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Short Fiction Review — March 2024

By Danai Christopoulou in Issue Fourteen, March 2024

"There Are Only Two Chairs, and the Skin Is Draped Over the Other" by Alexia Antoniou (Bourbon Penn #31)

Two young girls play in the polluted stream that runs behind the backyard of one of their houses, using its waters and the unexpected gifts it brings them as a prop in their make-belief tales. Until one day, the stream carries something that changes the nature of their games for good… With imagery that is as arresting as it is unsettling, and a mercurial narrator who very much feels like a frustrated early teen in a faded 90’s summer, Antoniou crafts a story about the tail end of childhood innocence, about navigating complicated feelings in an imperfect world, and about how sometimes we need a little help from an external piece of skin, in order to be ourselves.

"Give Me English" by Ai Jiang (Fusion Fragment #20)

“To have any voice, really, is powerful.” First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2022, and shortlisted for a Nebula award, Give Me English is a powerful meditation on the relationship between language and currency. Set in a dystopian, late capitalist society where citizens have an embedded Langbase in their brains, trading verbs and nouns for groceries and rent, Give Me English follows a Chinese immigrant forced to give away the characters of her mother tongue to afford staying in New York. Ai Jiang’s story masterfully depicts the immigrant struggle of slowly chip away parts of your linguistic heritage in order to fit in, the subtle cruelties of classism, the silencing of women, and the rebuilding of one’s identity, one reclaimed word at a time.

"The Memory Shop" by Melissa Ren (Fusion Fragment #20)

Also in Fusion Fragment’s excellent latest issue, The Memory Shop proposes a different kind of trade economy: that of memories. Constance Cheng visits The Memory Shop to relinquish the unspeakably painful memory of giving birth to her stillborn son. Her husband reluctantly consents to her operation—but the reality of their shared trauma now existing solely in his memory becomes too much, kickstarting a series of events that brings Constance back where she started... In a captivating, heartbreaking loop of a story, Ren weaves together questions of choice, how our memories not only define us but also become the building blocks of our relationships, and how holding onto them too tight can be both a blessing and a curse.

"Godskin" by CL Hellisen (Strange Horizons, 04 March 2024)

In a marine archipelago ravaged by a phenomenon called “the Drift,” where most of the gods have died along with their islands and the fisher community of Yeske lives among their debris, young Ishahn picks up a piece of a god’s body in her nets. A hand, hollow like a glove. What follows is an accidental—but inevitable—slide into godhood, where Ishahn has to come to terms with her new powers, and make decisions unlike any she was able to before. With lush, lyrical prose that drips with seaweed and salt, Hellisen crafts a tale of revenge and emancipation set in a world where gender roles are another heavy stone to be thrown on one’s grave, or toss at sea.

© 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
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