Dang Good Stories #2

This week we’ve got stories about boats and trains. (No planes, sorry.)

“Boat in Shadows, Crossing” by Tori Truslow (Beneath Ceaseless Skies January 2013)

I originally read this story in Heiresses of Russ 2014: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction which was a kickstarter reward for Lightspeed‘s Queers Destroy SF! project, but it was first published at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

I do not read enough of BCS. Whenever I come across one of their stories, they knock my socks off. “Boat in Shadows, Crossing” takes BCS‘s usual emphasis on interesting worldbuilding and kicks it up a notch. There’s so much packed into this world. Death-magic and ghost houses; living, vengeful boats; a many-gendered god and the festival inspired by them; a town that eats people. It’s a remarkable accomplishment that all of this remains comprehensible and consistent.

The story follows Bue, who journeys from a village to the above-mentioned people-eating town to make a living with their death-magic. In the process they save a girl from the ghost-house that was once meant to protect her and is now a prison.

In other hands, this could have been a simple story, but in Truslow’s hands the plot becomes as layered as the world. There are stories-within-stories, marriage plots, questions that interrogate what we think of love and gender. And gender is also integral to this story–Bue is the daughter of a village, who takes on the guise of a son to go to the city, and who seems to take on different aspects of genders as they choose. This is a world that plays with gender unseriously, where identity is mutable. It’s a fascinating topic that’s often not deeply considered in fantasy.

I absolutely adored this story and I’m looking forward to finding more of Truslow’s fiction.

“Katabasis: Seraphic Trains” by Sarah Monette (Tales of the Unanticipated July 2006)

Sarah Monette might be my favorite short story writer. Her stories are incredibly varied in voice, subject, and style, but always beautiful. This story was republished in Monette’s collection Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, where I encountered it.

In this story, a young woman hopes her music will let her board one of the unnatural trains that circle the city, so she can find her lost love. But of course, such wishes don’t come without cost.

This is a story that showcases Monette’s gorgeous, almost-poetry writing, but it also has a depth of plot that a lot of “pretty” stories lack.

“The Strangers” by Anonymous (Creepypasta.org)

I’m not usually a creepypasta reader, but this story was linked in a discussion of the above Monette story and it is so good.

In this story, a man notices a person on the subway who is not quite…right and he follows the stranger to the end of the line. The true horror of the story isn’t what he finds there, but what it does to him.

One thing I like about this sort of internet story is how the form influences the reading experience. If this story were in an anthology, I don’t think I would have responded as strongly to it. The author’s anonymity and the ephemeral feel of the site gives the story, paradoxically, a sense of truth. This could be anyone, anywhere, posting this.



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