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It’s May, which means it’s Short Story Month! I’ve expounded on many a post about the merits and wonders of the short story. While I love to read everything under the sun, my very favorite books are speculative short story collections.
I’ve defined speculative fiction, to the best of my ability, in a previous Book Riot post, but in a nutshell, speculative short stories are short stories that include the fantastic — ranging from harder science fiction and fantasy to hints of the surreal or uncanny.
Speculative short fiction is an amazing art form. Many literary magazines publish speculative short fiction, including the The New Yorker, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, FIYAH, khōréō, and an abundance of others. Speculative short fiction can be traditional or experimental, flash or a novelette (usually 7,500 words or more).
While short story collections are not as popular nor as commonly read as novels — though they should be — they are still being published to loving readers and critical acclaim. 2022 is no exception. Below is my love letter to an array of speculative collections that have been published or are due to be published in 2022.
Speculative Short Story Collections
The Adventurists by Richard Butner
Any book from Small Beer Press immediately goes on my TBR. Richard Butner’s work explores the weird, uncanny corners of everyday life — from a theater kid who becomes the queen, to a tree who talks to just one person, to Death’s Fool, who you really shouldn’t ignore.
Valleyesque: Stories by Fernando A. Flores
Set in the Texas-Mexico borderland, Valleyesque is a collection of stories ranging from the fantastical to the satirical. A woman is engulfed by a warehouse of used clothing, the building taking on a life of its own. A man seeks to recover his beloved piano that was confiscated at the border. Kelly Link calls Flores’s stories “marvelously unpredictable,” and anything Kelly Link recommends immediately goes on my list.
Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby
I still can’t stop thinking about some of these stories. This collection is as fiery as the cover — I mean, look at that design! Kirby writes fearlessly and without restraint. For most of the book, as I reached the end of each story, I had to stop and stare into space, digesting the magnificence. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but the one I am currently haunted by most is “Casper.” It follows teenage girls as they work in a store that sells the items of unclaimed luggage. It’s an angry, desperate story, and the ending image is absolutely stunning.
Out There by Kate Folk
The title of this collection is so spot-on because these stories are truly out there. Folk is a brilliant writer, able to write the unusual with deadpan wit and humor. The title story is my favorite, about a woman using dating apps to find a boyfriend while also avoiding “blots,” which are essentially androids created by the Russians to hack and steal data. It’s wild, funny, and sad at the same time.
This is one my favorite reads of 2022 so far. It’s an amazing collection with such emotion. My favorite story follows a group of friends, especially one friend who has wings growing out of her legs. It is beautiful, innocent, and unnerving.
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe
This is one of most anticipated releases of 2022. Singer and songwriter, Janelle Monáe, releases their debut novel in the form of short stories set in an Afrofuturistic world, exploring queerness, race, gender, love, and more. Monáe collaborated with some of my favorite writers on these stories, including Alaya Dawn Johnson and Sheree Reneé Thomas.
Maria, Maria: & Other Stories by Marytza K. Rubio
Everything about this collection screams my interests. Magical, gothic, exploring love and grief, Maria, Maria is set in the tropics and megacities of the Americas. Rubio uses inspiration from tarot, wild creatures, and the thin veil between life and death to tell amazing stories. And yet again I must yell: just look at that bananas-awesome cover design.
Speculative Short Story Anthologies
Anthologies are collections of short stories with multiple authors. We have some excellent speculative anthologies releasing this year, ranging from horror to young adult fantasy. Check out a few speculative anthologies below.
Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space edited by Zoraida Córdova
From ghost stories to mermaids, Córdova edits a brilliant anthology of Latin America diaspora across the speculative genre. The anthology gathers together best-selling authors like Daniel José Older, Isabel Ibañez, and more, including two new voices to the genre. This is a great book to explore all the corners of the weird and unexplainable, from the sea to beyond the stars.
Screams from the Dark: 29 Tales of Monsters and the Monstrous edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor Nightfire, June 7)
Ellen Datlow is the queen of horror editing, and Screams From the Dark is sure to terrify and haunt like all of Datlow’s previous anthologies. This book hosts an array of well-known writers across horror, including Stephen Graham Jones, Cassandra Khaw, Jeffrey Ford, and more. And they all explore that age-old question: What makes someone or something monstrous? You might want to keep the lights on all night after reading this.
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2022 edited by John Joseph Adams and Rebecca Roanhorse (Mariner Books, November 1)
There are so many Best Of annual books that span just about every genre. The Best American series has a range on its own, but there are many more, from horror to multiple Best Of science fiction and fantasy. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology has been around for about five years, helmed by John Joseph Adams and guest edited by a major writer of the genre each year. 2022 is guest edited by the amazing Rebecca Roanhorse, with the table of contents forthcoming.
Additional Resources For and Beyond Speculative Short Story Collections
Finally, if you’re interested in reading more about this amazing form, here are some additional reading recommendations. Short stories can be read in collections, anthologies, and in so many amazing literary magazines. They are great for when you need a break from the commitment that a novel requires. They are bits of perfection tightened to a small word count. Honestly, I could go on and on.
While May is Short Story Month, we can admire and adore the short story all year long.