The holidays are here again. The days are short and the nights are long. Best stock up on stories that will see you through the long dark until the sun brings back the green. Fiction Unbound has you covered. Here are our suggestions for the coming winter:
Lisa Mahoney has a great idea for folks on the move:
Elevator Pitch: I can’t be alone in lamenting that I use up the only consistent reading time I have deleting spam from my iPhone. What’s a short story lover to do? Subscribe to more podcasts, of course. My favorite podcast this last quarter is the fantasy and sci-fi magazine Lightspeed, which hit a landmark 100 issues this year. I was floored by several trippy and terrifying stories: Theodore McCombs’ terrifying “Talk to Your Children about Two-Tongued Jeremey,” about peer-pressure, performance-pressure, and the horrors of social media; “The Last to Matter” by Adam-Troy Castro, about the disconcerting ways virtually immortal humans pass time as the Sun fades away; and the heart-wrenching story of redemption and parent-child love, “You Pretend Like You Never Met Me, and I’ll Pretend Like I Never Met You” by Maria Dahvana Headly.
Great Gift for: the over-15 crowd. Lightspeed doesn’t shy away from sex or violence, but it’s always message-driven, never gratuitous.
Good paired with: traffic jams, or StairMaster workouts
Price: Your subscription support is desperately needed and highly appreciated.
Thickness rating: an approximately half-hour commitment per podcast story
Amanda Baldeneaux has the perfect gift for writers: the Journal of the Month
Elevator Pitch: Know someone who wants to read all the things but lacks time to consume 20+ lit magazines a month? Let Journal of the Month curate a short story reading list for them! This subscription sends your gift recipient (or you, if you’re doing a little self-splurging) one hand-picked literary journal in your choice of increments (I get one every other month). You can nix any journal the recipient already subscribes to (or just doesn’t like), and then leave it up to the Journal of the Month team to surprise your giftee.
Great Gift for: Writers who want to stay current on what’s being published in the literary short-fiction world, but lack the time and resources to subscribe to every journal out there.
Good paired with: A fat stack of rejection letters and tears. I mean wine and sunglasses.
Price: Frequency starts at 4 journals a year for $44 and goes up from there.
Thickness rating: Peruse each journal at one’s leisure—there’s no shame in not reading a literary journal cover to cover.
Theodore McCombs recommends Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin:
Elevator Pitch: In medieval Russia, the healer Arseny has an uncanny gift for times beset by plague, violence, and doomsday anticipation. As Arseny’s adventures take him as far as Venice, Jerusalem, and the 20th century USSR, Vodolazkin’s gorgeous writing straddles the line between fabulism and bitter realism, holy and profane, even past and present.
Great Gift for: Readers tired of ironic detachment and hungry for wonders. (Despite the comparisons to Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Laurus requires no prior knowledge of or interest in medieval doctrinal disputes or Latin.)
Good paired with: Fresh-cooked bread and nettle tea
Thickness rating: Medium. The opening chapters can get slow and bogged down in plot machinery, but once Arseny gets on the road, the narration is swift and lean and I didn’t want it to ever end, though naturally it did.
CS Peterson is recruiting friends to read The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton:
Elevator Pitch: Mom was the queen and then she was murdered. Now her husband, King Lear, holds the throne. He rules an island and has three daughters. Two daughters scheme. The third is the priestess of a faith that worships the orderly perfection of the divine stars, but ignores the magic of water and trees on the island where they live. This variation on Shakespeare’s King Lear is told from the women’s point of view. There is history that came before, decisions that women made under social constraints that make the present feel like fate.
Great Gift for: fans of philosophy, feminism, and blood-soaked epics
Good paired with: Intro to swordplay lessons with your local HEMA club.
Thickness rating: A brick at 574 pages. This will see you through the nights from now until the equinox.
Danyelle C. Overbo has the perfect gift for Fantasy lovers:
Elevator Pitch: Fairy tale retellings are always a treat, and Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver is no exception. This novel, set in the Russian winter, is full of powerful female protagonists, each with their own angle and role to play in the classic tale of Rumplestiltskin.
Great Gift for: Fantasy lovers, fairy tale lovers, and people who like to hear the woman’s side in the story.
Good paired with: Go all out and give an eco-friendly care package from Care Squared as well. A little box of awesome will help them keep warm as they read this fantastic winter tale. (Full disclosure: Care Squared is my own new venture, a company with the mission of giving practical gifts with a purpose. DCO)
Thickness rating: Solid, thunk you over the head, novel thick
Mark Springer recommends The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
Elevator Pitch: In the distant future, an anxious, antisocial android named Murderbot goes rogue, freeing itself from the corporation that controls it. If this were the setup for a clichéd retread of the Rogue AI trope, Murderbot would use its newfound freedom to take revenge on its former masters, do a lot of murdering, and become a cautionary tale about the perils of technological overreach. Instead, the sentient deadly weapon discovers that it is not a heartless killing machine after all. Over the course of four entertaining novellas, Murderbot grapples with fundamental questions of self-awareness—Who am I? What do I want in life?—while helping to bring an unscrupulous mega-corporation (the real rogue threat in the galaxy) to justice.
Great Gift for: Readers looking for a fresh and funny take on the Rogue AI trope.
Good paired with: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, an all-time Rogue AI classic that rewards attention spans from a more civilized age.
Price: About $50 for the series.
Thickness rating: Four slim volumes that add up to a substantial omnibus.
Gemma Webster picks The Silent Garden: A Journal of Esoteric Fabulism
Elevator Pitch: I have been coveting this book, and at $50+ it is definitely gift worthy. According to Undertow Publishing, “The Silent Garden is a peer-reviewed journal of esoteric fabulism, edited and curated by the Silent Garden Collective, a professional group of editors, writers, and scholars interested in exploring those liminal borderlands where darkness bends.
“The Collective’s aim is to provide an annual journal of exceptional writing and art focussed on horror and the numinous, the fabulist, the uncanny, the weird, the gnostic, the avant-garde, the esoteric, and the dark interstices of the known and unknown world.
“Each volume of The Silent Garden will feature original, translated, and reprint fiction and non-fiction, including: film and book reviews; essays; opinion and commentary; as well as poetry and art.”
Great Gift for: Perfect for lovers of beautiful books that contain horror and weird fiction. (Hint, hint honey.)
Good paired with: Champagne is my go-to because it goes with everything. Get a fancy bottle because, hey, it’s a gift.
Price: $50 from Undertow Publishing
Thickness rating: A very substantial 252 pages.