It’s time to discuss my favorites from another month’s worth of excellent short fiction! My favorites from February are all available to read online, and linked below. This month features a new Wild Cards mutant story, a twist on a familiar tale, and a story set after humans have destroyed the environment.
The Atonement Tango by Stephen Leigh (Novelette, Tor.com): This is the second story from the Wild Cards universe that has made it into my favorites. I don’t think prior reading is required to understand it, but I got the impression that the protagonist, a mutant ‘joker’ who is a living drumset, might be a recurring character. In this story, most of his band is killed in a terrorist attack, and he begins to quietly search for the perpetrator on his own. I was drawn into the emotional arc of the main character, and I felt the final scene was especially moving.
Out of the Woods by Marissa Lingen (Short Story, Beneath Ceasless Skies): This story is an interesting take on a kind of Robin Hood tale. The good king died in a war, and is not coming back. The band of outlaws now realize that no pardon is ever coming, and that there is no hope of the ‘rightful’ king reclaiming his throne. Is it time to surrender or to change tactics? I thought it was a really effective representation of the difference between opposing a person and opposing a system.
How Bees Fly by Simone Heller (Novelette, Clarkesworld): This one takes place after an environmental collapse, in a world that is mostly occupied by a new sentient race. They view the few remaining humans as monsters, and use leftover human technology by rote and with superstition. One of these newer sentient beings is trapped with a pregnant human couple during a storm. The story left a lot of questions to be answered, but I appreciated the core about confronting one’s own prejudices and being willing to understand new things.