Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

18 Nov 2010, 18:36 p.m.

Four Short Story Recommendations

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

One thing I do while I should be hanging out with my mom, or sleeping, or writing, is read short science fiction and fantasy stories online. A few recommendations to close some tabs:

Jo Walton's "Relentlessly Mundane", 23 October 2000 in Strange Horizons. Just right in the way that Walton always does, realistic and inevitable and surprising all at once.

Jane hated going to Tharsia's apartment. It was hung about with tapestries and jangling crystal windchimes and a string of little silver unicorns, and it reminded her of Porphylia and everything she wanted to forget. If Tharsia had been able to get it right it wouldn't have been so irritating; it was just that little silver unicorns look so tacky when you've been used to the deep voices of real unicorns and great silver statues that speak and smile. Jane's own apartment was modern and spartan. Her mother approved of how clean it was but kept giving her houseplants and ornaments to, as she put it, "personalise the place." "You always look as if you're going to move out at any minute," she said. Jane threw them away. She didn't want personalised; she wanted functional and clean, in case she moved out at any minute. Eventually her mother gave up, as she had long since given up complaining about the huge belt-pouch Jane always kept on, and Jane's lack of a boyfriend since Mark, and her working out too much. Jane's apartment stayed bare and devoid of personality. The room she liked best was the shower, brightly lit and white-tiled with copious amounts of hot water flowing whenever Jane wanted it. She had missed showers most of all, in Porphylia.

She walked briskly up the three flights. Tharsia's apartment would irritate her, but she could deal with the irritation. At least walking up the stairs would be exercise, partly making up for the fact she'd missed her fencing lesson to come here today. She'd make the time up. She knocked. The bell, she knew from experience, rang a ghastly madrigal, a tinny parody of the tunes the minstrels used to play in the Great Hall. She couldn't understand how Tharsia could be content with this. Well, she wasn't content, of course.

"Hwang's Billion Brilliant Daughters", by Alice Sola Kim, November 2010 issue of Lightspeed. Haunting and sweet. Found via Julia Rios -- thanks, Julia!

When Hwang finds a time that he likes, he tries to stay awake. The longest he has ever stayed awake is three days....

Whenever Hwang goes to sleep, he jumps forward in time. This is a problem. This is not a problem that is going to solve itself....

And now two that I read aloud to my mother. "Little Brother™" by Bruce Holland Rogers, 30 October 2000 in Strange Horizons.

But then, while Mommy went to the kitchen to cook breakfast, Peter tried to show Little Brother™ how to build a very tall tower out of blocks. Little Brother™ wasn't interested in seeing a really tall tower. Every time Peter had a few blocks stacked up, Little Brother™ swatted the tower with his hand and laughed. Peter laughed, too, for the first time, and the second. But then he said, "Now watch this time. I'm going to make it really big."

But Little Brother™ didn't watch. The tower was only a few blocks tall when he knocked it down.

"No!" Peter said. He grabbed hold of Little Brother™'s arm. "Don't!"

Little Brother™'s face wrinkled. He was getting ready to cry.

Short but cutting.

And Cat Rambo's "Magnificent Pigs", 27 November 2006, in Strange Horizons.

Three years later, on a rainy September afternoon, my parents died in a car accident and I returned home to the farm to take care of Jilly. A few townfolk felt I shouldn't be allowed to raise her by myself, but when I hit twenty-one a year later, that magic number at which you apparently become an adult, they stopped fussing.

The insurance settlement provided enough to live on. It wasn't a lot, but I supplemented it by raising pigs and apples in the way my parents always had and taking them to Indianapolis. There the pigs were purchased by a plant that makes organic bacon, pork, and sausage, and the apples by a cider mill. I didn't mind the farm work. I'd get up in the morning, take care of things, and find myself a few hours in the afternoon to work in my barn-stall studio.

The Rambo story made me sniffle as I read it to Mom, and after the ending, Mom asked me to write a fan email to Rambo telling her how moving it was.


18 Nov 2010, 18:55 p.m.

I would have done the same thing if I'd been reading "Magnificent Pigs" aloud. Thanks. (Interesting that I missed the first mention of Aaron's name and read most of the story under the assumption that the protagonist was female.)