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10 More Spec Fic Stories For When You Only Have 10 Minutes

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Nicole Brinkley

Staff Writer

Nicole Brinkley has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is an independent bookseller and the founder of YA Interrobang. Follow her on Twitter: @nebrinkley.

I love a good short story, especially when I’m in a reading slump. I might not be able to make it through a whole book or even a seven-page essay, but short stories? Short stories are my jam.

I’ve already done a list of spec fic stories for when you only have ten minutes to read, but considering the number of incredible stories that have been released in the past month alone – and considering my ongoing book slump – I thought I would include ten more for you to read. If you like them, maybe consider buying subscriptions to the magazines that produce them for the holiday season! More stories for you, more money for those stories for them – it’s a win for everybody.

“Songbird” by Shveta Thakrar

“But I am a bird,” protested Shailaja. “I must sing.” 

“Nonsense,” said her uncle. “You are a girl with an overdeveloped fancy. Girls are not birds, nor are birds girls. It’s time to turn your attention to the things that matter.”

In “Songbird,” Shailaja wants to sing, but her place in society requires her to suppress herself to stillness.

“The City Born Great” by N.K. Jemisin

“This city will die,” he says. He doesn’t raise his voice, but he doesn’t have to. I’m paying attention, now. Food, living: These things have meaning to me. “If you do not learn the things I have to teach you. If you do not help. The time will come and you will fail, and this city will join Pompeii and Atlantis and a dozen others whose names no one remembers, even though hundreds of thousands of people died with them. Or perhaps there will be a stillbirth—the shell of the city surviving to possibly grow again in the future but its vital spark snuffed for now, like New Orleans—but that will still kill you, either way. You are the catalyst, whether of strength or destruction.”

A monster hunts New York City, and it’s up to one of New York’s citizens to save it by becoming the city itself.

“The Cure” by Malinda Lo

I was taken to a sanatorium by the sea, where they locked me in an echoing room and did not allow me to rise out of bed for two weeks. I heard the wind blowing against the shuttered, barred windows, and I swam in and out of restless sleep. A nurse came several times a day and forced me to drink endless glasses of milk until the curdled stench of it lingered on my mouth even when I wasn’t drinking it.

A woman is diagnosed with hysterics when her marriage is arranged, but a mythical lady might be able to save her.

“Clover” by Charlie Jane Anders

Friend didn’t mean to Berkley the same thing it would to a dog, or a human. But this girl had been the shoulder he slept on, the hand that scritched his ear, the voice that sang to him. Even the cozy old attic felt colder and darker, and the wooden house smelled like nothing but mildew.

What happened to Patricia’s cat in All the Birds in the Sky? Whether or not you read All the Birds in the Sky, this short story about a cat who brings luck – and what happens when that luck runs out – is perfect for all the cat lovers among us.

“Fiber” by Seanan McGuire

The trouble began when Laurie discovered that Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt. You know, the stuff that’s marketed at, like, middle-aged moms who want to reclaim their youth, or at least the ability to have regular bowel movements again. Anyway, Laurie loves Jamie Lee Curtis, for reasons that are a mystery to anyone whose taste in popular culture has matured past the early ’90s. Also, Laurie is frequently too lazy to chew. So when Jamie Lee Curtis said “come, my children, and eat of my poop yogurt,” Laurie was first in line.

A group of cheerleaders – among their number a zombie – end up in a fight in the absolutely hilarious and delightful “Fiber.”

“The Key to St. Medusa’s” by Kat Howard

They named me Agatha, which was not at all a witch’s name, because they wanted me to be good. 

When I was five, I asked my father what a witch’s name might sound like. He smacked my mouth, and told me such things weren’t spoken.

A witch decides to save the souls of her sisters from a murderous man.

“Blue is a Darkness Weakened by Light” by Sarah McCarry

It’s not my first winter in this city but I still can’t manage to dress warmly enough. There are nights I think the cutting wind will pull me apart and cauterize what’s left into solid ice. I came here with my pockets full of dreams but the people-clotted streets are lonelier than anywhere I’ve known. The place I left behind never got cold enough to kill you. 

—You can make it here; you can make it anywhere, the vampire says. I think he means this to be encouraging.

A young woman moves to New York City and befriends a vampire far older and wiser than she.

“The Dragon’s Tears” by Aliette de Bodard

Huan Ho, his eye against the hole in the shutters, watched the empty street. Waiting. 

They came without a noise, a blur of movement against the night. The hooves of their horses struck the ground, silently, raising sparks like thousands of fireflies. One wore golden clothes, and his bridle and saddlebags were golden as well; one dressed in silver, riding a silver horse, and the last one wore purest black, and a black hood covered his face.

When a young boy’s mother grows ill, he challenges god-like creatures to try and save her.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander

So, no. You don’t get a description of how he surprised me, where he did it, who may have fucked him up when he was a boy to lead to such horrors (no–one), or the increasingly unhinged behavior the cops had previously filed away as the mostly harmless eccentricities of a nice young man from a good family. No fighting in the woods, no blood under the fingernails, no rivers or locked trunks or calling cards in the throat. It was dark and it was bad and I called for my sisters in a language dead when the lion–brides of Babylon still padded outside the city gates. There. That’s all you get, and that’s me being generous. You’re fuckin’ welcome.

A woman, mythological in nature, is attacked. This is not the attacker’s story. It is hers. Deal with it.

“Hearts Turned To Ash” by Dhonielle Clayton

“You need to go see the rootworker.” Mama left a card on the table beside my bowl of cereal. “And you need to do it quickly. Your skin’s yellowing. Your heart is dying fast.” 

“Can it be stopped?” 

“When soulmates break up, the shock in the universe has consequences.” She took long, slow sips of her coffee. 

Two soulmates break up, forcing one girl to try to remedy her crumbling heart.