​io9 Newsstand: Best Short Stories for the Week of July 14 - 19

I swear it's just a coincidence that multiple vampire stories caught my attention this week. But it put me in mind of those who are destructive and suck the lifeblood from society, which coincidentally is a theme of the other stories on this list. Leeching is in the air, kids!

image credit: Vampire by Bastian on Flickr

The Food in the Basement by Laura Davy | Apex Magazine

Excerpt: Kaden asked, "Are you hungry? I can order pizza." Sondra just shrugged and Kaden frowned. "Are you still pouting?"

Sondra continued to stare at the TV and said, "I was sick for three days."

"And you've been fine for four days. I had a one–night stand on Saturday, but I need to drink again. Are you going to be difficult?"

Sondra didn't say anything but held out her wrist.

A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i by Alaya Dawn Johnson | The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Excerpt: For the past four years, Key has been the overseer of the Mauna Kea Grade Orange blood facility. Is it a concentration camp if the inmates are well fed? If their beds are comfortable? If they are given an hour and a half of rigorous boxercise and yoga each morning in the recreational field?

When she's called in to deal with Jeb's body — bloody, not drained, in a feeding room — yoga doesn't make him any less dead.

Key helps vampires run a concentration camp for humans.

Key is a different kind of monster.

Both Davy and Johnson's stories explore an intense relationship between a human and a vampire. They also explore the sexual subtext associated with vampire stories on both a literal and metaphorical level. As much as they have in common, including forced imprisonment and humans treated like livestock, they're very different stories.

Alaya's novelet is set in the bright and beautiful sunshine of Hawai'i, not that most of the characters spend much time enjoying it. The contrast between a setting that's often used as shorthand for idyllic paradise and a situation straight out of a nightmare is one of the things that makes this story compelling. Whereas the basement where Laura sets her short contains exactly the type of creeping horror and unease that makes kids hesitate to go down dark flights of stairs to do the laundry.

Stone Hunger by N. K. Jemisin | Clarkesworld Magazine

Excerpt: Once there was a girl who lived in a beautiful place full of beautiful people who made beautiful things. Then the world broke.

Now the girl is older, and colder, and hungrier. From the shelter of a dead tree, she watches as a city—a rich one, big, with high strong walls and well-guarded gates—winches its roof into place against the falling chill of night.

It will be nice to be warm again.

Jemisin's next novel, The Fifth Season, won't be out until next year. If you're hungry for a taste of it, this short set in the same world should satisfy. There are no traditional vampires here, but plenty of creatures that feed off of others and people whose survival depends on inflicting slow, devastating wounds that eventually destroy.

Palm Strike's Last Case by Charlie Jane Anders | The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Excerpt: In the end, Luc says yes, even though every instinct rebels against it. Not because Josiah hid his mask, but because something inside him, his core, is suddenly too exhausted to do anything else. Sleeping for a hundred years sounds perfect. Maybe he'll wake up having understood something. Maybe he won't wake up at all — even better.

Another set of metaphorical vampires for you. In this story space colonists can't seem to escape an all-too-earthly problem: drugs. Addiction plus all the attendant societal problems plus the added burden of terraforming gone wrong. This story combines a lot of elements that usually stand alone in the center of their own plots: an aging, Batman-esque vigilante hero, a father blinded by grief, a colony struggling to survive in a harsh alien environment, and a mystery behind said struggle. Charlie Jane weaves all of this together really well, creating a story that seems like it could be episode one of an amazing space opera TV series while simultaneously feeling complete and satisfying in the end.

What stories did you read this week? Shout out your faves in the comments.