Hello fellow readers, bloggers and book dragons!
I’ve read a lot of short stories these past nine months and I have been thinking of sharing a few of my favourites. So when I saw this week’s prompt for Top Ten Tuesday, Favourite Novellas/Short Stories, I decided to participate at once.
We bookish people often read a lot of books but neglect the shorter works like short stories or novelettes. But not only can short stories be fun to read, they can also fill in the boring gaps between longer books, and help introduce us to new favourite writers in a relatively short period. Here are ten of my favourite diverse SFF short stories that you can read for free in online magazines. (Just click on the story titles).
By diverse here I mean stories with characters that are POC, disabled, older, LGBT, and non-human or AI protagonists. I could go on and on with this list but decided to go with ten(ish), in keeping with the meme.
For this list, I chose stories that I really love and would like to reread once I’ve forgotten all about them, which means I had to skip a few like N.K. Jemisin’s “Playing nice with God’s Bowling Ball.”
Quite a few of these stories are fantasy, some are sci-fi, and a couple are a mix of both:
The Tomato Thief, by Ursula Vernon
Angel of the Blockade, by Alex Wells
The Secret Life of Bots, by Suzanne Palmer
Another space story, featuring cute tiny bots working in a human spaceship, helping and rescuing each other and saving the day. Love this!
The Starship and the Temple Cat, by Yoon Haa Lee
Fandom for Robots, by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
House of Aunts, by Zen Cho
It features Malaysian vampires/undead ghouls (including the aunts), school-age protagonists, and the internal conflict of boy crush vs family love. Zen Cho also wrote Sorcerer to the Crown. And I’m thinking of reading her short story collection Spirits Abroad.
The Story of Kao Yu, by Peter S. Beagle
A rural Chinese setting, featuring a Unicorn, an ageing judge, and a lady thief. This fairytale-like short story arises from Beagle’s fascination with “Asian legendry,” and is imitative of the ancient storytelling style.
An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village, by Richard Parks
A father-daughter pair and their snake-devil friend Mei Lin have to solve a mystery of a mad magistrate while travelling through ancient China. There is magic, music, curses, and a trickster. This is actually the third Mei Lin story after “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil” and “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts,” but I read it first.
A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight, by Xia Jia
A Chinese ghost story with certain sci-fi elements. It is reminiscent of the hundred ghosts’ parade in Natsume’s Book of Friends, or Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Xia Jia’s stories always have a bittersweet ending. Additionally, see her “Tongtong Summer“, a contemporary sci-fi she wrote in memory of her grandfather.
St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls, by Angela Slatter
Angela Slatter is an expert at retelling fairy-tales, she always subverts them in unexpected ways, often gives them a feminist bend, before finally reshaping them into her own original tales. Really you can pick any of her stories you can find and be pleasantly surprised, though it’s difficult to find them outside her published collections. I chose this one as it is a reprint from The Bitterwood Bible, with pen-and-ink illustrations by artist Kathleen Jennings. It won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story.