Although winter is the season most people feel ready to dig a hole in the ground and go into a healthy hibernation until spring, the world insists on speeding up until you realize the carousel of your daily routine has turned into a gravitron (and of course, the person next to you have no stomach for the ride). It’s been like that around these parts, but let’s get on to the short stories.
I’ve decided on changing the title for this column/feature/listicle to the Short Story Mixtape since I’m not publishing, only linking, and the stories themselves are eclectic. I will go back to change the previous titles, but nevertheless, wanted to make a note of this as I’m thinking on reprinting these articles on Medium. Anyway, let’s get on the short stories I’ve enjoyed on the Internet.
“Recordings of a More Personal Nature” by Bogi Takács: This story has been out there since 2013, but it’s only recently that I came across it and it’s certainly enjoyable. Takács employs a very gentle and straightforward style to bring to life a society which uses a magical version of the Internet* referred to as the Archive and asks the perilous question: What happens if the Archive can’t be accessed? It’s conceptually intriguing and also gets a slow clap for featuring numerous female characters in positions of power. Even to this day, I catch myself in gleeful surprise when I see gender imbalance in favor of women, which means we need more stories like this until such a disproportion doesn’t stick out.
“Simon Says” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: It’s inherently dangerous to use a very popular name of a game for your title, especially when it’s a childhood staple such as Simon Says**. That said, Hoffman has a talent to take a cultural reference and twist it into something dark and unsettling. The story deals with bizarre split personality disorder that gets more sinister by the line and the premise works really well with the short format. I had great fun reading this.
“Mrs. Yaga” by Michael Wojcik: Baba Yaga is the rock-star in Slavic Folklore. You’ll find her under many names and depending on the region, she’d vary from benevolent figure to the bloodthirsty, merciless cannibal I love. Wojcik has chosen to present a mellow Baba Yaga in a small Canadian town, who has adopted a girl*** and leads a very peaceful life, only sending her adoptive daughter’s suitors on impossible quests. The juxtaposition between the modern and the folkloric made me tingle, especially given Wojcik’s decision to have both occupy the same physical space as distinct territories. I only wish this story kept closer to the darkness rather than go the PG-13 route.
“Sexual Cannibalism” by Rahul Kanakia: I have a hard time introducing this story and that’s a good thing. Kanakia is seriously impressive in his literary approach in portraying the sexual journey of a boy into a mean alongside the sexual practices of the mantis, the latter of which bleeds into the plot to become the protagonist’s career. As the story progresses, more of the world emerges and it’s clear the story carries environmental science fiction themes. It’s a very slow, quiet and calculated story; much like the hunting technique of the mantis.
If you crave good short fiction, I highly recommend Angela Slatter’s collection “The Bitterwood Bible & Other Recountings”, which I recently reviewed for SF Signal. It’s a must-have on your shelf.
* The gross oversimplification is mind.
** Interestingly enough, I have played a version of this game as a child. It impresses me how easy it is for playground games to cross cultural borders with such ease.
*** Coincidentally, Baba Yaga does have a daughter in folklore, so this take on the original is an interesting choice considering the girl’s backstory.