WELCOME TO DECEMBER PROJECT!
this explanation/intro will be posted before each day’s short story. scroll down to get to the story-review.
this is the FIFTH year of me doing a short story advent calendar as my december project. for those of you new to me or this endeavor, here’s the skinny: every day in december, i will be reading a short story that is 1) available free somewhere on internet, and 2) listed on goodreads as its own discrete entity. there will be links provided for those of you who like to read (or listen to) short stories for free, and also for those of you who have wildly overestimated how many books you can read in a year and are freaking out about not meeting your 2020 reading-challenge goals. i have been gathering links all year when tasty little tales have popped into my feed, but i will also accept additional suggestions, as long as they meet my aforementioned 1), 2) standards, because i have not compiled as many as usual this year.
IN ADDITION, this may be the last year i do this project since GR has already deleted the pages for several of the stories i’ve read in previous years without warning, leaving me with a bunch of missing reviews and broken links, which makes me feel shitty. because i don’t have a lot of time to waste, i’m not going to bother writing much in the way of reviews for these, in case gr decides to scrap ’em again. 2020 has left me utterly wrung out and i apologize for what’s left of me. i am doing my best.
DECEMBER 13: IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY AGAIN – ZEN CHO
this one grew into five
stars cats for me. it didn’t start out that way—in the beginning, i was getting kinda bored and bogged down in the folktaliness of it; the story of an imugi studying the Way in order to ascend and become a dragon &yadda. but that all changed when i got to this part here:
Byam turned for its last look at the earth as an imugi. The lake shone in the sun. It had been cold, and miserable, and lonely, full of venomous water snakes that bit Byam’s tail. Byam had been dying to get away from it.
But now, it felt a swell of affection. When it returned as a dragon, it would bless the lake. Fish would overflow its banks. The cows and pigs and goats would multiply beyond counting. The crops would spring out of the earth in their multitudes…
A thin screechy noise was coming from the lake. When Byam squinted, it saw a group of little creatures on the western bank. Humans.
One of them was shaking a fist at the sky. “Fuck you, imugi!”
“Oh shit,” said Byam.
once the story took on a more…contemporary tone, i absolutely loved it. to this imugi, i say: SAME—getting mired in frustration over not achieving one’s goals, being thwarted by fate and happenstance despite prolonged efforts, hard work, ingenuity of approach, feeling foolish for having dreams, for wanting more, becoming accustomed to failure, accepting one’s lot, resigned to making a life smaller than you’d hoped and finding happiness in this smaller life while still experiencing twinges of thwarted ambition—it is all very relatable.
“Sometimes,” it said, “you try really hard and it’s not enough. You put in all you’ve got and you still never get where you thought you were meant to be…It hurts. Knowing it wasn’t enough, even when you gave it the best of yourself. But you get over it.”
it’s a crappy hand, knowing you have the potential to be a dragon but no matter how hard you try to punch through, people don’t see you for what you are—or what you’re trying so hard to become—and you end up stuck in the life of a goddamn worm.
apparently there was a sequel to this story: Head of a Snake, Tail of a Dragon, which was available to read on the author’s site until last may, and yet SOMEHOW the gr scrubbers haven’t deleted its page even though they have deleted NINE of my advent-stories, but that’s just FINE. i missed it by months, but considering it was available for two years, i only have myself to blame for not getting to it sooner. the story will become available once more, in a collection the author will be self-publishing, and as someone who does a lot of work for free—a situation which gives me a lot of the same feelings as byam the imugi—trying and trying and getting nowhere, and feeling like a failure—i get her decision because not getting paid for work, especially creative work, really sucks.
sorry. seems i’m in a MOOD tonight.
DECEMBER 1: PG – COURTNEY SUMMERS
DECEMBER 2: THE JUMPING MONKEY HILL – CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
DECEMBER 3: ORIGIN STORY – T. KINGFISHER
DECEMBER 4: THE GREAT SILENCE – TED CHIANG
DECEMBER 5: A CLEAN SWEEP WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS – JAMES ALAN GARDNER
DECEMBER 6: BORED WORLD – ANDY WEIR
DECEMBER 7: VAMPIRE – ROBERT COOVER
DECEMBER 8: A STATEMENT IN THE CASE – THEODORA GOSS
DECEMBER 9: STET – SARAH GAILEY
DECEMBER 10: MARGOT’S ROOM – EMILY CARROLL
DECEMBER 11: HORROR STORY – CARMEN MARIA MACHADO
DECEMBER 12: TERRAIN – GENEVIEVE VALENTINE
DECEMBER 14: GHOUL – GEORGE SAUNDERS
DECEMBER 15: DURING THE DANCE – MARK LAWRENCE
DECEMBER 16: CLEARING THE BONES – CELESTE NG
DECEMBER 17: THE WAITER’S WIFE
DECEMBER 18: DEMOLITION – FIONA MCFARLANE
DECEMBER 19: NO PERIOD – HARRY TURTLEDOVE
DECEMBER 20: DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE – GG
DECEMBER 21: RUB-A-DUB-DUB – TONY MILLIONAIRE
DECEMBER 22: HANSA AND GRETYL AND PIECE OF SHIT – REBECCA CURTIS
DECEMBER 23: BRIDESICLE – WILL MCINTOSH
DECEMBER 24: I, CTHULHU, OR, WHAT’S A TENTACLE-FACED THING LIKE ME DOING IN A SUNKEN CITY LIKE THIS (LATITUDE 47° 9′ S, LONGITUDE 126° 43′ W)? – NEIL GAIMAN
DECEMBER 25: CHRISTMAS TALE – MARK LAWRENCE
DECEMBER 26: THE MONSTERS OF HEAVEN – NATHAN BALLINGRUD
DECEMBER 27: TWO DREAMS ON TRAINS – ELIZABETH BEAR
DECEMBER 28: THE MARTIANS CLAIM CANADA – MARGARET ATWOOD
DECEMBER 29: UNDER THE WAVE – LAUREN GROFF
DECEMBER 30: MR. SALARY – SALLY ROONEY
DECEMBER 31: A/S/L – EMMA CLINE