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Favorite short stories of 2022

Friends, there was so much good stuff published this year. I know I say that every year. Happily for me, it’s true every year. I feel 100% confident that there is at least one story published in 2022 that I will love but haven’t read yet. YAY. (And that’s just other people’s work! If you’re looking for my own work, it’s here.) Two seemingly opposite things that make me happy: there are a lot of my buddies on this list, and I love to see my friends doing well. (Selfishly, I particularly love to see them doing well at things I personally enjoy. I mean, go ahead and do well at things I don’t enjoy, too, love you, wish you all joy. But really.) But also it makes me really happy that there are a lot of new names on this list every year. People I’ve never read before. People who might be colleagues and friends in years to come, or might just have said something that was meaningful to me this one time and gone on to do other things in their lives. I love that there are so many voices out there to discover. Best thing as a writer. Best thing as a reader. High fives all around.

“The Voice of a Thousand Years,” Fawaz Al-Matrouk (F&SF May/June)

Lily, the Immortal, Kylie Lee Baker (Uncanny)

Surprise, Tom Barlow (Reckoning)

“Just Deserts,” A. M. Barrie (Fiyah Issue 23)

The Part You Throw Away, Elizabeth Bear (Sunday Morning Transport)

Fertile Week, Leah Bobet (Reckoning: Our Beautiful Reward)

Sunday in the Park With Hank, Leah Bobet (The Deadlands)

Tyrni, Laura Adrienne Brady (Reckoning)

This Is I, KT Bryski (The Deadlands)

“Breathless in the Green,” Octavia Cade (F&SF May/June)

Billable Hours for the Disputed Rights of the Chosen One, L. Chan (Wyngraf)

Elsewhere, Elsewhen, L. Chan (GigaNotoSaurus)

Thirteen Goes to the Festival, L Chan (The Deadlands)

“The Book of Unwritten Poems,” Curtis Chen (Sunday Morning Transport)

Miracle Babies, Roshani Chokshi (Strange Horizons)

If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You, John Chu (Uncanny)

“Whose Spaceship Is It Anyway?”, John Chu (Bridge to Elsewhere)

“Finding Ways,” Zig Zag Claybourne (Dreams for a Broken World)

“How to Make a Spell Jar,” EA Crawley (Xenocultivars: Stories of Queer Growth)

My Great-Grandmother’s House, Madalena Daleziou (The Deadlands)

“Cadence,” Charlotte Nicole Davis (Tasting Light)

Laser Squid Goes House Hunting, Douglas DiCicco (Escape Pod)

“The Blue House,” Dilman Dila (Africa Risen)

Troubling a Star, Andrew Dykstal (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“Solidity,” Greg Egan (Asimov’s Sep/Oct)

The Florida Project, Morayo Falayimu (Grist: Imagine 2200)

Embroidery of a Bird’s Heart, Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas (Strange Horizons)

A Record Of Our Meeting With the Grand Faerie Lord of Vast Space and Its Great Mysteries, Revised, A. T. Greenblatt (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

If We Make It Through This Alive, A. T. Greenblatt (Slate)

Hello, this is Automatic Antigrief: what problem can I solve for you today?, Jenna Hanchey (Nature)

Murder By Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness, S.L. Huang (Clarkesworld)

Merry in Time, Kathleen Jennings (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“Give Me English,” Ai Jiang (F&SF May/June)

Calf Cleaving in the Benthic Black, Isabel J. Kim (Clarkesworld)

Clay, Isabel J. Kim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

The Dragon Project, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)

This Tree Is a Eulogy, Jordan Kurella (Strange Horizons)

Have Mercy, My Love, While We Wait for the Thaw, Iori Kusano (Apex)

ESCAPE! Auditions: Transcript for Contestant 35, Mur Lafferty (Sunday Morning Transport)

Rooted, Wen-yi Lee (Reckoning)

“Maker of Chains,” Sarah A. Macklin (F&SF Mar/Apr)

We Greet the Solstice, Avra Margariti (Haven Spec)

Advice from the Civil Temporal Defense League, Sandra McDonald (Lightspeed)

The Goldfish Man, Maureen McHugh (Uncanny)

Directions to the House of Unnumbered Stars, Devin Miller (Flash Fiction Online)

The Malachite Storm, Devin Miller (Strange Horizons)

A Partial Record of Enchanted Cheeses I’ve Fed My Wife, Devin Miller (PodCastle)

Two Beaches, Devin Miller (Haven Spec)

Rabbit Test, Samantha Mills (Uncanny)

Carcinisation, Ellie Milne-Brown (Reckoning)

All That Burns Unseen, Premee Mohamed (Slate)

“The Usual Way,” Lina Munroe (Fiyah Issue 23)

“Lady Rainbow,” Yvette Lisa Ndlovu (Africa Risen)

Footnotes From “Phosphates, Nitrates, and the Lake A Incident: A Review,” Mari Ness (Reckoning)

Move, Mountain, Move, Russell Nichols (Reckoning)

Witchbreaker, Leah Ning (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“Cumulative Ethical Guidelines for Midrange Interstellar Storytellers,” Malka Older (Bridge to Elsewhere)

The Locked Pod, Malka Older (Sunday Morning Transport)

The Other Side of Mictlan, Matthew Olivas (Uncanny)

On the Sunlit Side of Venus, Benjamin Parzybok (Apex) (SERIOUS DESPAIR AND SELF-HARM CONTENT WARNING)

Sword and Spore, Domenica Phetteplace (

“Now Is the Time for Expansion and Growth,” Sarah Pinsker (The Sunday Morning Transport, 3/20)

“Delivery,” C.L. Polk (Fiyah No. 21)

The Cheesemaker and the Undying King, Lina Rather (Lightspeed)

Babang Luksa, Nicasio Andres Reed (Reckoning)

A Holdout in the Northern California Designated Wildcraft Zone, T.K. Rex (Grist: Imagine 2200)

He Stays Among the Commots, Christopher Rowe (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Arbitrium, Anjali Sachdeva (

Papa Legba Has Entered the Chat, DaVaun Sanders (Fireside)

Sheri, at This Very Moment, Bianca Sayan (Apex)

One More Fairy Tale, Carol Scheina (Cossmass Infinities)

Give This Letter to the Crows, Iona Datt Sharma (The Deadlands)

To Embody a Wildfire Starting, Iona Datt Sharma (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“My Family and Other Evolving Animals,” Shuang Chimu (New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction)

The Found Revelations of Revalor’s Last Oracle, Elsa Sjunneson (Sunday Morning Transport)

Water-logged Roots, Cislyn Smith (Reckoning)

“The Aloe’s Bargain,” Julian Stuart (Xenocultivars: Stories of Queer Growth)

The Direction of Escape, Sonya Taaffe (Not One of Us)

The House Snakes, Sonya Taaffe (Uncanny)

“A Dream of Electric Mothers,” Wole Talabi (Africa Risen)

Weaver Girl Dream, Lisabelle Tay (Uncanny)

“Team Building Exercise,” Valerie Valdes (Bridge to Elsewhere)

“Bumblebot,” Marie Vibbert (Analog Sep/Oct)

“Subscription Life,” Marie Vibbert (Dreams for a Broken World)

Onions, Grace Wagner (Reckoning)

A Local TV Weatherman Describes the Apocalypse, Marcus Whalbring (Strange Horizons)

The Coward Who Stole God’s Name, John Wiswell (Uncanny)

Demonic Invasion or Placebo Effect?, John Wiswell (Sunday Morning Transport)

DIY, John Wiswell (

Too Little, Too Little, Too Much, John Wiswell (Cossmass Infinities)

“The True Meaning of Father’s Day,” John Wiswell (F&SF May/June)

“Inheritance,” Hannah Yang (Analog Sep/Oct)

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Dragonfall, by L. R. Lam

Review copy provided by the publisher.

When people were talking about interstitial fantasy some years back, I used to joke that I liked both interstitial and stitial fantasy–both the stuff that blurs the boundaries and the stuff that’s dead center of its genre. This is in the latter category. It would be hard to come up with more of a fantasy novel fantasy novel than this one.

It has: a human thief whose community blames them for their family’s past, who wants to learn more (MORE MORE) magic and triumph over their expectations. It has: a dragon fallen from the world of dragons–or pushed–to save his people and bring them back into the world of humans. Mostly wearing a humanoid form. It has con jobs and plotting and corrupt people in power; it has moments of transformation both literal and metaphorical.

In short, if you’ve been saying to yourself, “but I would really like a classic fantasy novel but maybe with a little more openness to contemporary ideas of gender,” here you go, this is the thing, it is for you. I raced through it, having fun the whole way.

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Short stories I’ve enjoyed, last quarter 2022

The list for the whole year is coming soon.

Fertile Week, Leah Bobet (Reckoning: Our Beautiful Reward)

“Cadence,” Charlotte Nicole Davis (Tasting Light)

Laser Squid Goes House Hunting, Douglas DiCicco (Escape Pod)

“The Blue House,” Dilman Dila (Africa Risen)

Troubling a Star, Andrew Dykstal (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

The Florida Project, Morayo Falayimu (Grist: Imagine 2200)

Murder By Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness, S.L. Huang (Clarkesworld)

Calf Cleaving in the Benthic Black, Isabel J. Kim (Clarkesworld)

ESCAPE! Auditions: Transcript for Contestant 35, Mur Lafferty (Sunday Morning Transport)

Directions to the House of Unnumbered Stars, Devin Miller (Flash Fiction Online)

Rabbit Test, Samantha Mills (Uncanny)

“Lady Rainbow,” Yvette Lisa Ndlovu (Africa Risen)

The Other Side of Mictlan, Matthew Olivas (Uncanny)

A Holdout in the Northern California Designated Wildcraft Zone, T.K. Rex (Grist: Imagine 2200)

He Stays Among the Commots, Christopher Rowe (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

The Found Revelations of Revalor’s Last Oracle, Elsa Sjunneson (Sunday Morning Transport)

“A Dream of Electric Mothers,” Wole Talabi (Africa Risen)

A Local TV Weatherman Describes the Apocalypse, Marcus Whalbring (Strange Horizons)

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Taking stock: the writer version

Those of you who have known me for a long time know that Christmas Eve Day used to be my special holiday with my dad. We would go out for lunch and people-watch and maybe buy a last stocking stuffer or two (but maybe not). The important part was that we would spend time together talking over the year we’d had and the year to come. My dad talked to me about his work from the time I was in the late single digits, and took me seriously when I talked about mine, so he made space from very early on for me to talk about what I was hoping to do in my writing and what I thought I had done. And it was very cool and very useful, and I miss Dad but also I miss this.

I am really, really resistant to anyone acting as Substitute Dad. (No, more resistant than that. Seriously.) But as I said to T when I was talking about this earlier this season, “I don’t have special lunch with anybody else on Christmas Eve now…but I still have to eat lunch.” And that analogy is kind of where I am with the stock-taking part: I’m not going to have a special lunch with one other person to do this stuff, but it’s still really good for me from time to time to sit down and think about the big picture. From time to time.

Some friends were looking at doing prompts from year-end assessment projects, but when I looked at this, they were far more general life stuff than I wanted. I have no objection to taking stock of one’s life! Sometimes a great idea! But it’s not the same thing as looking at one’s creative work in specific. The two definitely inform each other, it’s just that the general-purpose “what travel plans do I have in 2023?” “who do I want to see more of in 2023?” questions feel like questions for a different time to me right now. Some of the cues for self-reflection and planning in a more general sense can be repurposed for a more focused one for creative work. But others just felt extraneous and beside the point.

This is all a work in progress. I’m not done with this yet, and some prompts worked better for me in this moment than others. But here’s what I ended up with, in case it helps anyone else. I found that it works better for me to be as concrete and as specific in my answers as possible and to limit myself to things that I can do, not things other people might do or reactions other people might have. Here you go:
What do I trust in my work
What am I proud of in this year’s work
Where do I want to be brave in next year’s work
Where will I draw energy for next year’s work
What will I love in next year’s work
One big dream for my work next year [this is one where it’s easy not to be concrete/specific, and useful to fight that urge]
What was fun this year
What kind of fun do I want to have next year
Best thing I discovered about my work
What I want to write (subcategories: poetry, nonfiction, fiction)
For each item on my project list: how do I feel about this project right now? What do I need in order to make progress on it? What do I need in order to make it feel really great?

I am sometimes extremely resistant to doing this. I have written two new short stories and two poems this week as acts of avoidance of doing this. That’s no bad thing: now I have four new things I’ve written that I had not written last week. More of this may happen before I’ve finished the prompt list. That’s okay. I’m patient, by which I mean I’m stubborn. And if this doesn’t work, I’ll try something different.

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Witch King, by Martha Wells

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is an entirely new fantasy setting by Wells, and Tor (her publisher) is quite rightly sounding the horns and banging the drums about it. Wells spent twenty years writing mostly fantasy before Murderbot came out, and now she’s right back in the game. This is also a stand-alone. (I can see several of your eyes lighting up with heart emojis from here.)

We’re not in an era where secondary world fantasy really has a mold that everyone else is doing, but this sure is not it. Its protagonist, Kai, whose name is sometimes modified for various informative reasons, is a demon who inhabits bodies that would otherwise decay and rot. Dead people. He pilots dead people around all the time. This is not a book that handles it in a gross way, but it’s sometimes emotionally important whether he’s switched bodies and so on. There are also another couple of types of magic users, and there is quite a lot of conflict among them, who gets to be in power over whom, what things it’s ethical for them to do to each other.

All that sounds fairly abstract, but in the book it’s handled very concretely: there are two timelines, one of which gets you the backstory of these characters and their relationships (both the political and the personal) and the other is–well, they’re both adventure plot, more or less, with a lot of “who are we going to overthrow today and who can we trust” mixed in. It’s not a book with a lot of interiority (a funny thing to say about a book whose protagonist is literally interior to several other people along the way…), but it’s got a lot of interesting moving parts.

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2022: what I’ve been up to

Yes, it’s time for my year-in-review post! It’s been a year full of discoveries and adventures, sometimes even in the good way. (We try to make it in the good way.) We’ve gotten to the point where poems are not an exception, they’re just a thing I write now and going forward, and that’s weird, but again, we try to make it weird in the good way. I notice a shift toward more science fiction and less fantasy, but that may be balanced out by the fantasy novella I’m revising at the moment. We’ll see. Or it may not, that may just be where my head is right now. That’s okay too.

I’m sorry to see Daily Science Fiction shutting its doors, as they have been a fun and interesting magazine for several years now. I love flash as a length that allows me to experiment and play with form, so less of it–even just one magazine less–is sad for me. On the other hand, I’m happy with the story I wrote that closed out my time with them. I have hopes of continuing to enjoy work with the other editors I worked with this year, and I have seven things already in the works for 2023 and beyond–a lovely feeling of continuity and possibility. Also I accidentally started a new story yesterday. Ope.

Short stories:
The Plasticity of Youth, Clarkesworld, February
An Age-Based Guide to Children’s Chores, Daily SF, March
Family Network, Nature Futures, May
The Splinters of Our Bond, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May
Michigan Seems Like a Dream to Me Now, Daily SF, September
Out of the Red Lands, Analog, September
Bonus Footage, Asimov’s, September
Merry Christmas from the Bremmers, Nature Futures, December

Revelations of the Artificial Dryads, Not One of Us, January
Identity, Uncanny, September
Dante on the Metro, Mobius, November

From Panic to Process: What Taking Criticism Actually Looks Like, Uncanny, May

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Schemes of the Wayfarer, by Drew Sarkis

Review copy provided by the authors, who are friends of mine. (This is a joint pseudonym.)

COURT POLITICS. Do you like fantasy novels about court politics? Because this sure is one. I like them myself, so I need to assure you: when it has “schemes” in the title, it is wall to wall scheming. The titular Wayfarer, various members of royalty, and nearly everyone else. All scheming, all the time.

Well, not quite all the time, there’s also food and sex and fighting. But many of those things come with a side of scheming sauce.

Keth has risen to the sort of minor prominence that comes from military service, and now her duties are mixed between the very physical kind of policing the Guard still needs to do and standing around smiling at annoying courtiers, wearing fancy court armor with a sword that wouldn’t do her any good in a real fight. She is startled to find that one of her old…friends? no…enemies? nnnnot quite…crushes? well, that’ll do…has returned to court as a wise and serene Wayfarer, ready to offer her services to the kingdom that raised her. All out of pure-hearted gratitude, of course…and all of Keth’s fears about “real” fights in court dress are about to come true, for various values of “real” and “fight.” Some of which include a gleeful minotaur. So onward, romping all the way.

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Books read, early December

Andrea Barrett, Natural History. Barrett has been writing historical fiction about people who care about science and the natural world for decades now. Her characters and settings interconnect and span a great deal of time and a large range of personalities. This is a collection with several more short stories in that oeuvre. It’s probably neither the best nor the worst place to start; as someone who’s been reading them for most of that span, my reaction was “oh good, more of this thing, hooray.”

Ananyo Bhattacharya, The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann. What a very strange book to want to write. It’s mostly a professional biography of von Neumann aimed at people who have never heard of him and have no understanding of modern math, physics, or computer science, which is in itself a very weird thing to do (is this audience very interested in a von Neumann bio, then?) and not one Bhattacharya does exceptionally well. But he does take side trips into personal matters more or less for two topics only: 1) to tell you if someone is fat; 2) to tell you if they are mentally ill. He is happy to expand on #2 at length, giving very detailed accounts of the suicides of people close to Johnny von Neumann…but not to say how that might have affected him, and in most cases it could not because they happened after his death. I was thinking I would put a content warning on this book for that purpose, but honestly it’s just not a very good book.

Roshani Chokshi, Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality. Do not start here! This is the last volume in this series! It is fun and satisfying and does all the lovely things the rest of the series does, but seriously, start at the beginning, get the whole thing, friendship is magic, goofy jokes are magic, magic is also magic. Yay. I would be sad to see it end but I like good endings, and also it looks to me like Chokshi is happy to write other things I’ll probably like (hey, thanks for that!), so generally yay for a solid ending to a favorite series.

Rachel Corbett, You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainier Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin. This is a short joint biography of these two artists and the relationship they had as artists, solidly done and briskly written. They knew ten million people in their era, and it’s astonishing how many of them are relevant in a biography this short.

J. R. Dawson, The First Bright Thing. Discussed elsewhere.

John M. Ford, Casting Fortune. Reread. If you haven’t read other stuff set in Liavek, you may be tempted to think, oh yes, it’s Mike being opaque again. But he’s really not, he’s drawing on stuff you know from other works, or don’t, as the case may be. I love the way he does his theater company and all the moving pieces in that one. I love it all, but the moving pieces really just looked so well-done this time around.

V. V. Ganeshananthan, Brotherless Night. Discussed elsewhere.

Laura L. Lovett, With Her Fist Raised: Dorothy Pitman Hughes and the Transformative Power of Black Community Activism. Lovett takes the famous portrait of Hughes and Gloria Steinem doing the Black Power salute together and uses it as a springboard to talk about how much more Hughes did and in what context. I picked this up because it popped up on a completely unrelated library search, and I like knowing more things; it was quite short and interesting.

Maggie O’Farrell, The Marriage Portrait. I wished O’Farrell was doing more with the pentimento theme in this book. It was a pretty straightforward story of Lucrezia di Cosimo de Medici, interesting enough but not as much larger as I wanted it to be from where it started.

Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City. A geographic memoir, full of photographs, beautifully done, thoughtful about place and neighborhood and influence.

Jessie Singer, There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster–Who Profits and Who Pays the Price. This is one of those books that talks about things I think I already know about dangerous environments and the rhetoric of responsibility but gives them a much more thorough and detailed grounding than I had before. Lots of statistics without being dry, lots of analysis of propaganda that creeps into all sorts of weird corners of our lives. Well worth thinking about.

Moses Ose Utomi, The Lies of the Ajungo. Discussed elsewhere.

Wang Zheng, Women in the Chinese Enlightenment: Oral and Textual Histories. When I saw this in the used bookstore, I snapped it up without even reading the back to find out which period that might be called “the Chinese Enlightenment” it referred to. The answer is the early 20th century, and Wang did extensive interviews with several women who had been involved in feminist movements and other women’s political action of the time. Really good stuff, hearing from a lot of interesting people firsthand and with analysis that gives good context.

Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Haunt Yourself. Kindle. A collection of horror stories I didn’t quite get around to when they sent it out near Halloween. Merc is quite good at this, good enough that I’m happy to read a collection of horror stories even though I am not basically a horror reader. Some may be familiar if you’re a regular reader of their work, but that’s okay, now they’re in a nice little digital collection, yay.

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The Lies of the Ajungo, by Moses Ose Utomi

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is a very short work, not on the long end of novellas. In the afterword, Utomi thanks people who helped him situate this book on the spectrum from fantasy to fable, and that’s it, that’s exactly what it is, it’s very much in the middle of that spectrum. I was surprised to see in the marketing materials that there will be a sequel, because it works very much on the level of stand-alone fantasy novella.

Which is not to say there is not more to be said of the Forever Desert and the City of Lies, simply because there’s space left that might be filled with almost anything. But Tutu’s story as the hero of his waterless city is very well contained in these 84 pages–the friends he finds where there are said to be no friends, the powers in the rest of the world but also in himself, and the beginnings of the shape of magic in the Forever Desert. The descriptions of thirst are appallingly strong, distressingly strong, and this is not a fable in the sense of it being comforting or easy. This is a tale of betrayal, death, despair, and definitely, certainly lies. After 84 intense pages, you might well want a breather.