To be honest, when we first saw the title of Triple’s Blog, by Todd Outcalt, we blanched. We didn’t want stories about blogs, but we gave it a chance, and we’re sure glad we did. There’s something about a post-apocalyptic story focusing on the power of words that made us fall in love. It’s not trying to be a cautionary tale about the evils of texting and Youtube comments, although you could read it that way. Instead, it’s a love letter to language, to the way it makes us move and feel.
It’s hard to create a new fantasy world without needing to put in long descriptions and explanations to hold it all together (GRRM, we’re looking at you). One of the reasons that we picked Miye’s In as one of the best stories of 2013 is because the author, Joanna Maciejewska, manages to weave a new world with strange concepts, creatures, and even language into the story without needing to explain anything.
Novelty is always welcome, so we were particularly excited to see Blood or Black Tears, by Jennifer Loring, appear in our submissions pile. Even though horror stories have covered just about every kind of monster, malevolent being, and creepy crawly, it’s still fairly rare to see a story about the South American legend of La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman. But that’s not all there is to like about this tale.
We picked The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, by Ahimsa Kerp because we have a thing for long titles. That’s it, really.
Okay, that’s not true. We love this story because it’s just the right dose of steampunk wonderment mixed with a vivid and believable description of a real time in human history. It’s also a coming of age tale that beautifully illustrates the moment when we learn that the world is not as simple, or as just, as we previously believed it to be.
When we held a special horror-themed fiction contest for the month of October, we really didn’t expect to get a story like Windows, by Ben Pienaar. Instead of being haunted by traditional things, like ghosts, vampires, ghouls, and J.J. Abrams’ remakes of the Star Trek franchise, the protagonist is haunted by paradise. Imagine finding the most blissful place, your own personal wonderland full of peace and happiness, but knowing that it actually contains your doom.
Whether it’s for work, recreation, or filling out tax forms, everybody has wished for more time. In the story Time to Sell, author J. Rohr brings this desire to life. He turns an abstract concept into a real commodity, and then shows us the lives of people who are constantly chasing after that one extra moment. Like the real world — where time is money instead of … well, time — people scramble for every last shred they can get, and hurt each other in the process.
The last time we talked about The Thrashed Wheat of Yellowed October, by Jacqueline Kharouf, we said this: “We like a story that requires something of the reader, that doesn’t lay all its cards down face-up. This story is a beautiful tale about lies and desires, family and foes that wraps around on itself nicely.” These words still hold true, so it’s no surprise that this story is popping up in our revisit of the best stories of last year.
We immediately liked Memory Book, by Sean Monaghan, because it was a good dieselpunk adventure that felt fresh and interesting, but the high stakes weren’t just physical. It was the emotional one that really stood out to us.
It’s hard to pull off a good reveal without making the story cheesy, which is why Losses Beyond the Kill Point, by Marilyn K. Martin, was so impressive. Also, it packs such an emotional punch that we could almost cry. I mean, not that we cried. Anyone who ever says that a story has made us cry is a blatant liar. Because we never cry. But if there was a story that would make us cry, this might be it.
But of course we didn’t.