Favorite 2019 Short Stories

by Cam N. Coulter


Posted on February 4, 2020 reading


A stack of books, an open book, a mug of coffee, and a vase of flowers

Last year, I wrote a short fiction review column for Skiffy and Fanty. Life got busy and I missed some months, but hey, that’s the way life works, particularly when you’re a fan writer/doing unpaid labor.

By my count, I read nearly 200 pieces of short fiction originally published last year. (There’s also an uncounted number of short stories that I started reading but didn’t finish.) It’s not the nearly 300 short stories that I read the year before, and it’s certainly not nearly as much as the remarkable Charles Payseur, but I’m fairly happy and impressed with myself nonetheless.

Trump-Era Anthologies

Last year, I read three of what I’m calling “Trump era anthologies”:

  • A People’s Future of the United States ed Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
  • If This Goes On edited by Cat Rambo
  • Do Not Go Quietly edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner

I enjoyed them all. A People’s Future of the United States had the most impressive roster of contributors, and it showed — its stories were excellent. The stories in that anthology engaged with contemporary themes, such as racism, xenophobia, and polarization, in relatively broad and general ways. If This Goes On took a different approach, engaging with more specific contemporary issues, like immigration, healthcare, gun violence, abortion, and net neutrality.

Favorite Stories

Last year, I was able to pick a favorite story: “You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me” by K.M. Szpara. It’s an amazing story about family, found family, dinosaurs, and trans romance that’s unlike anything else I’ve come across.

This year, I wasn’t able to choose a favorite, but I can manage to narrow it down to my top five.

“Harmony” by Seanan McGuire (A People’s Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams) — This is a story about queer couples and families founding their own rural community together. If you, like me, are fascinated by alternatives to heteronormative nuclear families, this story is for you. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

“Ti-Jean’s Last Adventure, as Told to Raccoon” by KT Bryski (Lightspeed Magazine Issue 105, February 2019) — This is a hyper-Canadian fable about Death. It’s equal parts fun folklore and serious cultural critique. I highly recommend this story to everyone. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

“Everything Is Closed Today” by Sarah Pinsker (Do Not Go Quietly edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner) — A delightful tale about skater girls, activism, and building community! (Reviewed in more detail here.)

“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare Magazine Issue 80, May 2019) — A playful, intelligent, and cutting story, written in the form of an academic text, that actually subverts that form and criticizes the academy for perpetuating sexism, racism, and colonialism. If you love academic scholarship and theory — or, for that matter, if you hate those things — you gotta check this one out. (Reviewed in more detail here.)

“Spectrum of Acceptance” by Nyla Bright (Escape Pod Episode 689 on 18 July 2019) — This is a story about dis/ability, social structures, and utopia/dystopia. It’s one of the most intelligent and challenging stories I’ve read, largely because it dares to imagine: what if society truly centered people with disabilities? (Reviewed in more detail here.)

Finally, if you want more recommendations, check out my column on Skiffy and Fanty for more stories I loved from 2019.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash


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