“Because we’re not special,” I say.
December 5, 2021 7:40 AM   Subscribe

"The tuktuk driver... Piter is telling me a story about digging a hole to hell, which is also the story of his life, and I am trying to explain to him why his life is meaningless, while he does the same to me." "Dharmas" by Vajra Chandrasekera is a witty fantasy story in which a taxi passenger futilely argues about cosmology. "What kind of psychology meets a new species and says—do what I want, or I’ll kill the lot of you?" "Anna Saves Them All" by Seth Dickinson is a very dark science fiction story about first contact and "how to do what must be done."

This post is the first in a week-long series: highlighting short speculative fiction stories published by online magazines that are no longer publishing, or that are on hiatus, but whose interesting archives remain online! Today: Shimmer.

From "Dharmas":
Along with Piter’s name, the label on the back of his seat has a hotline number for complaints. AM I DRIVING SAFELY? it asks, disingenuously. I tell him I’m contemplating calling, and also that hell is not real. But this is a weak rejoinder.
Interview with Chandrasekera about the story.

From "Anna Saves Them All":
Anna gets her feet beneath her and rises into a cautious crouch. She’s afraid, exhilarated, alive with a totality she hasn’t felt for years. “Hey,” she calls, meeting the alien’s closest gaze, fixing on that head like it’s the whole of the thing. “You understand me.”
Interview with Dickinson about the story.

Both stories were published in Shimmer, an online magazine that published new speculative fiction 2005-2018. Many stories are only available in the back issues for sale, but some are free to read online. Browse by author.
posted by brainwane (5 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
brainwane, I will check these out but I have to say I'm such a fan of you! I'm just starting to work through your enormous history of super-enjoyable short fiction posts and my head is spinning. Thank you for posting!
posted by mochapickle at 8:33 AM on December 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

I'd like to echo mochapickle with praise for brainwane's daily effort to pull us into the deep stream of contemporary speculative fiction. I'm way, way behind on the stories but they are so far fantastic, every one.
posted by chavenet at 9:04 AM on December 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

I dunno how the rest of you feel about Kindle Books, but I have been reading Peter Cawdron‘s series on First Contact and they are quite good; some of them are harrowing (But the Stars). I haven’t finished yet but definitely worth a read.

On a separate note - thank you, branewane. I wish you were my neighbor so we could sit around and just geek out about all these stories.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 9:08 AM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

I know I always say this, but Vajra Chandrasekera is the best, an incredibly promising writer. I mean, often not for the faint of heart, but the best. Really an exceptional short story writer.

Sometimes you expect that a certain type of modern SFF story with a certain type of left political outlook is going to end up being very twee, sentimental or morally simplified in a way that feels stifling and a bit pollyanna-ish*, but Chandrasekera's stay complex and eerie. Also he is good at writing open endings that really feel open. And a lot of his stories seem to involve towers, but not as we know them.

*I hate to be so negative. There are lots of stories that I find a bit morally cliched that have strong worldbuilding or an interesting core idea and of course it's infinitely better to have flawed left-wing stories than an endless series of, like Cold Equations and SFnal fascism, and certainly this "problem" is only a problem because there are such a lot of good outlets for SFF writing now.
posted by Frowner at 9:33 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

From "Anna Saves Them All":

A child could make the choice, if she were broken in the right ways.

Oof. Right in the feels.
posted by chavenet at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

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