Yet, I need them as a reader - now and always; and I want to write them, too.
Here are my five recommendations, in no particular order.
(1) Amal El-Mohtar, "Pockets" in Uncanny Magazine. I don't know how often I have reread this story, and I still get teary when I do.
I don’t know you, but I wish I did; I wish I could tell you how much I love you, love your eyes for reading this, love your hands for holding my words.
(2) Sara Norja, "The City Beneath the Sea," in An Alphabet of Embers. This one is dreamlike, and I edited it. The kindness is the story itself, which heals and does not break.
Someone touches my back, a gentle stroke, and my bones feel young again. A low, husky bowing has joined the kantele: a viol. Its low voice draws tears from my eyes, I who last cried when my husband and wife died of the plague. Now the tears are a stream of salt in this ballroom in the city beneath the sea.
(3) Charles Payseur, "A Lumberjack Guide to Dryad Spotting," in Flash Fiction Online. A story which could have so easily turned to ruthlessness, but it wraps up in kindness instead.
The second thing is the slow breathing. All trees breathe, and you’ll be able to see it if you’re around them long enough, but dryad breath is different, escapes out through a single concealed mouth, and if you wait long enough you’ll see the heat of it fog the crisp air.
(4) Darcie Little Badger, Owl vs Neighborhood Watch (Strange Horizons). This one is a sharp story about depression and despair, a story that turns towards community and hope, and wins.
Owl-as-a-Man loitered outside her apartment, barefoot. From toes to brow, a white feather pattern rippled up His brown skin. The ghostly hospital gown He wore—why a hospital gown? Nina wondered—seemed at once too baggy for His body and too skimpy for the winter chill that night.
I asked the authors of these stories, in turn, to recommend their favorite kind stories. Here are their responses, quoted with permission:
Amal El-Mohtar recommended a poem - "Questions to Ask Yourself before Giving Up" . Thank you so much, Amal! I remember when this poem first came out, but then lost track of it. The poem is not speculative, but it is wonderful and caring.
Sara Norja recommended "Rab the Giant versus the Witch of the Waterfall" by Brian M. Milton (Fireside). Sara says: "This story made me cry a bit because the main character was so kind in his problem-solving." Thank you, Sara! I recently read this story too, and really enjoyed it.
Charles Payseur broke the rules a bit and recommended TWO stories, "Black, Their Regalia" by Darcie Little Badger (Fantasy Magazine) and Bogi Takács' "Forestspirit, Forestspirit" (Clarkesworld). Thanks, Charles - I love both of those stories as well.
Darcie Little Badger recommended stories by Claudie Arsenault in Solarpunk Press, such as "The Daisy Haunt." Darcie recommends solarpunk as a go-to genre for optimistic and kind stories. Thanks, Darcie!! I'm looking forward to reading this story.
I also cheated a bit and asked Bogi Takács, the author of "Forestspirit, Forestspirit" (and also my spouse!) to recommend a kind story as well. Bogi recommended "Emily Breakfast" by Nalo Hopkinson (from her collection Falling in Love with Hominids). Thanks, Bogi! I love Nalo's work, and am looking forward to reading this one!
I hope you enjoy these pieces, and please recommend more stories (and poems) which are kind and which you love.