Curio Shelf, January 2023

I’m approaching this blogging thing a bit differently, mostly because I haven’t been blogging for the past year. I’ve decided this year, I will try to mix a review of what I’ve been reading along with chiming in on some conversations I’ve been a part of in the writer world (which, for me, is mostly twitter). I will stay with the previous theme of this blog, though. Meaning these won’t be reviews of things I didn’t like as much as me sharing what I’ve read and loved along with why you should go read or listen to it. As usual, the focus will be on short fiction.

This month I’ve been focusing on reading short fiction. Below are my four favorite stories I’ve come across so far.

Murder by Pixel

Murder By Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness by S. L. Huang is available in the December issue of Clarkesworld Magazine. It’s told from the point of view of a journalist researching a story about a woman who has supposedly created a chat bot that caused several high-profile suicides. The story is more of a vignette than a story, in that no one but the reader changes. Instead, it’s an in-depth and well-informed examination of the ethics behind AI, which is timely. The author’s expertise in the subject matter made this an engaging read that held my attention, while the framing story held my interest in a topic that I haven’t been able to read a lot of non-fiction about, but which I wish I knew more.


Published in Nightmare Magazine’s December issue, Wallers by Mari Ness follows the strange situation of a girl who has faded into the wall of her childhood home to escape her alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriends. The story is told between a collection of skipping rhymes and scientific extracts about the phenomenon, implying it is widespread but hushed.

I loved the skipping rhymes as well as the concept of the story. The horror of the abuse has taken place off page, leaving us to imagine what would make a person chose to live in the walls rather than face their life. The dread is not so much whether the girl will be caught as much as the choices she is forced to make. I find many Nightmare stories involve the dread of choices and dealing with choices we don’t want to make, which makes them powerful, emotional pieces.

To Cheer As They Leave You Behind

Another one from Nightmare, but this time January’s issue, To Cheer As They Leave You Behind is by James L. Sutter. In it, a woman realizes she can take over her daughter’s body by eating her placenta. The story follows the woman’s addiction to her daughter’s life and closely examines the pride and horror parents feel as their children become more independent.

As a parent who loves parent/family-focused horror, this one hit all the sweet spots for me. There were several moments I wasn’t sure what I would do in a similar situation, as well as when I wasn’t sure who to root for. I was never quite sure if the main character was the villain or a victim, and that makes a beautiful horror story.

The Satellite Charmer

This is my favorite story of the month, by far. The Satellite Charmer by Mame Bougouma Diene is available in issue 134 of Apex Magazine and was originally published in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora. This story feels like an epic compacted nicely into a short story. In an apocalyptic Senegal, a young man watches his homeland torn apart by Chinese mining satellites. He shares his friends’ mix of horror and fascination for the satellites, but at the same time harbors a secret affinity for them that he can’t explain. The story follows the boy as he becomes a man and creates a family of his own. It manages to touch on personal responsibility, growing up, generational love, and the socio-economic issues of mining and exploitation all within an hour.

This story was so beautifully written. I sank into the characters and, while I didn’t want it to end, the ending felt satisfying. Seriously, if you can only read one short this month, this is the one.


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