Short Fiction Review — July 2024

by Danai Christopoulou in Issue Sixteen, July 2024

"A Pilgrimage to the God of High Places" by Marissa Lingen (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #406)

“The gods were most loved where their traits were least apparent—where their pilgrimages required the most of their followers.” A disabled archivist agrees to join her mother on a “healing” pilgrimage to the deepest canyon, where the god of high places resides. When they arrive, they become enmeshed in a godly conflict that requires unusual skills to solve… Brimming with kindness and humor, Lingen’s story is a quiet tale of standing one’s ground (in unexpected ways), of passive aggression and bureaucracy wielded as battle tactics, and of the importance of showing up and not giving up, even if all the difference you can make is subtle.

"The Plasticity of Being" by Renan Bernardo (Reactor (previously

After a company that promised to solve world hunger (by creating an enzyme that allows people to eat and digest plastic) goes bankrupt, its previously wide-eyed publicist visits a landfill in Brazil where she is confronted with the results of her greenwashing efforts. Bernardo pens an unflinching recounting of environmental disasters, famine, and levels of complicity, exploring all the ways in which corporations and green capitalism cause actual harm. Yet despite the tough to swallow (in every sense of the term) themes, The Plasticity of Being is also about joy, family and community—and how, even in dire times, food remains the glue that bonds us all together.

"At Night She Dreams of Silverfish" by Monica Joyce Evans (Apex #144)

“The ocean is dreaming, she thinks, dreaming, and for an instant she thinks she woke it up.” Apex’s latest issue is full of brilliant stories, among which At Night She Dreams of Silverfish stands out for its hypnotic, melancholic quality. An entomologist who works as a marine scientist on an ocean-like planet, living isolated in a bubble on the ocean floor, slowly feels her sanity and sense of self unravel as she comes into contact with alien spores. In Monica Joyce Evans’ story, the main character is undoubtedly these alien waters, presented with a wonderfully mercurial duality: both as predatory forces that yearn to expand, and as home—a place to dissolve.

"We Will Teach You How to Read | We Will Teach You How to Read" by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed #168)

A frequent malaise of stories that are innovative in form is that the actual content, the story told, ends up playing second fiddle. This is not the case in Yoachim’s We Will Teach You How to Read | We Will Teach You How to Read. Through a mantra-like repetition of a lost civilizations’ last words, set parallel to increasingly intricate (yet inherently simple in their devastating truths) strands of text, Yoachim challenges the reader’s perception of what it would feel like reading an alien language, with a sharpness that brings to mind Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life. A true triumph, both in form and content, that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again.

© 2024 Danai Christopoulou

Danai Christopoulou

Danai Christopoulou is a queer Greek SFF author and editor. Danai’s nonfiction has appeared in publications such as Glamour and Marie Claire since 2004. They are an editor for Hugo-nominated khōréō magazine, an assistant editor for HavenSpec, and a literary agent in training at Tobias Literary Agency. Their short fiction has been published in khōréō, Fusion Fragment and others, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and featured in the official Nebula Reading List. Danai’s novels are represented by Lauren Bieker of FinePrint Literary.

Fiction by Danai Christopoulou
  • The Moon is All Wrong Here