March has been a month of unusual settings, stories of alienation and loss, and meditations on the nature of time.
Tade Thompson’s “The Monkey House” (Omenana #2), dystopian horror, is a story about what it means to be trapped inside a system, and the horrors one must overlook to be a part of that system; what happens when the ability to ignore horrors both natural and fantastical is seized from you and you alone? The protagonist is an unreliable narrator — or is he far more reliable as a narrator than the characters that surround him? — and holds a banal job as a paper-pusher with an insidiously creepy company whose purpose is obscured. This dystopia is set not in the future but in the eighties and follows the Orwellian tradition while being rather Kafkaesque, but adds enough facets, from dark fantasy elements to the chronic illness of the protagonist, to create something entirely new.
This month has featured several stories of WTFFFFF mind-blowing levels of weirdness. “Documentary” by Vajra Chandrasekera (Lightspeed #58) is meta-fictional; you’re never quite sure who the protagonist is; and it’s like urban fantasy met post-apocalyptic dystopia and had a baby. With a tail. Rosamund Hodges’ “The Lamps Thereof Are Fire and Flames” (Uncanny #3) is a feminist retelling of Snow White that turns the story on its head, with every female character (including gender-bent ones) presented sympathetically — and yet not. And for more what-the-FFFFF, the entirety of Omenana #2 is worth reading.
My favorite of March is an emotionally intense futuristic fantasy story: “The Cult of Death” by K.L. Pereira (Shimmer #24) is a story of superpowers and handicaps, of being invisible, and of the people on the margins finding each other and finding strength. Nino Cipri’s “The Shape of My Name” (Tor.com) is similarly emotionally evocative, and unusual in its depiction of time travel; with family relationships at the core of the narrative, I found it reminiscent of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.
“Eye” by Wole Talabi (Liquid Imagination #24) is a chilling take on the question: what you would do if you could see the future? It’s a story that’s grim, but not gratuitous, and with gorgeous prose (TW for sexual violence in story):
If you could see beyond the horizon of what is and into that amorphous realm of what will be, what would you do with the knowledge from your sight? What would you say? Would you tell the joyful mother cradling her son in her arms to love him with all her heart now because it will be difficult to love him when he becomes a murderer?… Perhaps you would just stand there with your lips sealed, silent and sessile as the river of time flowed gently towards it destination, for better or for worse. Perhaps you will do nothing with this gift but wish you could return it.
But I do not like uncertainties.
Finally, “Even the Mountains Are Not Forever” by Laurie Tom (Strange Horizons 3/2/2015) is a mix of many of these elements, with a surrealistic far future and the creation of that society’s mythology, the nature of time as it applies to an artificially created god of sorts, and the inner lives of characters at its center.