As these things go, I am–predictably–starting 2013 by reviewing a few short fiction pieces I should have read in 2012 but didn’t. Inspired by a few best-of lists published in December that featured short stories, I wanted to talk about three short pieces I’ve read recently: The Kairos Mechanism by Kate Milford; Scorched Supper on New Niger by Suzy McKee Charnas; and A Silly Love Story by Nicole Cipri.  

One of my favorite discoveries of 2012 was author Kate Milford. Her awesome books The Boneshaker and its loosely connected prequel The Broken Lands showcase a fantastic blend of Americana/folklore and fantasy. The Kairos Mechanism is a self-published novella (funded via Kickstarter) and takes place a few months after the events of The Boneshaker, bridging that book and what’s to come in the series. Kairos features delightfully spirited and brave protagonist Natalie Minks, as she finds her crossroads town of Arcane in trouble one more time. Two young visitors–carrying a body from a war that ended a long time ago–arrive on the scene to stir up some trouble. The American Civil War, folklore and even time travel combine in this lovely novella. Natalie is slowly becoming a favorite YA character not only because of her resourcefulness and dedication to her town but also because of her relationship with her best friend Miranda–another girl with wholly different interests, but who’s just as competent and determined as Natalie. I loved seeing the pair bonding–by playing baseball–over how the “boys” are starting to act strange around them. One last word: although supposedly a teaser and stand-alone short story, I think readers who already know the world and the characters will probably enjoy the novella much more (trust me: just go ahead and read The Boneshaker).      

Scorched Supper on New Niger, a novella by Suzy McKee Charnas, is a story that was originally published in 1980 (in New Voices III) and reprinted now by a new digital publisher called SnackReads. This new venture aims to publish fun, bite-sized DRM-free ebooks that can be read in one go. Scorched Supper on New Niger was exactly that: a tasty morsel of a story, devoured over a lunch break. A space opera, Scorched Supper on New Niger follows pilot Dee Steinway as she attempts to save her valuable spaceship from the clutches of her ambitious brother-in-law. Dee finds succour at a colony of traders in a world run by empowered African women. Featuring a haughty talking cat, intrigue, revenge and a fantastically fun budding relationship between two powerful women against one common enemy, this is the push I needed to read more of Suzy McKee Charnas.

Finally, A Silly Love Story by Nicole Cipri was published on Daily Science Fiction–an online magazine of science fiction short stories to which you can subscribe via email and read a free sci-fi short story every weekday.  

This one is, well, a love story, featuring an incidental ghost and two young people–the bi-gendered Merion, and Jeremy–who are getting to know each other and falling in love. A Silly Love Story is actually not silly at all: It is sweet, lovely and empowering. Not to mention astute:

  

"Maybe it doesn't like words."
"Who doesn't like words?" Merion asks. Merion is proud of her vocabulary.
"You can't trust words. They have too many rules, and too many ways to break the rules."
Merion looks skeptical, but then shrugs. After all, the English language isn't particularly charitable to people like Merion, with its rigidly gendered pronouns.

I loved it.

There you have it, three great short SFF pieces and what’s more interesting: each of them published via very different routes.

Image from Nicole Cipri’s A Silly Love Story on Daily Science Fiction.