Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Fantasy and Sci-Fi Short Story Collections

Sometimes I need a break from this planet and this reality…but just for a moment because there’s work to be done. Fantasy and Sci-Fi short story collections have always been there for my mini vacays. These reads were particularly effective means for escape, but also deep thought.

Falling in Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while. I noticed it again recently and challenged myself to finish it shortly before writing this. I couldn’t be happier that it didn’t end up forgotten among my stacks of half read books because it reminded me why I’m such a big fan of Hopkinson’s writing.

The collection begins with a  story about feral children living in warrens after the breakout of a violent disease, and, man, was that story a gut punch. Hopkinson writes speculative fiction with grit and manages to do what great short storytellers do best: capture a powerful and compelling snapshot.

Each story also begins with a brief and interesting introduction from Hopkinson where you often discover  the plot’s inspiration–whether a misheard subway system announcement calling for the Easthound train, the meaning of “soul case” in Jamaica, or another writer’s observations on fairy tales.

Buy it because you’ll love what the cover art does for your shelf.

The Woman Who Thought She was a Planet and Other Stories by Vandana Singh

Many of the stories in Singh’s Sci-Fi collection take place in India, which, at the time I came across it, gave me a much needed change of pace in my speculative fiction reading. And if you’re looking for something truly out there, you’ve got it in these stories.

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The title story is exactly what it sounds like–a woman discovers she’s transforming into a planet. Her husband fights with the concept even as her body offers proof. In fact, domestic life is a running theme in this collection: motherhood, marriage, family…space ships.

There’s nothing sterile about the Sci-Fi in this collection; it’s fresh, inventive, lyrical, and human.

I couldn’t find this one in the massive Los Angeles Public Library collection, so, unless your library has a copy, you might only have the option of buying.

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

I would never leave Octavia Butler off this list because Bloodchild and Other Stories was the first short story collection I fell for.

The titular story won the Hugo and the Nebula, and this is the collection that hosts one of my all-time favorite short stories, Speech Sounds (also a Hugo winner), a chilling tale about communication. Bloodchild is a Sci-Fi collection with alien conquests, epidemics, and the like; one that gives readers much to chew on (and worry over) about civilization and humanity’s future. It also includes essays, two new stories, and delightful asides from Butler about the thoughts and processes involved in writing each story.

This book should be easily found in your library (I hope), so borrow. I mean, I checked out this book so often I eventually ended up buying it, and you might too.

cover of Spirits Abroad by Zen ChoSpirits Abroad by Zen Cho

If you loved Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown you might want to know about her short stories, and you might be glad to know that this collection begins with magic and the ability to wield it. I personally love Spirits Abroad because it has a decidedly Malaysian flavor. Stories about witches, fairyland, and people-eating undead hobnob with hawker stalls, cili padi, and Maggi mee noodles (another wonderful thing about the stories–all of the food references).

By the way, if you look out, you might even find mention of the Sorcerer Royal here.

Of course, Sorcerer to the Crown is one thing, and this collection is another. If you aren’t a big fan of short stories, but want to read more Zen Cho, borrow first, then buy if you’re down for that regional richness.

What are your favorite speculative fiction reads?