Cabinet of Wonders: Top 5 Short Stories of 2015

woolworth building in cloudsweb fiction reviews by Lauren Colie

It’s that “out with the old, in with the new” time of year, when I resolve to read more, zen more and road rage less. But amidst the well-meaning promises to make 2016 a raucous good time filled with beach-ready bodies, clean eats and festivals galore, I can’t help but cling to several pieces of the past. I’m not yet ready to close the Cabinet door on some of these superb shorts. Find out what stories are frozen in my mind so deep I just can’t let them go. Here it is, your 2015 year in review. Let’s laugh, cry and howl into the night one last time.

5. Ants on a Trestle, by Elliotte Rusty Harold at Crossed Genres

 

What drew me to it:

I might have an Orson Scott Card shrine. Maybe I’m secretly really into sci-fi. “Ants on a Trestle” taps that guilty pleasure spot for me, where it strays a little further from our home base of metaphysical fiction and highlights the best bits of science fiction. Like wildly evolving mutant ants, for example.

Why I can’t let it go:

Of all the alternate realities out there, this one just tickles my fancy. What a bizarre conundrum. What a weird solution. What a cool concept. Elliotte Rusty Harold masterfully presents the strange as a mundane normal — one of a million reasonable possible futures. It brings me a smile and the creepy-crawlies all at once.

Read It HERE

***

4. Sinners, Saints, Dragons and Haints in the City Beneath the Still Waters, by N. K. Jemisin at Uncanny Magazine

 

What drew me to it:

I have a bad history with school-assigned reading. It started with Across Five Aprils in fifth grade and continued until I was a senior in high school. That year, I read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God in a single night.

When I stumbled across “Sinners, Saints, Dragons and Haints,” the nod to my most treasured early literary memory beckoned me closer, and didn’t disappoint. It expands on all the swirling drama of Hurston’s hurricane and tosses in some dragons (eh, lizards), to boot.

Why I can’t let it go:

It’s rich. It’s complex. It spans time and space — in a single scroll of your mouse, an action-packed day has passed. It’s like a novel edited down to all the meaty parts rather than a short story bulked out. We battle the elements, evil, ourselves — it’s all in there, ready to enjoy.

Read it HERE

***

The Fiddler of Bayou Teche, by Delia Sherman at Lightspeed Magazine

 

What drew me to it:

Louisiana just does it for me. I can’t explain why, but all the most magical, earthy, twisted, dark and just plain satisfying tales seem to be set in this steamy state. I’ve never even been there, but all my favorite literature has. Also werewolves. Also fiddlers. Also shady, demonic deals. Goodness.

Why I can’t let it go:

It’s just so…complete. It’s the whole narrative experience in a bite-sized chunk of bayou mischief. What a ride! I’m exhilarated by the words on the page — not an easy feat, but Delia Sherman’s up to the task. It’s dense and vibrant and yet reads like a favorite bedtime story, one I’ve heard over and over. So I keep reading it, over and over.

Read it HERE

 

2. When We Were Giants, by Helena Bell at Lightspeed Magazine

 

What drew me to it:

I work retail. Retail is fighting a tiny war every day not to be torn apart by customers who have forgotten you’re a person, too. I remember when I was a giant in my own mind. Helena Bell sent out a siren call to my youth, imploring me to recall a time when I was “important.”

This one leaves you wondering for ages, is it real? Is it real? Is it make believe? Could it be both? The questions drew me in and kept me ’til the conclusion.

Why I can’t let it go:

It truly makes me feel weird about myself. In the grand, shaken-to-your-core, objective-of-metaphysical-fiction kind of way. It makes me feel weird about a lot of things, like everything and nothing I do is a lie. It makes me feel…different…every time I read it. Better, but different. Like a pep talk from something beyond my grasp.

Read it HERE

***

 

The Star Maiden, by Roshani Choksi at Shimmer Magazine

 

What drew me to it:

Bring me your fables, your ephemeral grandmas and your astral dresses. Open a story with someone who’s got something neato to prove and you’ve got me hooked. We’re all stardust, after all! I was captivated by the simplicity of presentation, the language of the fairy tale. Gets me every time.

Why I can’t let it go:

I sobbed my way through Where the Red Fern Grows, but The Star Maiden beats that tearstorm by a mile. The ripped dress ripped my heart in half. How many times have I, in an ungrateful or oblivious state, similarly torn someone else’s treasure? What kind feelings have I hurt? What faith have I lacked? This one tops my list because I still get all squishy about it. This fable sure taught me a lesson, and continues to tickle the back of my brain.

Read it HERE

That’s the top five for 2015. Thank you for the tears, the lessons and the laughs. And, of course, thank you for the free fiction. Happy new year from the Cabinet! Stay strange.

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