Short Fiction Appreciation by Rachel Swirsky

by on Nov 3, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Every year, there’s more great fiction published than gets recognized. This has been a particularly tumultuous year for short fiction published in 2014, and I’d like to mention a few great stories that didn’t appear on the Nebula or Hugo ballots. I reviewed some novellas from 2014 on my blog last year, so I’ll look at short stories and novelettes.

I can’t review everything I enjoyed last year, especially now that it’s been enough months for my memory of them to start degrading, but here are a few highlights.

Short stories:

Genevieve Valentine had an excellent year as she has had for the past several. In 2014, I particularly liked her short story “A Dweller in Amenty,” the story of a sin-eater. It appeared in Nightmare Magazine.

Maria Dahvana Headley wrote a disconcerting, beautiful story about talking circus animals and old Hollywood glamor in Uncanny Magazine’s first issue: “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White.”

Ken Liu’s “The Long Haul” does an excellent job working with a “gimmick,” telling the story of an embedded reporter taking a cross-oceanic trip on a zeppelin in an alternate history. Clarkesworld Magazine published that one.

There were also a lot of excellent stories in Asimov’s, including stories by Will McIntosh (“Scout”), Chris East (“Videoville”) and Sarah Pinsker (“The Transdimensional Horse Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province”). “Walking Awake” is a characteristically thought-provoking story by N. K. Jemisin in Lightspeed, and “A Cup of Salt Tears” is a fragile and beautiful debut by Isabel Yap.


Among Thorns” by Veronica Schanoes retells Sleeping Beauty in a historical Jewish setting. She’s done several of these, and they’re an impressive project, both as historical fiction and as folklore. They intermingle into something more as well. It was published at

K. Jemisin’s “Stone Hunger” at Clarkesworld Magazine is even better than her “Walking Awake.” It’s a high fantasy story about a girl who uses magic, seeking revenge after the destruction of her city. It showcases some of Jemisin’s most impressive talents, including her world-building skill, and her facility with creating moods.

Octavia Butler’s “A Necessary Being” is an unexpected gift for those of us who thought we’d already read all her work. It’s a tale of aliens, invoking her customary and deeply tangled themes about the struggle to cooperate when biological imperatives drive toward conflict.

Yoon Ha Lee’s “Bonedrake’s Penance” from Beneath Ceaseless Skies has turned out to be one of the stories I think on most from 2014. It has a pitch perfect, beautiful mix of science fiction and fantasy, using all sorts of creative and unexpected imagery. I would love to read more in this world.

More excellent pieces in Asimov’s, including by Aliette deBodard (“Memorials”), Derek Kunsken (“Schools of Clay”), and Emily Skaftun (“Diary of a Pod Person”). Cat Rambo also had a striking and disturbing piece at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, “Rappacini’s Crow,” which has one of the creepiest animal characters I’ve ever read.

In Sum:

I want to emphasize again that this isn’t a complete summary of everything I enjoyed in 2014. Even the stories here have gotten far too short shrift with my sentence or two, due to deadlines and time constraints. Still, I hope people enjoy the pieces I’ve managed to include. They’re worth a read.

Apex Magazine has had the privilege of publishing several of Rachel’s stories that our readership appreciated greatly. Including “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” “Decomposition,” and “All That Fairy Tale Crap.”

Check out the Apex Magazine subscription drive running through November 13th.

Visit Rachel Swirsky online at



  1. Short Story and Novelette Recommendations, 2014 | Rachel Swirsky - […] can read my post with links to stories by Octavia Butler, Aliette deBodard, Chris East, Maria Dahvana Headley, N.…

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