Finals season is back for German grad school (please don’t ask me how our semesters work, I don’t understand it either, I’m just suffering at this point) but despite that, I have some excellent recs coming your way! Second-world fantasies dominate our selection this month, though there’s a touch of horror and a touch of literary fiction to add some variety. Enjoy!
The Lay of Lilyfinger by GV Anderson (Tor.com)
Anderson’s newest fantasy novelette about a scaled musician, her apprentice, and a complex and culturally fraught song was genuinely the standout in my June reading. Anderson’s deft touch with complex and layered situations is perfect. The humanity that each and every character in this densely populated novelette shows is perfect. Both these elements combine into a very enjoyable meditation on art, colonization, and memory. Highly recommended, especially for people who loved the complicated worldbuilding of RB Lemberg’s Four Profound Weaves.
All This Darkness by Jennifer Donahue (Apex)
Written in the third person plural, this Donahue story follows an amorphous group of children of coal miners as they slowly get drawn in by the mountain. As someone currently living in Germany’s mining area, it’s unsurprising that this story hooked me in. The plot is creepy, the writing is stunning, and the imagery is haunting. I think about this first line every time I walk by my decommissioned coal mines now: “Nobody ever says we have coal in our veins; they don’t have to.” Chills!
Thirteen of the Secrets in My Purse by Rachel Swirsky (Uncanny)
The skill with which Swirsky weaves this small flash piece together is unmistakable: the lipstick, wallet and keys, the three things first mentioned, begin to affect the narrator: the tension rises quickly, until the end feels like a deeply satisfying relief.
Hassan the Executioner Walks Out of Jawasar for the Last Time by RK Duncan (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
I love stories that play with structure, and that’s exactly what this second-world fantasy story by Duncan does: it begins at the end. The story opens with powerful sorceress and authoritarian ruler Lamia dying, and tells the story of her closest friend, Hassan, leaving the city. The setting is rich and well-described – the desert city’s newly emancipated criminals as well as its angry and oppressed occupants are happy to turn on Hassan, and as her fends them off with his slowly failing magic powers, Hassan reflects on how much of the city’s anger is deserved.
All The Ophelias In My Flat by N Theodoridou (Silvia Magazine)
Theodoridou’s literary flash piece about dozens of versions of Ophelia coexisting in a single apartment and trying to move forward with their life is heartbreaking, beautifully written, and wonderfully stylistic. Again, I don’t want to say too much about it and dull it’s effects, so all I will say is read it and weep.