WCSU

Jason Heller

"My lover first tells me that he is turning into a chart on a Tuesday." So begins "Thematic Cartography," one of the most curious and compelling entries in Collective Gravities, the debut collection of short stories by Chloe N. Clark. In it, one lover cares for another who is succumbing to the eeriest disease: the gradual appearance of line graphs and snatches of text across his skin. As the disease progresses, so does the mystery of its incomplete information.

Horror isn't many readers' first choice during times like these. And while the prospect of wallowing in the murkier end of the emotional spectrum isn't exactly high on the list of anyone's self-care regimen right now, there's a lot to be said for confronting our demons on the printed page as well as in real life. Emma J. Gibbon gets it. The Maine-by-way-of-England author's debut collection of short stories, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is an assortment of seventeen scalding, acidic tales that eat away at society's thin veneer of normalcy, convention, and even reality.

The current landscape of speculative fiction is teeming with astounding innovations and lavish spectacles — from the lesbian necromancers of Tamsyn Muir's Locked Tomb books to the world-shaking power dynamics of N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. In the midst of all that genre-expanding sprawl, however, there's still room for short, humble, understated works.

People could be other people, cities could be other cities, and worlds could be other worlds.

In Sarah Gailey's last novel, Magic for Liars, the author entirely upended the threadbare fantasy tropes of chosen ones and wizardry schools. But their new work, Upright Women Wanted, doesn't deal in fantasy at all.

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