It's the last day of the month, which means it's time for the monthly rundown of "best stories I read this month, but were not necessarily released this month." Yeah!
I usually hate speculative (and non-speculative for that matter) Xmas stories. There's one by China Mieville I really like, but other than that, I can't think of a single holiday story that I didn't find ultimately cloying. But now I guess there are two Xmas-themed short stories I like, now that I've read In the Late December by Greg van Eekhout. An immortal being traverses the universe, giving hope and toys to the remaining consciousness clusters as they are swallowed one by one by the process of entropy. This should be an Xmas standard.
I don't know whether the timing of Your Final Apocalypse by Sandra McDonald was decided because of the "Mayan apocalypse" or not, but it's a far better end-of-the-world story than 99% of disaster porn out there. The cold, clinical POV (my favorite kind) describes an alien intelligence extracting Earth experiences, then leaving them behind like empty husks. The chilling fate of the protagonist is something that will stick with you far beyond the first read. More like this, please, science fiction.
I enjoyed most of the stories in Terry Bisson's collection TVA Baby, but if I have to pick one to feature (and according to the arbitrary rules I just made up, I do), then I'll select the title story, a neat little bit of ultra-violence that follows the escapades of a clearly insane person, with a nod to television culture. Really hilarious in places, like most of Bisson's work. Read it online, then pick up the collection at PM Press.
Earthrise by Lavie Tidhar, over at Redstone Science Fiction, is a very good latter-day cyberpunk story set in a world dominated by a social media web called the Conversation. A collection of tropes -- the outlaw terrorist artist, the domed cities, the uploaded minds -- somehow turns out to be more than the sum of its parts. I have Osama on my reading list for January, and reading this story makes me really look forward to it. Tidhar's prose just sings.
That's it, I'm tired of writing! As always, if you have any stories that you think I should feature in January, please leave them in the comments.