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What I Read in May 2017


May brought a deluge of amazing stories. In particular I think these works captured my mood throughout this month of revelations, disgust, and hope. 

Look, this is meant to be a post about art - short literature specifically. However, I don't think you can understand art in isolation from politics, society, or whatever else is going on at a particular moment. A writer cannot help but weave elements of what circulates through their brains during the writing process (or at least I can't). Editors and publishers cannot help but respond to things that speak to a moment in time. Do I know for 100% that these stories reflect the situation in this country? No, I do not. I do think each has something to say about this moment.
  • "Machine of the Devil" by Maria Haskins. I've praised Haskins work before in these monthly round-ups for her well-crafted, tightly wound short fiction. This flash piece highlights her talent for embodying large themes in very small packages. In a story about sacrifice and other messy epiphanies, the remarkable thing is how much of a panoramic horizon unfolds from a single snap-shot. 
  • "Why I Don't Trust Batman" by Sarah Gailey. This piece made me genuinely angry. I'm not quite sure why it was published as nonfiction in last month's Uncanny Magazine but whatever you want to call it, this careful, step-by-step take-down of the Batman is genius. Somehow I think Gailey took the famous pronouncement you 'can't kill an idea,' as a challenge. Ken Liu had a work last year that reminds me of this one, but I felt this was infinitely less philosophical and more genuinely pissed-off, an observation I mean as no slight to Liu but only as praise for the Gailey. 
  • "James, In the Golden Sunlight" of the Hereafter by Adam-Troy Castro. A man, killed in an accident, enjoys the endless delights of heaven, only gradually realizing that no one else he knows appears there with him. His quest to track down what happened to his family concludes in a powerful statement on invisible privilege and what is owed to others. The tone and style of this story reminded me of Neil Gaiman at his most urgent and unrestrained. 
  • "The Sound Of" by Charles Payseur. Damn fine story. Motors by with a verve and terrified passion, keeping the monster at the heart of its story held just out of view. One of the first stories I've read that seems post-Trump. The dread in this story stems from the way the unimaginable becomes normalized.
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