Vanessa has never complained about your own oddities
October 4, 2020 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Eight scifi/fantasy stories about people in tough situations trying to help each other, including three by Susan Palwick (previously).

"Recoveries" by Susan Palwick: "Two women who have been friends since they were children—one a recovering alcoholic brought up by parents who believe they’re alien abductees, the other an orphan with an eating disorder—contend with a secret that might doom their friendship."
Vanessa plans to drink again no later than thirty seconds after twelve. You can see it in her scowl; you can smell it on her. You know that her AA sponsor, Minta, knows it too. Vanessa hasn’t said so, of course, but this isn’t Minta’s first rodeo with angry alkies, and it’s not your first rodeo with Vanessa.
"Cucumber Gravy" by Susan Palwick:
I checked my watch. The cucumbers were due to start singing in about thirty minutes, but sometimes they go off early. I’m never sure exactly when they’ve gotten here, which makes the timing tricky, and that means I wasn’t about to open the door. “If it’s an emergency, call 911, Mr. Humphreys. I’m not in that line of work.”


I wasn’t surprised the government couldn’t grow good plants. They were probably growing oregano and charging pot prices for it; you can’t trust those people as far as you can throw them. I started with the best stock when I got into business fifteen years ago, and I’ve been refining it since then. Genetics was my favorite part of biology in high school.

"The Shining Hills" by Susan Palwick:
“That’s no place to be going, not at nightfall. You don’t know what’s up there.”

Neither do you, she thought. And I know there were lights up there. Maybe they’d just been blocked by other people. Maybe they’d come back. She started walking again, but he hurried next to her. “Wait, please. Please, wait. I’m still here. I’m talking to you. What’s your name?”

"River of Heaven" by Rachel Manija Brown:
"We're not here to save them," I reminded him. "And look at your ring. The shard is down there, at the Chuo line."

We followed the increasing light in our rings down to the escalator until we had to pocket them or risk attracting attention. The fragment was clearly somewhere on the platform. I began to search. Seiji wandered over to inspect the vending machines.
"The Second Conquest of Earth" by L. J. Daly, in which our narrator has to outwit a terrifying antagonist:
Danger. "The knife isn't important," I lie. "What's important in the card is the pot in the background. A soup pot. This card is called the Cook."
"What does the Cook mean?"
What have you told me, Lord Jagged? That he's willing to offer information to a human. That he's willing to question a human without using that whip at his belt. That he's had sufficient conversation with humans to understand some religion. Humans and Kus—whatever his issue, it has to do with the fact that he doesn't see us as quite the animals the rest of the bulls do.
"Soup is a mixture," I tell him. "The card means that things usually separated have become mixed together."
"Private Detective Molly" by Ari Goelman (audio version). Includes a seriously sick child.
That's when I see my new boss. Four feet of trouble. Brunette variety. Tear tracks cutting through the dirt on her face, wearing jeans that were already old when Molly Dolls were nothing more than molded plastic and fantasy homes.

She's no idiot, though. "I want the Debutante persona," she says. "You're still not Debutante Molly, are you?"

I like a girl who doesn't need me to explain everything. "That's right, kid." I pull my blonde hair back into a ponytail and cover it with my fedora.
"Magnificent Pigs" by Cat Rambo (includes a child with cancer):
I had a crazy idea that I'd use my talent to become a tattoo artist and make enough extra cash to pay her. A Superior mobile tattoo set from eBay cost me a hundred bucks and got me started. I named my enterprise Magnificent Pigs, in honor of Wilbur.

But tattoos aren't a high demand item in Traversville, and you need to practice a lot to get any good at it.

"A Safe Place To Be" by Carol Emshwiller:
He looks like a country person . . . farmer or some such . . . though by now I may not look like I'm from the city either.

Before I sit down (not too close), I search the sky. Out here you can see a lot of it.

I say, "So far everything is fine."

He doesn't bother answering. It's clear that it is.

We sit silently but I can't tell if it's a comfortable silence or an uncomfortable one.
posted by brainwane (7 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Recoveries, wow. I had to go reread that again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:45 PM on October 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Looking forward to reading these!
posted by knapah at 3:07 AM on October 5, 2020

These were great, thank you!
posted by Slinga at 12:12 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm not always super tuned in to what is going on around here but there have been a series of good short-form scifi posts lately and I love them and thank you whoever keeps posting them. I guess it's mostly you brainwane? Anyway, I am enjoying them thanks.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:59 PM on October 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I wish there was more of River of Heaven.
posted by brilliantine at 6:17 AM on October 6, 2020

brilliantine: Evidently Manija Brown has a self-published book of short stories called "A Cup of Smoke" available on Amazon, Kobo, etc. (I haven't read it.) And have you seen the film Wings of Desire which has a slightly similar vibe?

Wretch729: yeah, I've been posting a lot of these - glad you and others are having a good time with them!

jenfullmoon: riiiight?!! Did it read a little differently the second time through?
posted by brainwane at 7:19 AM on October 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's like OH DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN NOW I GET WHERE THAT WAS GOING. I just thought it was an eating disorder!
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:20 PM on October 6, 2020

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