic subplot and perfect hints of big worldbuilding behind it. The first thing I read by Datt Sharma, and I liked it so much that I immediately went to look up their other work. That ended up being a good decision.
“Magic, in common with all things, is passing from this world. In a coastal village in eighteenth-century Cornwall, Penhallow — an honourable smuggler par excellence — has more pressing problems. One of her boys has just been hauled up before the magistrates. A mysterious King’s messenger has arrived from London. Something nasty — and possibly magical — is afoot in the smugglers’ caves beneath water. And then there’s Trevelyan, the town’s austere, beautiful Revenue officer…”
Captivating short story from one of my fave short story authors (who is now a friend) about a gay man who enters a “haunted” house for the filming of a reality television show, and comes out… different. I don’t want to spoil anything as it’s quite short, but my two favorite things about this were (1) the use of language as much as behavior to cue the reader something is happening and (2) how the happy ending isn’t at all what I think most of us would expect, and all the more interesting for it.
A fantasy short story with HUGE worldbuilding and a stark look at the aftermath of teenage wizards fighting evil (i.e. child soldiers). Jack Swift, the main character, was one of those teenage wizards who overthrew an evil regime. Now someone in the new government – which isn’t as shiny as it was supposed to be – wants the surviving wizards dead.
Jack connects with Owen Finch, a young man who’s part of the resistance, and together they track down who’s at the center of the attacks. I loved Jack’s darkness, Owen’s light, and the struggle between them to do what’s right, when they both have different understandings about what that is. The magic system is fascinating.
A dystopian short story about an anonymous assassin who almost dies during a mission, the security video operator who secretly saves him, and the dramatic (in a good way) connection between them.
And that’s all I’m gonna tell you so I don’t spoil it! After reading it twice, I still don’t know how a short story was able to clobber me so hard. In my imagination, Genao was all “Do you want to feel a lot of things today?” and I was all “No, actually I’m kind of busy” and he was all “TOO BAD!” So beautifully, so elegantly constructed, and so human.
Read For Free
- A Guide for Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
- What Happens in Solarium Square 21 by Ashleigh Shears (I beta read this but it was already so good I felt superfluous)
- Two by Laurel Beckley: Love and War Aboard the Peregrine Zircon and Tell the Crows I’m Home (same comment as on Ashleigh’s)
- My other favorite of Laurel’s, Terrible Tilly Hunts the Cadborosaurus, is available in All Worlds Wayfarer, Issue X, which you can buy on Kindle.
“Sometimes a dragon just really wants to talk…”
This is a delightful little short, and Khanani writes good books, so being on her newsletter list is a win as well!
I was so sad when I finished this because that meant it was over. Stunning collection of paranormal short stories about queer men, some of them romances, some of them heartbreaking, all of them the perfect length for what Burgoine wanted to share.
“Outside a hospital in Ottawa, a heartbeat returns long enough for a good-bye. Downtown, a man steps into shadows of the past to help those who have died find their way free from their memories. In Niagara, an icewine vintage is flavored with the truth of what happened on a dark evening of betrayal. In British Columbia, the snow itself can speak to someone who knows how to listen.
The past echoes through these queer tales—sometimes soft enough to grant a second chance at love, and other times loud enough to damn a killer—never without leaving those who’ve heard it unchanged.”
I don’t know how one person invents this many distinct worlds and characters in their head. I’m in awe. So queer and so rooted in POC experience, too, a real treasure.
“A refugee arrives from elsewhere in time; a generation ship makes landfall; a vast galactic empire settles to the business of government. Tarot readers find hope in the cards; witches live through the aftermath of war; and Indian mothers think it’s high time you were married. Here are thirteen stories of love and queerness, hope and decolonisation, and the inevitability of change.”
“Nineteen sparkling stories that weave between the lands of the living and the lands of the dead. Spirits Abroad is an expanded edition of Zen Cho’s Crawford Award winning debut collection with nine added stories including Hugo Award winner ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again.’ A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.”
I didn’t discover Wasserstein’s writing until the announcement about her novella coming out in 2024, and having read this collection now I’m even more excited about it.
“In her debut collection, Izzy Wasserstein pries the lid off fourteen different worlds from an already impressive short fiction career. In these pages, you’ll meet ne’er-do-wells and orphans, investigators and revolutionaries, diplomats and doctoral students. Wasserstein has a gift for putting her finger on the meaty parts of grief, the catalysts of change, and the pain points of community.
This collection contains fourteen stories, two of which have never been seen before! Case of the Soane Museum Thefts unveils a crime of magical curation for its protagonist to puzzle over, while Blades, Stones, and the Weight of Centuries brings us the heir to an empire poised at the threshold of change.”
My Faves in Multi-Author Anthologies
In New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color: The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell and The Fine Print by Chinelo Onwualu
In Silk & Steel: A Queer Speculative Adventure Anthology: Margo Lai’s Guide for Duelling Unprepared by Alison Tam, Elinor Jones vs The Ruritanian Multiverse by Freya Marske, Chicago Iron by Chris Wolfgang, and In The Salt Crypts of Ghiarelle by Jennifer Mace
And that’s the list! I hope you found something new and wonderful to add to your TBR.