short story

This is one of the Wyrd & Wonder prompts.

Time to celebrate shorter reads – what are your favorite fantasy zines, anthologies, individual short stories, novelettes, or novellas?

I like short stories and novellas. It was difficult to choose just five but here goes.

1, Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Demon

The first story in the Penric & Desdemona fantasy series. Penric is the younger son of a minor lord. He wants to study but the family can’t afford it. He’s studious, curious, generous, and kind. When the family finds him a marriage match with the daughter of a cheese merchant, he agrees to it and while he doesn’t love his bride, he can easily imagine that he will in time. However, on the way to the betrothal party, he meets a group of people: a couple of servants and an old woman clearly in distress. He offers to help the woman and receives more than he ever imagines: a demon.

In this world, demons are intelligent creatures but they don’t have bodies. Instead, they have to take over another body, animal or human. They’re also not evil but have, of course, very different experiences from any human which means that humans don’t necessarily understand them or their reactions. Also, if the host has a weak will, the demon can take over completely. Penric has no knowledge of demons or how to control them, so he has to learn it all from scratch. But he’s curious and willing to learn. This particular demon is about 200 years old but her most recent hosts have been Temple sorceresses, so she knows not to try to wrestle for control.

Penric and his demon are a delightful pair. I’ve enjoyed the series a lot.

2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The Scottish Play

Porchia is one of three sisters and three witches. Their family tree of witches can be traced back to several centuries, only their methods have changed. Her job is to get rid of curses and other magic in theaters. Because acting, and writing, can produce magic, they can also produce curses so she and her two sisters are in high demand. However, something goes terribly wrong in the Lancaster theater where their mother is working on a curse and is killed.

3, Phyllis Irene Radford and Laura Anne Gilman, ed: The Shadow Conspiracy

In this short story collection, the short stories affect each other and the setting. In the first story the main character, Mary Shelley, (yes, she who wrote the Frankenstein) finds out about new science that she thinks is abdominal: it can transfer a human soul to another body. We get to see the consequences of this science in the other stories. Another scientific achievement is done by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace; they create machines in the shapes of men. The metal men become more and more common, and are programmed for more and more varied tasks.

Apparently, it’s now only available as an audiobook.

4, Nancy Jane Moore: A Mere Scutcheon

It’s set in a world similar to the Three Musketeers, except that a woman’s honor is the same as a man’s, and not between her legs. The Queen has her guardswomen and the King his guardsmen, and they are often dueling each other. The Queen gives Anna D’Gart a mission: to get back the Queen’s necklace before the ball where the Queen is expected to wear the necklace. Anna and her loyal friend Asamir set out to retrieve it. Asamir is aiming to become a nun but not before she has lots of intimate meetings with a married count.

5, JY Yang: Bridge of Crows

A hauntingly beautiful tale told in a format of a story inside a story. The unnamed narrator tells the tale of a young woman who is walking through a barren land on a desperate quest. From “The Mythic Dream” short story collection.

A fantasy short story based on the Pied Piper fairy tale.


Publication year: 2019

Publisher: Fiddlehead Press

Format: ebook

The Strigosa Conservatory is next to the city of Hamlin. The Conservatory is a cold, joyless place. Some night the Pipers play a magical song, the Calling, that draws all sorts of vermin from the city, including rats. But the song also calls for unwanted children. The kids who come to the Conservatory are tested for musical ability. Those who pass are taken in as students. It’s hard work and the Pipers are relentless teachers who never compliment the kids. Some of the kids who don’t have musical ability return to the city as servants. Others are never seen again.

Three years ago, Linnet and her younger sister walked past the gates, drawn to the magical Calling. Linnet was sure that they would both pass the test and be students together. So she worked hard to pass the test. But to her shock, her sister didn’t pass it and was sent away, as a servant.

The students of the Conservatory aren’t allowed to leave the grounds so Linnet hasn’t seen her sister in three years. She worked as hard as she could to learn to play the violin. She’s hoping that when she’s a Piper, she can leave and see her sister. Her Piper teacher finally says that Linnet is ready to start to learn the Calling, the magical song. Linnet is overjoyed but even playing the first sequence of the song physically hurts her.

Linnet is still young and very focused on seeing her sister again. The world is quite dark: the kids in the conservatory are beaten and are given barely enough to eat. There are also hints that some meet a darker fate. And yes, the story does have faeries.

Instead of just one Piper, the conservatory has many of them. They play violins, pipes, drums, and lutes. I loved the magical music theme. There aren’t enough stories with magical music in them.

A collection of 16 SF&F stories centering on derelict ships, either in space or at sea.


Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Zombies Need Brains

Format: ebook

Page count from GoodReads: 312

Most of the stories are SF and many have horror elements. Two stories have AI point-of-view characters. One is historical fantasy and two are set in fantasy worlds.

“Symbiote” by Kristine Smith: Shelly Conn’s luck has been bad for the last few weeks. When she and her crew go onboard an old laboratory spaceship, she’s hoping to get good salvage out of it. She gets far more than she bargained for.

“The Wreck of the Sarah Mohr” by D.B. Jackson: Set in 1767, this is a historical fantasy story. Ethan Kaille is a conjurer; he finds stolen or missing goods through magic. A merchant asks him to dispel the ghosts that are haunting his ship. Ethan finds a grimmer secret in the wreck.

“The Tempest in Space” by Griffin Ayaz Tyree: Faizal has finally found his sister among the stars and he’s trying help her.

“Playing Possum” by Andrija Popovic: Darryll is a salvager. He and his trained, wired possum find a derelict ship. He sends his possum in to see if it has anything good. But it isn’t abandoned.

“Standing Orders” by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller: The war is over and the humans won. However, in order to win, the human High Command had to build artificial intelligences to fight for them. The humans promised that after the war, the AIs would have a place in human society. The humans lied.

“Time, Yet” by Gerald Brandt: Senn Jal is a happy man: his lovely wife is pregnant with their first child. While that means more work for him at the farm, he couldn’t be happier. But then something falls from the sky and his world is shattered.

“Flight Plans Through the Dust of Dreams” by Kit Harding: Twenty years ago Rosie was a terrorist and her airship was shot down. Now, she’s trying to fix her old derelict ship. If only the curious and rebellious teenager doesn’t find out who Rosie really is…

“Saving Sallie Ruth” by Gini Koch writing as Anita Ensal: Sallie Ruth is a ghost spaceship, rumored to destroy all ships that encounter it. Now, Space Police’s prison ship sees the remains of an envoy and behind it the Sallie Ruth. The police have the duty to rescue anyone who might be inside.

“Methuselah” by Jacey Bedford: Renny is the captain of a small spaceship Staten Island. He and his crew need money badly. When they come across a derelict ship, they first think they have a great salvage in their hands.

“Celestial Object 143205” by Mark D. Jacobsen: After decades of serving in the US Space Force, Cooper commands his own ship. However, because of various construction delays, that ship won’t leave Earth’s orbit until after Cooper’s command is over. He’s more than a little resentful. But suddenly he has a chance for a deep-space rescue mission, with a barely-finished ship and just one crew member. Of course, Cooper agrees to it. But is he prepared for the isolation of long-time space travel?

“Mercy for the Lost” by Jana Paniccia: young Monkey is a captive crew member of the pirate ship the Outcast. When they find a derelict mage ship, Monkey almost hopes she will die with it. Instead, she gets a chance.

“When the Star Fell and the Levee Broke” by Alex Bledsoe: A big storm washes away Travis’ levee. A strange metal object is left in the mud. At first, Travis thinks it’s a satellite. But it’s far stranger.

“Derelict of Duty” by Chaz Brenchley: The point-of-view character of this story is an AI who was constructed as a weapon in a war. But they have escaped and are now on the run. When they hear about an old vessel, possibly an alien vessel, they can’t resist but investigate.

“Two Ruins Make a Beginning” by R.Z. Held: Alexandrine is a ghost, bound to a murderous ruin spirit. Alexandrine’s purpose is to prevent the spirit from hurting anyone. When Alexandrine and the spirit go to a beach, they see the wreck of a ship. The ship has also a ruin spirit which is holding four people hostage. Can Alexandrine help them without losing her soothing connection to ”her” spirit?

“Orpheus” by Jack Campbell: The Daedalus is the second crewed mission to Saturn. One of their tasks is to find the three crew members who were left behind during the first mission. The bodies, if there are any, are Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. However, their lander malfunctions so they must use the previous mission’s lander, the Orpheus, to set down on Titan and see if there’s anything left of the three astronauts.

“Decay in Five Stages” by Julie E. Czerneda: A prequel story to her In the Company of others. Aaron Raner is an old engineer working on Thromberg station. When the humans realize that the seemingly innocuous alien Quill brings contamination, Aaron’s spacefaring friends are some of the first victims. Aaron is left with their baby and he needs to get the baby out of the station.

This is an enjoyable collection, even if many of the stories have horror elements and some are otherwise depressing. It was very interesting to see just how many different kinds of stories the writers got from salvage operations on derelict spaceships.

A collection of short stories all centering on getting justice. A word of warning: many of these stories have domestic abuse, child abuse, and other crimes to which our society often turns a blind eye to.


Publication year: 2018

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Format: ebook

Page count from Amazon: 288

“The Ball Breaker’s Summer Club” by Valerie Brook: Felicia and Ruby want to be private detectives when they grow up. So they start a justice club, going around town and seeing what they can do to help. Then they witness a real crime.

“Grace” by Michael Kowal: Set during the US prohibition. John Devin is a PI, yet he’s smuggling three young girls to Mexico. And a man who deserves to die.

“Pariah” by Louisa Swann: Rosa May has done what she must to survive and so she’s not a welcome person in the small town of Bohie. But when her only friend is killed and she knows there won’t be justice, she must act.

“Spoils” by Eric Kent Edstrom: Vince in a suspended cop. When his brother Shawn sends him a mysterious text, the first communication after eight years, Vince has no choice but to meet him. Shawn is shot before Vince’s eyes and Vince must find out why.

“The Night Takes You” by Leslie Claire Walker: The main character was the victim of horrific abuse in the foster care system. Now, he decides to get evidence to bring his tormentor to justice.

“My Honor to Kill You” by Dan C. Duval: The main character’s father sends him to kill his sister. The sister has disobeyed their very religious father and left their home in Afghanistan. Now she lives in America.

“A Pearl into Darkness” by Lisa Silverthorne: Set in a little Yazidi village in 2014 when the jihadists started to slaughter the villagers. The main character survives, but her little sister was captured and the rest of her family killed. She’s determined to get her sister back.

“Mercy Find Me” by Diana Deverell: Winnie Yates has been in prison for twenty years, for a crime that her cellmate suffered only for four years. Now, there is a chance that she can finally go free. If she can say the right things.

“Best Served…Salted” by Lauryn Christopher: It’s 1964 and Jessie is the first in her family to go to a university. In Colombus, she lives in a boarding house that is divided between the young men and the young women. But when the boarding housekeeper must cut expenses and let the maid go, the youngsters must do their own share of the chores. Except that soon the women realize that they’ve been duped into doing the men’s chores, as well. Of course, the women want justice.

“Domus Justice” by Michèle Laframboise: Aemilia is a house slave in Faustus Livius Tullius’ house. When two golden armbands are stolen and evidence points to Aemilia, she must use her knowledge of the household to prove herself innocent.

“Uncle Philbert” by Dory Crowe: Pat’s mom lives with old, crabby uncle Philbert and also cares for him as a hospice nurse. When Philbert dies, Pat and her mom don’t know where they will end up.

“Bone” by T. Thorne Coyle: Bone is a young boy growing up in a poor family. One day he sees a man near a murder scene but he doesn’t have any evidence to bring against the man. But the crime doesn’t give him peace and eventually, he must do something for justice.

“A Vulture Waits” by Rob Vagle: Guillermo has finally found the man who killed his father. Or has he?

“The Supporters in Panama City” by Brigid Collins: Miranda is a devoted fan of soccer player Marcus. She’s over the moon when she hears that a rich businessman has formed a soccer team in her hometown and hired Marcus to play. But something fishy is going on…

“The Darks of Their Eyes” by Robert T. Jeschonek: Max lives in Johnstown. He’s a business analyst and has a girlfriend. Then he starts getting threatening letters. In 1923, the then-mayor of Johnstown decided to run all the black people out of the town.

The stories in this collection are mostly pretty dark and deal with crimes that aren’t easy to get justice to. Only one story is more humorous ”Best Served… Salted” and it was my favorite.

The stories are very personal, even when dealing with a horrific theme such as genocide. Many of them deal with topics that are important to bring to light, but they aren’t easy to read. A couple of them are set in the past but most have a modern-day feel. I don’t think any of them have fantasy nor science fiction elements, which is the first time in a Fiction River collection.

Sawyer’s collected short stories with the theme of time.


Publication year: 2019

Publisher: SFWRITER.COM Inc

Format: ebook

Page count from GoodReads: 218

All of the thirteen short stories were commissioned for different collections including Future War, Men Writing Science Fiction as Women, Down These Dark Spaceways, Dark Destiny III: Children of Dracula, and Star Colonies.

Some are set in the future and a couple involves time travel. Some of them deal with time differences and how society has changed during that time.

Just Like Old Times: This story was originally written for Dinosaur Fantastic. It starts when Cohen’s mind is sent to the past, inside a Tyrannosaur Rex.

Immortality: The main character returns for her 60th class reunion. A lot has changed from 1963 to 2023. The main character must confront the biggest mistake she has done in her life.

If I’m here, Imagine Where They Sent My Luggage: a 250-word story that (again) has dinosaurs and time travel.

On the Surface: A homage to H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The Morlocks are using time machines.

Relativity: Cathy is one of the few humans who travels to another planet, to explore it. The journey takes seven years, from her perspective. But Earth, a lot more time has passed. Will she even recognize her husband and children?

Forever: Cholo is an astronomer in the Shizoo queendom. He wants to find an unknown planet so that everyone will remember his name forever. Instead, he notices a huge asteroid hurtling toward Earth.

Iterations: Erik knows that he lives in a computer simulation. That he himself is also a simulation. What really drives him crazy is the thought, the knowledge, that in other simulations versions of him are doing unspeakable things.

The Right’s Tough: This story first appears in Vision of Liberty where the world is a better place without governments. The main character lives in such a world. After being in hibernation for 250 years, a crew of the only off-solar system spaceship is returning home.

E-Mails from the Future: This story was written in 2008 for a collection that looked at business a decade down the road. Sawyer’s (imaginary) agent sends him emails. Through them, we can see how far more mercenary businesses will be.

Identity Theft: Alexander Lomax is a private detective in New Klondike, the only town on Mars. It’s small and under a dome. Most of the people who have come here are looking for fossils, but they’re rare, so very few people can get rich. Most just stay in the town hoping to find at least something or they simply don’t have the money to leave anymore. A missing husband should be easy to find, but the case turns out to be more complex than Lomax expected.

Biding Time: Set in the same setting as the previous story, this time Alex Lomax is trying to find out why someone killed an old woman who has just transferred her mind to an artificial body.

Peking Man: 130,000-year-old bones of Peking Man were discovered in 1927 near Beijing. During WWII they were supposed to be smuggled out of China and to the USA. But the remains disappeared. What really happened?

The Shoulders of Giants: 50 people have been in cryosleep for 1,200 years traveling to Tau Ceti and to the planet which is in the habitable zone. Now they’re close enough that they’re being revived so that they can finally see if the planet is habitable.

These were all entertaining reads. I like the two Marsian stories the best, but the two dinosaur stories were lots of fun, too. “Iterations” has also a fascinating idea.

The stories all have a strong central idea. Often, the main character is written in the first person and they aren’t too different from each other. The atmosphere of the stories varies a lot from a detective story to regret about things the MC has done in the past to an MC killing gleefully.

“Identity theft” was apparently expanded to a novel, “Red Planet Blues”, and I’m very curious to read it.

WMG Publishing is bringing us a Holiday Spectacular this year , too!

“Dean Wesley Smith here introducing Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the editor for this really fun yearly project. And wow, after this last year plus, we all need a bunch of fun.

Now, it is a huge understatement to say that Kris loves short fiction. There is no great secret about that, since she has written so many award-winning short stories and edited acclaimed short fiction magazines and anthologies.

Plus, I can attest firsthand that she loves holidays and anything sparkly and glittery. And just about any holiday meal and all the trappings.”

In this project, you get an original story every day from November 25th through January 1st.

I enjoyed last year’s Holiday calendar a lot and the year before that, and I’m sure this year’s short story calendar will be just as great.

It’s already funded and, as usual for WMG Publishing, the stretch goals are full of ebooks and pop-ups for writers. 9 more days to go.

Small independent press Zombies Need Brains has again a Kickstarter project to fund three new SFF short story collections: Noir, Shattering the Glass Slipper, and Brave New Worlds. It’s 70% funded and has 25 days to go.

Each collections has about fourteen stories. Half of them are by established writers and half from open submission call, if the Kickstarter is successful.

I’ve enjoyed their previous collections and these sound great, too.

The Pulphouse Fiction Magazine’s Subscription drive has about 35 hours to go.

Pulphouse Fiction Magazine is like no other magazine publishing today. It is not a genre magazine for starters. In fact, most of the stories tend to split genres or play with a genre like it is small rodent in the paws of a very large tom cat.”

It has funded and seven stretch goals have already been met, so backers will get five short story collections and issue zero, in addition to the pledge. Writers will get four new Pop-Up classes.

Another fun Kickstarter project is Sherlock Holmes: New Adventures in the Realms of H.G. Wells. It’s already funded and has 28 days to go.

The two volumes of short stories “feature traditional Sherlock Holmes stories blended with one or more tales from H.G. Wells”. However, in the pledges you can get previous Holmes in Wells’ worlds books.

I wrote this one for the Dereclit collection for Zombies Need Brains. It didn’t get in but I had lots of fun with it.


The people of Nottingham live in fear of their malevolent Sheriff. Only one man gives them hope: Robin Hood.

Wintering huts compromised. Supplies gone. The winter will be harsh for Robin and his friends.

But not as harsh as the Sheriff’s killers if they get their hands on Robin.

A deadly game of cat and mouse in frost covered Sherwood. Snow betrays every step.

Robin Hood versus the Hunters is a fast-paced medieval adventure short story.

Every story in the Tales of Sherwood series stands alone. Follow the adventures of Robin Hood, his wife Marian, his best friend Little John, the Norman outlaw Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, and all the other Merry Men in Sherwood.

I’ve just finished Covers 101 course by WMG Publishing. It was excellent!

I’m redesigning all my covers and the first one was the alternate reality short story A Long Way to Morning.

The cover image is by Galyna_P through Shutterstock.

I think the cover has Modesty Blaise -type vibe which is appropriate because MB comics inspired me to write it.

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