io9 Newsstand: Best Stories for the Week of August 25 - 30

Holiday weekend! And that means more time to read. Good thing, too, because there is a lot to read.

As of this month there are only a couple of 2013 SFF awards left to be awarded. If you haven't read all of the short fiction nominated for the World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Hugo, or Nebula awards, author James Hubbs kindly rounded up all the ones you can read online for free. That should keep you busy through this weekend at least!

The last (certainly not least) of my August picks are below.

Image Credit: Julie Dillon for Tor.com

A Meaningful Exchange by Kat Howard | Lightspeed Magazine

Quentin told lies to people for money.

Or drugs. Or kittens. Or anything, really. The particular currency didn't matter, so long as what was being offered had value to the person who needed the lie.

Lying was Quentin's one great talent. He enjoyed the activity, and would have told lies for free.

However, in professional circumstances, no matter how happy it would have made Quentin to commit a dishonest act of charity, he insisted on payment. It was the payment that guaranteed the lie would be believed when someone other than Quentin told it.

The way this piece smoothly spills you into Quentin's life and point of view is skillful, especially considering where you end up once the story is over. Short, fun, powerful—this is very high on my list of favorites for August and I've been waiting all month to share it with you (it just went online this week).

Coincidentally, Kat has two other stories out this month that I was also inclined to share with you, though I'll skip the explanations for why. This week's column could seriously turn into "3 Reasons Why You Need To Read Kat Howard All The Time." Anyway, check out The Saint of the Sidewalks in Clarkesworld Magazine and The Very Fabric in Subterranean.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade by John Chu | Tor.com

Ritter's partner hung just over the smoke, threads of Turbulence snaking through his dead body. He'd decided to show Ritter, the new academy graduate, how engineers really worked. But the barricade was malfunctioning, not just broken down. It would need a new design to account for an attack mode that Turbulence had never before exhibited, not merely its stripped gears replaced, but the seasoned engineer had refused to listen. The blaze of Turbulence that leaked through hadn't taken more than few seconds to destroy his mind.

Ritter shot a distress flare. It carved a thick spiral in the air as it soared. Help would arrive sooner or later.

I can't pretend to understand all of the techno-trickery going on in this story. It's all very abstract and hard for me to visualize. But John Chu's stories are always about characters dealing with interpersonal issues in the midst of science fictional settings, and the father/son story here was strong enough to carry me through even when nothing else grounded me.


In the comments I've seen some great discussion about stories and recommendations, which is awesome and please keep it up. If you're at all interested in discussing short stories in more depth in a kind of book club setting, I created a SpecFicShorts community over on Google Plus a long time ago with the intention of talking about a new story at least every week. We've not quite reached that goal! But now that I'm back to reading shorts on a regular basis I figured I would give it a try and invite anyone here who's interested to join.

As always, I welcome your comments here on any story above or the stories you've read this month that you loved. Have a fun Labor Day weekend!