Sometimes it feels like all of history is happening all at once. In October, I needed some short and sweet stories, stories with a little lightness and ease, stories that had me gasping or laughing but didn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed. I’ve got a little Halloween horror for you, too, don’t you worry.
I have long said that if I was offered to travel in the TARDIS, I’d set firm rules about where I was and was not going to visit as a queer Black person. R. S. A. Garcia gets it. ForeverFete is a company offering trips back in time to the early days of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. As much as it’s marketed as a fun time, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet your ancestors and experience their lives, however briefly. You don’t often see Black-centric time travel, and this story had me longing for a whole subgenre.
Strange Horizons (October 10, 2022)
In New Charleston, Mikayla frets over her absent mother. She should’ve been home at 2am, after the bars close but before “the witches, the haints, and other creatures of the night” take over. Mik and her magical friends set out to find her mother, taking a strange journey across the city. The ending is what turns this from a good story to a great one. It’s not what you’d expect, but it’s lovely nonetheless.
Worlds of Possibility (October 2022)
Reader, I cackled. I needed a good laugh and Annika Barranti Klein delivered. Written in the style of a Reddit “Am I The Asshole” post, this piece is from a wife describing her wife’s doll obsession. Or is it the dolls’ obsession with her wife? Anyway, it’s quick and fun and well worth your time.
The Future Fire (October 2022, issue 2022.63)
Anna steps into a book—really a virtual world run by an AI replicating a book—playing the part of Miss Pennyworth in a historical romance. But Anna doesn’t stick to the script anymore than the AI does. Can their love be real if neither of the love interests are who they say they are? What is reality anyway?
Nature: Futures (October 5, 2022)
Timi went into the Smile Place as a boisterous kid and came out quiet and unsettled. Years later, he vanishes, and John must return to the scene of the crime and face his childhood monster. This is the kind of story that made me lose track of time. I was hooked from the very first word and didn’t even look up from the screen until it was done. My tea had gone cold and the sun had set and I hadn’t even noticed. Timi is a little boy when he changes forever, and John is the cause of it.
FIYAH Literary Magazine (October 2022, issue 24)
“Dusk and dawn are always the most dangerous times to surf – the ocean’s cold wolves are most active then, slinking along isolated shore breaks, hunting for a slippery meal; they’ll take anyone they can find.” No way I could let October go by without a vampire story. Two surfers enter the water and only one makes it back to shore. Zena Shapter’s story is as cold and brutal as the Pacific Ocean crashing into the rocky California coast.
Etherea Magazine (October 2022, issue 15)
It was so nice to drop back into the Wayward Children series! I had reviewed most of the installments for Tor.com, but life got in the way and I lost track of them. Much to my detriment, it seems. “Skeleton Song” is about Christopher, the boy with the bone flute from earlier in the series. We finally visit his world of Mariposa, a Latinx-inspired land where all the people are living skeletons. This is a short glimpse of what his life was like when he fell through a door into Mariposa all the way through when he fell through another door back out into the “real” world. It’s a lovely reminder of how fantastic this series is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to catch up with Where the Drowned Girls Go.
Tor.com (October 26, 2022)
Mamo Wajin is a seven-year-old boy whose father could commune with the dead through bones. Mamo has his own strange ability: to sing his magic. And one day something hears him. Mamo makes a deal, one that has consequences far greater than he anticipated. His songs give him boons but also cost him his family and friends. Bibi Osha has a real talent for disconcerting her readers. This story was vivid and chilling, a perfect story.
The Dark (October 2022, issue 89)
Reader, I cackled again! Josh Franklin structures this narrative as a series of letters between the Fresno Permits Office and a local twenty-something named Jonathan Libertine who wants to build a device to detect and convert dark matter into energy. The project goes about as well as you expect. Those of you familiar with Fresno will get that extra little kick of humor.
Flashpoint SF (October 7, 2022)
Speaking of doors that lead to fantasy worlds, “What Are We If I Stay” takes the premise, ages it up, and paints it with a layer of darkness. Georgia has been waiting for her girlfriend Esme’s return for weeks. A door appeared one day, then kept reappearing. Esme, ever fascinated, finally went through. And then she never returned. Just as Georgia is about to go in after her, she receives a startling note slipped through the door…
Baffling (October 2022, issue 9)
Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).