2018 has had its ups and downs when it comes to events big and small, but 2018 has also published some fire queer SFF. Without further ado, let’s shout about some of it.
dave ring: While I enjoyed being destroyed by 2017’s Amberlough, Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly surpassed any concerns I might have had about second-in-a-trilogy plot weaknesses by crushing me over and over again with its cruel, bittersweet and labyrinthine pleasures. It is a masochistic delight to see the terrible plights these characters get themselves and each other into. Armistice contains nuanced, complex queer characters enmeshed in brutal plots and achingly human quandaries amidst luxe surroundings and political drama of the highest scale. My favorite book of 2018. I await the third installment, Amnesty, with bated breath.
Leigh Harlen: When I sit and think, “Who completely and utterly destroyed me this year?” The first name to spring to mind is Bo Bolander. I sat and contemplated which of her three novelettes and short stories from 2018 I loved most. The lush poetry and fragmented narrative of The Only Harmless Great Thing left me weeping for elephants and radium girls. Meanwhile, The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat left me laughing and screaming in cathartic joy. (I will never read anything that delights as much as the words, “FRUIT FOR THE SHINY APE KING’S FLAT TEETH.” “MAMMALS LOVE FRUIT.”) And I will forever long to live naked in a hut in the woods with witches and raptors, those most clever of girls.
But in the end, what ripped my heart out, kissed it, and left me a husk of sorrowful joyful longing for all the beautiful creatures humans have wiped from the earth and all those we will destroy in the future, probably including ourselves, was No Flight Without the Shatter. It is a fact that those of us who write science fiction and fantasy LOVE the beautiful sadness of endlings. But Bo manages to elevate that concept with an undercurrent of enraged sadness that pairs with a melancholy compassion that makes this a story like nothing else I’ve ever read (except perhaps the previously mentioned, The Only Harmless Great Thing, but somehow it’s even better!)
“But d’you think, little squab of my breast, that they could ever forget the sound of that many wings blotting out the sun? There were plenty of mouths and memories to pass on the beating of a million wings that was our name. As to who or what will be left to remember your own kind, dwindling with no wings to bear them away…”
“We were many too, once,” she repeats, barely a whisper. “I really am sorry.”
Darcie Little Badger: I’m glad that this isn’t a “best of” list (we don’t do those here; we just shout). If I tried to discuss all my favorite fiction from 2018, the process would take so long, I wouldn’t finish typing ‘til the next new year. That said, I’d like to highlight a couple truly awesome short stories. True to my brand, they’re both in the horror genre.
“Don’t Pack Hope” by Emma Osborne (Nightmare Magazine). It’s rare that a second-person POV story can win over my prickly sense of independence, but when I read “Don’t Pack Hope,” the POV was not only flawlessly immersive, its emotional impact hit me in the feels like a bag of textbooks. I still get a bit teary-eyed when I think about the ending. A relatively short (1881 words) offering of zombie survival fiction, this story challenges you to defy its title.
“Dead Air” by Nino Cipri (Nightmare Magazine). I actually listened to the podcast of “Dead Air” instead of reading the text myself, a method I highly recommend, considering the story’s unique format (plus, the team of narrators do a fantastic job). “Dead Air” is the transcript of … well, it begins as a recorded interview for an ethnographic project (Nita is playfully interrogating her new lover, Maddie) and transforms into something much stranger. I love this story because, at the 1/3 point, it takes a surprising turn. Without spoiling anything, the lore underlying “Dead Air” is rich, creative and horrifying. There’s also a creepy Pacific northwest town involved in the plot (the place is described as “Fairytale-ish. But not the nice kind of fairytale. Not something Disney would make into a movie.”). Horror fans take note!