With only a handful of short stories to her name (only four that I'm aware of) Micaela Morrissette is fast becoming one of my favourite weird fiction writers.
The Familiars is a beautifully written and perfectly judged tale of a mother vying for her son against the imaginary friends who keep appearing from under his bed. The great thing about this story is that there is so much detail and such ambiguity that it can be read and enjoyed anew again and again with the reader noticing different things each time. I’ve read The Familiars about five times now and I still haven’t quite grasped what’s actually going on in this tale. Are the boy’s friends real or only imaginary? There does seem to be some sort of magic going on. In one scene the mother visits her dead husband’s grave, then goes to a stream and casts away some of his belongings. Yet we are never told why. This made me wonder if the friends are actually the father returning in a different form, and this was the mother’s way of trying to be rid of him/them. Or perhaps the story is about the mother’s attempts to reign in her son’s imagination before he starts school and enters the real world. Or perhaps it’s merely about loss and mourning, and the ways that people deal with it. That’s the beauty of this story, it seems designed to make you ponder and speculate; an approach which in the wrong hands could simple frustrate the reader, but here it keeps you coming back again and again to re-read. If I had to describe this story with one word it would be: enchanting.
Find it: The New Black anthology by Richard Thomas; The Weird anthology by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Also recommended by the same author : Porn and Revolution in the Peaceable Kingdom
Set in a future world where animals have out-evolved human beings, Porn…tells the story of Tim, a lonely sentient slime mould who works in Wall-Mart and whose only source of companionship is his pet human, Fifi. The story follows Tim’s frustrations as he tries on-line dating (with a Parrott!), attempts to keep Fifi from mating, and tries to find some sense of purpose in life. Essentially, this is a tale of modern-day living with a twist. Projecting it into an animal-ruled future allows the story to be both humorous (the scene where Tim comes home one day to find Fifi rutting on top of a neighbour’s car was a laugh out loud moment for me), and thought-provoking. Some people have and will object to one scene near the end of the story, but for me this was a very enjoyable read. Again, Morrissette delivers with her exquisite writing and fantastic world-building skills.
Find it: online at Tor.com