#sfstoryoftheday 2021 yearend mixtape
Since I started #sfstoryoftheday on February 13, 2021, I have read and tweeted about 322 new-to-me speculative stories. I liked them all; I don’t share the stories I don’t like, I just keep reading until something clicks. Please know that if I shared a story of yours I thought it was great, and I’ll probably be looking out for more of your work. But I’m only human, and that means I can’t help having favourites.
This is not a best-of list. “Best” is inherently subjective, and I’m not interested in making value judgments regarding the relative quality of stories. This is a list of 13 stories I loved especially much, stories that I, personally, as one highly idiosyncratic individual reader with many personal biases and interests, found exceptionally memorable.
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1. “Tiny House Living” by Kristiana Willsey in Fantasy
I love a good mashup, and Willsey’s little story blends a folkloric vibe with modern Marie Kondo minimalism to stunning effect. Bleakly funny and emotionally hard-hitting, this is a truly unforgettable modern fairy tale.
2. “Honey and Mneme” by Marika Bailey in Apparition Lit
This story is the kind of vivid that sears itself onto the back of your eyelids as you dream about it after the reading is over. It’s a story you taste and smell, a story you read again as soon as you’ve come to the end.
3. “The Life & Death of Mia Fremont: An Interview with a Killer” by A. K. Hudson in Apex
I do not want to spoil anything about this story for those who have not yet read it, so all I will say is this: I gasped. I punched the air. My eyes filled with tears. I read it twice in a row. Sheer perfection.
4. “Bride, Knife, Flaming Horse” by M. L. Krishnan in Apparition Lit
Beautiful, vivid, and also incredibly sexy, this story left me both perfectly satisfied and longing for more, more, more! I wasn’t expecting the ending until it had nearly arrived, and when it came it was so satisfying and wonderful that I laughed out loud from sheer joy.
5. “A Lady of Ganymede, a Sparrow of Io” by Dafydd McKimm in Flash Fiction Online
This story is beautiful in the most shattering of ways. Its brevity holds a whole world, and its wrenching narrative is drenched in wonder. It is pretty like a confection, but its prettiness is like a shimmering ballgown thrown on to veil the cracks in a darkened heart.
6. “I Wear My Spiders In Remembrance Of Myself” by Kel Coleman in Apparition Lit
If you haven’t read this story, treat yourself! It made me tear up and smile, it made me feel such nervous tension and at last such relief at the generosity of its grace. I share every Coleman story I come across (“Cirque Mécanique” is another favourite) but “Spiders” is, for me, a special favourite.
7. “Bones In It” by Kristina Ten in Lightspeed
I struggled to decide between this story and another wonderful Ten piece, “Tend to Me”, but “Bones In It” won by virtue of bringing me back for one more read. There’s something so captivating about stories that find such wonder—and such satisfyingly gristly grisliness—in mundane environments.
8. “A Compilation of Accounts Concerning the Distal Brook Flood” by Thomas Ha in Metaphorosis
I’ve loved every Thomas Ha story I’ve read (shoutout to gorgeous “Horangi” and heartrending “Where You Left Me” for making me have feelings). But this was the one I kept coming back to, the one that made me think “Oh, this is something a story can do?!” Not just a this-year favourite story for me, but an all-time favourite too.
9. “We, The Girls Who Did Not Make It” by E. A. Petricone in Nightmare
I will confess to having only read this story once, but I have thought about it so many times since then. I had to try several times before I could read it all the way through, because the first few sentences made me feel like I’d been punched in the stomach. This is, I think, one of the most unforgettably effective stories I have ever read in my life.
10. “Eating Bitterness” by Hannah Yang in The Dark
This is one of those perfect stories that blend the particular with the universal. Though it may be based on a term and concept specific to Chinese culture, and knowing this may heighten the effect and visceral impact, I cannot think of any woman I’ve met who would not understand and feel this story on an intensely personal level.
11. “Oceans 6” by Elsa Sjunneson in Mermaids Monthly
Pure fun with a steely core, a gleeful heist replete with solidarity and satisfaction. This is a lovely charmer full of romance and enticing sensory detail, and it made me feel wonderfully happy.
12. “Of Claw and Bone” by Suzan Palumbo in The Dark
I could have chosen any Suzan Palumbo story as one of the year’s top stories for me. There’s a very particular thread of dark magnificence that runs through all of the Palumbo stories I have read, and it’s a thread that tugs on a lot of my heart’s most personal responses to art.
13. “Reach for Your Ocean Heart” by C. M. Fields in Metaphorosis
This story is so, so beautiful. Lush and lovely, romantic in the kind of way that plays the heartstrings like a particularly fine fiddle, this is a work of boundless imagination and it’s truly a pleasure to read.
Bonus track: “The Last Exorcist” by Danny Lore in PodCastle
This was one of the last stories I read in 2021—on December 30, as part of my 13-day feature of fiction by members past and present of the incredible Hugo Award-winning FIYAH team—and I haven’t had time to read it again or to feel it lingering in my memory for months. But the thing is, I know I will. This is the kind of story that sticks in your heart and your mind and makes you feel rage and fear and shame and hope, the kind of story that makes you think “maybe people can change the world in meaningful ways,” and—and this part is crucial—an absolutely fantastic story on every level.
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13 14 treasures weren’t the only stories I loved this year. On another day, I’d probably write a different list. But these are the stories I’m thinking about right now, and these are most certainly stories I love enough to want to share again. I hope you’ll give them a read, and, maybe, let their authors know that you loved them too.