The Year in Review 2022 by Charles Payseur

Charles Payseur (2017)

It’s difficult to capture a year spent reading most­ly short fiction and poet­ry, especially one where I’ve been trying to learn new reading patterns and settling into a new role as short fiction reviewer here at Locus. Short fic­tion and poetry always seem like a ‘‘blink and you’ll miss it’’ field, where new works are constantly incoming, and taking the time to pause and reflect can bow beneath the weight of all the new works coming out and demanding attention. Amid all of that, 2022 was another phenomenal year of short speculative fiction and poetry, with so many works that moved me deeply, that thoroughly entertained me, and that gave me a lot to think about.

This was a year to say goodbye (or at least goodbye for now) to some old friends in short speculative fiction, as well as wel­come some new ones to a field that can al­ways use new voices and innovations. Fire­side Magazine had its last issue in 2022 after a long run and a host of amazing works. Though the road wasn’t always smooth, what I’ll remember most from the publica­tion is the dedication to pushing bound­aries, especially with the bold decisions and amazing physical Fireside Quarterly editions that came out. As someone who works a day job in printing, the physical is­sues they produced were breathtaking and have a special place on my bookshelves. Of their 2022 content, I’d definitely like to point to ‘‘Grit, Goblins, and Good Times’’ by WC Dunlap and ‘‘Seen Small Through Glass’’ by Premee Mohamed as strong examples.

Lackington’s also went on indefinite hia­tus in 2022, bring to a pause at least the output from one of the more linguistically experimental and distinctive publications in the field. Always conscious of the beauty and power of language, the final issue in­cluded the powerful ‘‘Something Monstrous Lives in the Oceans’’ by Alexandra Seidel.

In general there are a great many publications out there doing amazing and consistent work, which I dearly hope will continue into the future. F&SF had a stellar year, for instance, putting out a wide range of works and taking risks on a huge number of authors and poets who had never before been seen in the hallowed pages of the long-running magazine. Among my favorites there were Innocent Chizaram Ilo’s ‘‘The City and the Thing Be­neath It’’ and J.C. Hsyu’s ‘‘Optimist Cleaver’s Last Transmission’’. Strange Horizons also had a strong year, with numerous special issues focusing on themes ranging from music to visual arts and much more. I par­ticularly enjoyed ‘‘Bee Season’’ by Michelle Kulwicki and ‘‘The Miraculous Account of Khaja Bairaq, Pennant-Saint of Zabel’’ by Tanvir Ahmed.

It’s also been a great year if you, like me, can’t get enough stories about food. Fiyah Literary Magazine (check out ‘‘Just Deserts’’ by A.M. Barrie), Diabolical Plots (Amanda Hollander’s hilarious ‘‘A Strange and Muen­sterous Desire’’), and more all came out with themed issues focusing on the inter­section of the culinary and the speculative. As a food enthusiast and reader, I really can’t get enough about the way authors ap­proach food and eating, and the vivid and at times visceral ways they capture the acts of cooking and ingesting across fantasy, sci­ence fiction, and horror genres. :chef’s kiss:

I would also be remiss if I didn’t linger slightly on a very small publication that has been hitting way above its weight for some time now. GigaNotoSaurus has been a fa­vorite of mine for some time, but especially in the last year they are such a consistent source of amazing works. The only require­ment for publication is that work be over 5,000 words, and the publication puts out only a single story a month. Given that read­ing is subjective and tastes vary, it’s easy to imagine that putting all its eggs in one monthly basket might be risky, but I am constantly impressed by the work coming out at GigaNotoSaurus, and do encourage people to pay at­tention. And if you’re looking to catch up, starting with Isabel Cañas’s ‘‘The Law of Take’’ and Avra Magariti’s ‘‘Little Gardens Everywhere’’ is highly recommended.

I’d also be remiss not to mention some other favorites from the year from various publications, including ‘‘Wanderlust’’ by LP Kindred, ‘‘If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You’’ by John Chu, ‘‘All Shall Know Their Appointed Time’’ by Lisa M. Bradley, and ‘‘A Sword Has One Purpose’’ by Phoebe Barton.

2022 has also been a good year to take note of some new (or new to me) authors who have been doing some sterling work. Authors like Isabel J. Kim (‘‘Christopher Mills, Return to Sender’’), Ai Jiang (‘‘Give Me Eng­lish’’), and Dominique Dickey (‘‘Slow Communication’’) have put out mul­tiple stories this year that made me pause and take notice and look for more. Writers like Amy Nagopaleen (‘‘We’ll Always Have Enceladus’’), Simo Srinivas (‘‘Plum Century’’), and Ruben Reyes Jr. (‘‘Sync-A-Life’’) have each given me plenty of reasons to check back from time to time to see if they have anything new out. Find­ing new voices in the field is one of the great pleasures of being a short fiction reader, even as sometimes there is a sorrow when some of those new voices are only heard once in a long while.

Then there are the times when I get the chance to reconnect with some old favorites. Short fiction collections are (or can be) tes­taments to the perseverance and presence of writers in the field spanning years. They represent to me a kind of reward as a reader, being able to hold the physical collection of works that separately have often meant so much. And 2022 was a very good year for short fiction collections, with volumes from some of my very favorite authors. Both Sam J. Miller (with Boys, Beasts, & Men) and R.B. Lemberg (with Geometries of Belong­ing) came out with collections that capture for me a lot of what hooked me on short speculative fiction. These were the two au­thors who, upon discovering their work, changed the way I viewed reading, showing me what I had been missing and what I was most hungry for. Their collections are trea­sures, gems that shine brightly even among the hordes of works released this year.

Other collections by H. Pueyo, Izzy Was­serstein, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, and more have also made this just a stunning year for short fiction collections, especially featuring queer themes and characters.

There’s probably a lot more that I’m for­getting. As I wrote before, the field is built in a way that there’s always something new to focus on, something you need to rush to reach back for before it’s lost in the swirls of time or your browser restarts and wipes out all your open tabs. Sometimes I see that framed like a criticism of short speculative fiction and poetry. But for me it’s a feature and part of the reason why, year af­ter year, I remain enraptured with the sense of discovery the field provides. You never really know what’s right around the corner – what portal you’ll fall through into what world or experience. I am grateful that I get to take that journey in part in the pages here at Locus, and that I get to share it with a wide and welcoming audi­ence. Thank you, and here’s to a great 2023!

Charles Payseur is an avid reader, writer, and reviewer of speculative fiction. His works have appeared in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Lightspeed Magazine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others, and many are included in his debut collection, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories (Lethe Press 2021). He is the series editor of We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction (Neon Hemlock Press) and a multiple-time Hugo and Ignyte Award finalist for his work at Quick Sip Reviews. When not drunkenly discussing Goosebumps, X-Men comic books, and his cats on his Patreon (/quicksipreviews) and Twitter (@ClowderofTwo), he can probably found raising a beer with his husband, Matt, in their home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

This review and more like it in the February 2023 issue of Locus.

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