Welcome to “Graggonspeak Monthly.” Each month, this online column reviews recent short fiction and poetry releases in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. This column jumps around from magazine to magazine in search of great reads worth your attention.
To best utilize your time reading these reviews, I’ll stick to mentioning my favorites from the chosen publications each month. Think of this as reader’s advisory from a former librarian and fellow SFF geek.
The bigger sibling to this column “Graggonspeak Quarterly” appears in Space & Time Magazine’s regular publications. Please check out the quarterly Graggonspeak for book reviews, news, and more.
This monthly recommendation list is noticeably smaller compared to last time around – hang with me as this might continue to flux slightly until I find a sweet spot. But this month, I tried to narrow my recommendations to just four spots for favorites to see how a smaller list might work. Now, keep in mind there’s simply too many short fiction publications to keep track of all of them. But I think we’ve landed here with a list that supplies some entertainment as well as hope for these interesting and uncertain times – and includes some spooky stories, of course, for Halloween. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did. Please consider supporting these publishers and authors if you enjoyed the recommendations in this list. Happy Halloween!
Wash your hands and stay safe!
First up is “A Few Words From the New Tenant of ____ House” by Rob Costello in The Dark Magazine. This story seats itself well within the growing tradition of meta-fiction horror. The setting in this story is unique – leveraging genre-generics in its setting descriptions for specific, powerful effects. Costello’s prose is vibrant and playful and looming in this first-person narrative following the inevitable path a youth takes – which leads them to a residence as the new tenant of ____ House. This story is queer, uplifting, and skillful. This “coming-of-age” narrative is sure to entertain horror fans.
In Strange Horizons,October 12th saw the publication of my favorite kind of time travel story – one in similar tone and discussion as Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. “A Layer of Catherines” by Elisabeth R. Moore is a wonderful, warm tale about a sister who sets off on a journey through time to save her sister. While this story may land technically on the sad side of the “sad/happy story” line, it does so in an uplifting way. Moore’s story feels affirming – a kind of story needed in times like these.
The trend for positive and hopeful tales continues in our spotlight this month with “Fences and Full Moons” by Corey Farrenkopf. This story appears in the October issue of Flash Fiction Online. It’s about a werewolf rearing parent and their attempts to contain their child during transformations. Reflective and optimistic, this flash piece is excellently paired with other spooky themed stories in the October issue – something I would highly recommend for your spooky reading this season. FFO regularly delivers excellent seasonal fiction – and this Halloween issue is no exception. But Farrenkopf’s story is of particular note, exploring universal themes in parenting which feel fresh and relative to today’s strange world.
Uncanny Magazine wraps our recommendations this time around for a theme-unifying reason – hope and perseverance. These tones are touched on in issue #36’s editorial “The Uncanny Valley” where Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas discuss the magazine’s recent perseverance through difficult times for their family. This issue marks six years of Uncanny Magazine – and contains, as always, an excellent mix of strange sff. “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher is especially excellent. Opening like a story book tale, this cosmic myth follows a Brother and Sister – “enormous machines” created and loved by their Father in this dreamy science fantasy. It’s a strange and wonderful read perfect for anyone looking to get lost in a strange myth.
I hope these tales serve you well.
You too, can speak the language of dragons! Write to me at Graggonspeak@gmail.com or send mail to PO Box 4195, Independence, MO (I LOVE actual letters and often write back)—to chat stories or poetry, share opinions, or ask questions.
Austin Gragg lives in Independence, Missouri and shares his hometown not only with Harry S Truman, but two of his favorite fantasy authors, Jim Butcher and Margaret Weis. Austin is a member of the Horror Writers Association and was a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest. He is also an Associate Editor at Space & Time Magazine — the longest still publishing semi-pro SFF mag. When he isn’t writing, reading, or spending time in his garden, he can be found playing Dungeons & Dragons with his partner, friends, and a pride of small domestic lions. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@austingragg), Facebook (@graggwrites), or visit him online at www.austingragg.com