Short Fiction Review — June 2022 (online only)

By TJ Price in Issue Four, May 2022

"The Gull Heart" by Constance Fay (Crow & Cross Keys)

Delicate and rugged all at once, Fay breathes new life into old golems with this story. Devastatingly vivid imagery coupled with brisk pacing lifts this out of the realm of simply retold folktales and into something much more complex and lyrical. At its core, this is a cautionary tale, a "be-careful-what-you-wish-for" whispered as a charm against Eros itself—beware of wanting and, as always, beware the inconstant, fickle moon...

"Give Me English" by Ai Jiang (Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2022)
[paywall, free on Kindle Unlimited]

The minute I grasped what Jiang was trying to do in this piece (it happens very quickly) I knew I had to include it in this column. The story is ostensibly about language as currency, and the emotional repercussions that come with social assimilation and loss of identity. Echoing Ursula K. LeGuin's anthropological investigations by way of William Gibson's searing inventiveness, this is not a story that will disappear from your memory banks lightly. I highly encourage seeking this ingeniously intertextual story out—it does flawlessly what the best speculative fiction can do: create a scaffolding for a conversation to take place. I know that I can't stop talking about it, anyway.

"What Happens on the One-Year Anniversary of When You Went to Wake Your Sleeping Infant Only to Find That He's No Longer Breathing and the Doctors Tell You That It's Rare But These Things Happen" by Eric Scot Tryon (Pidgeonholes)

This is an utterly brutal piece. There's no way around it. It is a note-perfect story that embodies the dizzying surreality of grief, and it does so in a relentlessly kinesthetic way that will have you wincing by the second paragraph and ill-at-ease by the third. By the time the story closes, you may want to take a break. Have a glass of water. Hug your loved ones. This is a story about intense discomfort, about surrender, and ultimately, the horror of letting go. It's a short piece, but it will linger.

© 2022 TJ Price

TJ Price

TJ Price’s corporeal being (he/him) is currently located in Brooklyn, NY, with his handsome partner of many years, but his ghosts live in northeastern Connecticut and southern Maine. He either is or has been a wine-seller, a wine-drinker, an avid reader, an obsessive writer, a pen-and-ink artist, a dishwasher, a neurosurgical technologist, a proofreader, a storm-watcher, a music-maker, and other sundry avocations.

Primarily, TJ spends his time reading as much as his eyes can take, but when he's not reading, he's either writing weird stories about unnerving things, drawing lots of little circles in pen and ink, enjoying esoteric studies, or taking photographs of clouds.