As 2020 (thankfully) winds to a close, we're celebrating the books that readers chose to help them through the dark days. These include Recognize Fascism, which funded on Kickstarter in less than a day, Anna Kyle's delightfully sexy Wolf King series, and Skull and Pestle, which includes this year's WSFA Small Press Award-winning story. As always, a portion of the proceeds from the three solarpunk anthologies has been donated to Rainforest Alliance.
Want to see how this list stacks up to last year? See the December 2019 bestseller list here. The first half of 2020 can be found here. Below, you'll find our top 10 bestsellers for the second half of 2020, as well as a list of our top 10 bestsellers of all time. Is your favorite on these lists? Let us know in the comments!
A few notes on these rankings:
TOP 10 BESTSELLERS: 2nd Half 2020
TOP 10 ALL-TIME BESTSELLERS, 2012-PRESENT
Fairies threaten the world of artifice and technology, forcing the royal family to solve a riddle to stop their world from irrevocable change; a dishonest merchant uses automatons as vessels for his secrets and lies; a woman discovers the secret of three princesses whose shoes get scuffed while they sleep. These and so many other steampunk and gaslamp fairy tales await within the pages of Clockwork, Curses and Coal.
Retellings of Hansel and Gretel, The Princess and the Pea, Pinocchio, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and more are all showcased alongside some original fairy tale-like stories. Featuring stories by Melissa Bobe, Adam Brekenridge, Beth Cato, MLD Curelas, Joseph Halden, Reese Hogan, Diana Hurlburt, Christina Johnson, Alethea Kontis, Lex T. Lindsay, Wendy Nikel, Brian Trent, Laura VanArendonk Baugh and Sarah Van Goethem.
Clockwork, Curses, and Coal: Steampunk and Gaslamp Fairy Tales, edited by Rhonda Parrish, will be available in ebook and paperback March 2, 2021.
Table of Contents:
“The Iron Revolution” by Christina Ruth Johnson
“Clockwork Tea” by Joseph Halden
“A Future of Towers Made” by Beth Cato
“A Bird Girl in the Dark of Night” by Sarah Van Goethem
“Checkmate” by Brian Trent
“Necromancy” by Melissa Bobe
“Blood and Clockwork” by Wendy Nikel
“Sappho and Erinna” by Lex T. Lindsay
“Divine Spark” by Diana Hurlburt
“The Balance of Memory” by Reese Hogan
“The Giant and the Unicorn” by Alethea Kontis
“Ningyō” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
“Father Worm” by Adam Breckenridge
“The Coach Girl” by M.L.D. Curelas
About the Anthologist
Like a magpie, Rhonda Parrish is constantly distracted by shiny things. She’s the editor of many anthologies and author of plenty of books, stories and poems. She lives with her husband and three cats in Edmonton, Alberta, and she can often be found there playing Dungeons and Dragons, bingeing crime dramas or cheering on the Oilers.
Her website, updated regularly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com and her Patreon, updated even more regularly, is at https://www.patreon.com/RhondaParrish.
Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls: Cyberpunk Fairy Tales
Anthologist: Rhonda Parrish
Open for Submissions: February 1 - 28, 2021
Expected Publication: 2022
Story Length: up to 7,500 words
Payment: $0.01 per word + contributor copy
Simultaneous submissions = okay. Multiple submissions = no.
For this, the third installment of Punked Up Fairy Tales, we are excited to mash the world of cyberpunk together with fairy tales and see what sort of magic results. Embracing the high-tech/low-life aspect of cyberpunk will give these stories both the sleek coolness of futuristic technology and the grittiness of traditional fairy tales.
Give me a story of Rapunzel trapped in a tower of circuits rather than stones, of trolls who live under bridges as well as those who do their work behind a keyboard — or whatever passes for a keyboard in the future. What if Snow White was a computer and the apple a virus? What if Hansel and Gretel were hackers following digital breadcrumbs? Or Cinderella was a program who must stop running by midnight or else?
Don't rely exclusively on imaginative technology to make your story stand out in a crowd — make sure you nail all the other important parts of a story as well. Plot. Character. Setting. You know the list.
Original fairy tales are welcome, as are retellings. If you choose to retell a familiar favourite, make sure your story offers something new and interesting. I’d rather see stories that reflect the long history of fairy tales as social commentary than those which simply tell the same story with a different setting.
I am excited to read stories set all over this or other worlds, and would love to see ‘Own Voices’ stories and, as always, welcome submissions from writers of all backgrounds (including, but not limited to, race, color, religion, gender/gender expression, age, disability, and national origin). Further, I love to see a diverse collection when it comes to which fairy tales are represented, but also the races, genders and sexualities of the characters within them.
How to Submit: check back closer to submission window for details
About the Anthologist
Rhonda Parrish is the editor of more than a dozen anthologies including, Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns and Tesseracts: Nevertheless. In addition, Rhonda’s written work has been in publications such as Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast and Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012 & 2015). Her YA Thriller, Hollow, was published in 2020 and her website, updated regularly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com
More Anthologies From Rhonda Parrish
Each year, the Pushcart Prize invites literary magazines and small presses to nominate their best short fiction to be considered for both a prestigious prize and a "best of" anthology. We published two short fiction anthologies this year, and chose six stories between them to nominate.
Scroll down to find out our Pushcart Prize nominees for stories published in 2020, and enjoy a brief excerpt from each story. Congratulations to these authors, and good luck!
“A Shawl for Janice” by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
“The Fugue of Winter” by Steve Toase
“Black Ice City” by Andrew Dana Hudson
"The Scale of Defiance" by Nina Niskanen
"The Body Politic" by Octavia Cade
"In Her Eye's Mind" by Selene dePackh
Guest Blog by Jennifer Shelby
The main character in my Recognize Fascism story, "A Disease of Time and Temporal Distortion," is a retired time-traveling smuggler named Revekah. After making a career of illegal time travel, she now suffers from a degenerative temporal disorder which twitches her back and forth through time. It’s during these twitches that she sees the future fascist regime that will take over her home system.
I look up to Revekah. She is dying, she’s struggling, and she’s tired. It would be easier to give up than to fight, but the faces of the future she’s seen in her twitches haunt her. Many of us feel that way right now: so tired. Weary. History acts as our twitches to the future; we’ve already seen what happens when fascism wins and it’s the faces of the past that haunt us. They whisper warnings from old photographs, stories, and Holocaust memorials.
Revekah acts when she recognizes the rise of fascism, and that recognition is crucial to kickstart resistance. Resistance comes in many forms, the most obvious being protesting and voting, but sometimes it’s an elderly lady using her time traveling skills to save what lives she can. Other times, it’s joining a community of writers, editors, and publishers to make a book. And sometimes? It’s reading that book.
I know you’re tired, I am too, but we can’t give up. We’ve got to keep using what skills we have to fight. Revekah uses an anchor to bring her home when the temporal distortion overwhelms her. When you feel overwhelmed, alone, and that the odds are stacking wildly against us, I hope this book can serve as your anchor and our stories help you find what you need to keep going.
We’re in this together.
Jennifer Shelby hunts for stories in the beetled undergrowth of fairy-infested forests. She fishes for them in the dark space between the stars. This story, and many others, are a part of her ongoing catch-and-release program. If you'd to learn more, you can visit her website at jennifershelby.blog or on Twitter @jenniferdshelby
Until December 5, 2020, purchase a paperback copy of our bestselling Krampusnacht anthology, plus any of our other winter-themed books, and you'll receive a free handmade Krampus ornament! Wooden ornament has a 3.5 inch diameter, and features decoupaged artwork by Connor Anderson.
What the heck is a Krampus? Anthologist Kate Wolford explains Santa's darker counterpart here: The Advent of Krampusnacht.
Offer only good for purchases made through the World Weaver Press online store. Ornament will be automatically included in any paperback order that includes both Krampusnacht and any of the qualifying books listed below. Offer not valid on ebook purchases, or purchases made after December 5, 2020. Sorry, only U.S. shipping available.
Want just the ornament? Buy the Krampus Wooden ornament for $6 by clicking here. Supply is limited!
Qualifying winter/holiday-themed books are:
He Sees You When He's Creepin': Tales of Krampus
Frozen Fairy Tales
Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters
Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say
The Naughty List
Opal by Kristina Wojtaszek
Guest Post by Blake Jessop
Subject: Security, Safety, Privacy: PICK TWO
Fr: Khloé Kasahara
To: Blake Jessop, Crystal Huff, Sarena Ulibarri (+894 others)
Dear everyone who matters,
How is a joke even supposed to work if you can’t hide the punch line? Check it out:
Who’s there? Wait, never mind, we already know. It’s Khloé Kasahara and her weird haircut and scrambled citizen identification number. Put your hands against the wall, Kasahara. Stop resisting or we will employ patriotic measures! Drop the weapon! Blam, blam, blam, blam! She was reaching for a weapon. What was it? Ear buds… yes, in her ears.
See? Is that funny? Did it even make sense? No. Nix. Not at all. Okay, maybe it’s a little funny, but the point is that it subverts the entire point of comedy, which is ironic, because the point of comedy is to subvert the point of the society making the jokes. Humor is supposed to be a mirror that shows us who we are, except that now someone else gets to look at the reflection because they think we’d cut ourselves on the glass.
Is this getting weird? Sorry. What I’m trying to say is that we’re at a kind of crossroads where we have to decide what’s really important to us. All any of us want is security, safety and privacy. The problem is that there is no practical way to have all three; you have to pick two.
It’s pretty obvious which combination we’ve already got, because someone is watching literally all of us, literally all the time, and then using that information to maintain order. I’m having a hard time deciding which option I’d drop so I could have privacy back, but anything would be better than the government getting its grubby electronic hands on my search history, email list, or cat meme folder. Some things are sacred.
Mass surveillance has finally crossed the line, because this isn’t funny anymore.
Re: Security, Safety, Privacy: PICK TWO
Fr: Blake Jessop
To: Khloé Kasahara
Stop emailing me this stuff. My social credit score will tank and the Argus Panoptes system will send me to some kind of black site with a bag on my head. Seriously.
Re: Re: Security, Safety, Privacy: PICK TWO
Fr: Khloé Kasahara
To: Blake Jessop, Crystal Huff, Sarena Ulibarri (+894 others)
First, cowboy up, boot-licker.
Second, you’re acting as if I don’t cryptozoologically encrypt everything I do on the internet. But Khloé, “cryptozoological encryption” isn’t a real thing. Tell that to the Gunther’s Bush Frog DNA I used to scramble my symmetric ciphers. Tiny frogs suffered so I could email you privately. Show some respect.
Second for the second time, why does everyone act like it’s inherently weird to stand up to the state? Are our ideas such dangerous secrets that the total loss of privacy is necessary to stop us from thinking them at all? Are we that convinced that nothing will change? Seriously, stop what you’re doing and go look in a mirror. See that? That is where change comes from.
Come to think of it, does the AI even enjoy oppressing us? Has anyone even asked? What kind of gods are we, exactly, when the life we create is just a paranoid, amplified reflection of ourselves?
Man, I’m talking about reflections and mirrors a lot. Is it getting tedious? Don’t bother telling me; I have an idea. Maybe it’s time to stop beating around in the weeds looking for frogs and do something more concrete. Or not concrete, glass. I think it’s time we all took a really good look at ourselves, if that’s what we’re doing, and I do mean all of us. Me, you, the AI. Everyone.
See you — or not,
P.S. Sarena, can you post this on the website at some point? I think it’s going to be important. You’ll know when. K thx!
Blake Jessop is a Canadian author of sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories with a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Adelaide. You can read more of his political speculative fiction in the second issue of DreamForge Magazine, or follow him on Twitter @everydayjisei.
Guest Blog by Octavia Cade
I don’t write flash fiction. Not often, anyway. I’ve had over 50 stories published, and I think two of them have been flash. This is the second.
I find flash monstrously difficult. How can you crowbar so much into so few sentences? Stories are meant to be levers, strong enough to shift the world even if only by a little. The need for a shift seems increasingly apparent. Fascism, that spoilt-brat ideology of spite and desperation and cowardice, of plain, pitiful ignorance, is on the rise yet again, because apparently the fucking thing’s like a virus that just won’t bloody die.
Well, words are vaccine to that. Short words, even, which is fitting as fascism is so often associated with them. Short words spat out as slogans, scrawled over walls and posters and political broadcasts. Propaganda. Sound bites. All the shallow phrases.
No wonder I wanted to flip a mirror on it. Short for short, but substituting complex for simplistic, imagery for ill-will. And I thought, so much of what fascism is, is centred on the body. You can’t control anything if you can’t control that first. The body is reproduction. It’s identity. If you can strip those from it – or, if you can stamp the idea of reproduction and of identity so very deeply into flesh that it can’t be removed, or transformed – then you’ve got a start on fascism.
That, I think, is what you’ve got to look out for. That’s the key to recognising the thing as it once again drags itself out of the pit of the pathetic, and pretending – always pretending – to be something that it’s not. The attempt to reach out and control the body. The burning desire to control it, actually, the complete rejection of the fact that the body is for more than order and (selective) vivisection.
So that’s what my story is. It’s a small story. It’s mostly vicious. It’s a story about flesh and recognition and absence, and what happens when what you recognise starts to affect what you are.
Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer. Her stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov's, Shimmer, and a number of other places. A climate fiction novel, The Stone Wētā, was recently released by a NZ publisher. She attended Clarion West 2016, and is the 2020 writer-in-residence at Massey University.
Guest Blog by Nina Niskanen
It's election season in the US, although when is it ever not these days? That's beside the point. The next election here in Finland isn't going to happen until next year, but I feel like this is as good a time as any to think about the differences.
Who's eligible to vote
Everyone 18 and over who's a Finnish citizen on election day. Finnish authorities keep a civil registry and absolutely everyone gets a notice of being eligible to vote. When you vote, you don't necessarily need the notice (more on that later), but you do need to prove your identity with a picture ID. In Finland, all official identification is handled by the police, which means that you can get a temporary ID immediately and at the cost of roughly 15€ which is the cost for the official photograph. That free ID is only temporary, though, but it is enough to allow you to vote. Almost everyone in Finland has a picture ID by the time they turn 18 at the very latest, so in general, showing picture ID when voting isn't considered a burden on the voter. But then, the authorities try to make it as easy as possible for people to get the documents they need to prove their identity.
Actual campaigning doesn't usually start until about a month before election day, if then. The ministry of Justice starts handling the candidate applications no more than 55 days before the presidential election, and 48 days before any other election. Because you vote by putting the number of your candidate in your ballot, there's no point in starting your specific campaign before this happens. Of course incumbent politicians will try to raise their profile through scathing critique if they're in the opposition or through creating sound policy while they're in government. Or through gossip column inches like some. But before they know what number they should tell you to vote for (nobody gets #1 ), it's pointless to start campaigning.
What's more, since Finland has a multi-party system, all the parties are guaranteed an equal amount of election ad spots provided by various cities. If an individual person gives more than 800€ for a general election or 1500€ in a presidential election, that individual's name has to be shown on the candidate's advertisements. The same goes for any groups electioneering on behalf of a candidate or in support of a candidate. No Super PACs here without donation disclosures. The candidates or their campaigns must also disclose all the money used in their support, including by groups not directly associated with the campaign. If they don't, they get fined. In general, there's a lot less money in Finnish politics than there is in American politics, and that's largely by design. The amount of money used to secure a seat is going up, but even so, we're a long way away from the millions spent on US elections.
Early voting starts 11 days before the election day and ends 5 days before the election day. Most often the early voting places are not the same as the election day polling places, and you can vote early basically anywhere in the country and out of it. So, for example, if I happened to be visiting my colleagues in Oulu before the election, I could vote by visiting an early voting polling place in Oulu just as easily as I could here in Helsinki. On the day of the election you do have to go to your own polling place. Which brings me to the thing that actually gave me the idea for this post. In my story "The Scale of Defiance" that appears in Recognize Fascism, there's a line that says "They’d be removed if they tried to intimidate people around the polling places". It was originally something more vague, using the word "couldn't" or something. And that holds true of actual Finnish elections. You cannot electioneer in or around polling places. You will be removed and fined. If you wear merch that supports a specific party or candidate, you will not be allowed to vote. If you get belligerent, you can be charged with a specific crime for trying to prevent political participation. Chants or speeches supporting a candidate or a party are likewise forbidden. The crowds we've all seen reports of trying to physically stop people from voting early around the US? Really, actually illegal here in Finland, not just lip service. If/when we put the fascists in power, we try to make sure that it actually is the will of the people.
Voting is a privilege, so make sure you use it as often as you possibly can.
Nina Niskanen writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She lives in Helsinki, Finland, with her partner, and her dog where she works as a computer programmer. She is passionate about space, language, and creepy crawlies. She’s a graduate of Viable Paradise and Clarion UCSD. More at ninaniskanen.com
Guest Blog by Justin Short
I love a good protest song.
Not that there’s anything wrong with non-protest songs. There’s plenty of room in the world for all kinds of music. Even disco. But for me, there’s something special about a protest tune. Something that makes me wanna crank it up to eleven. Maybe it’s the way it captures a specific moment in history, or the way the anger practically bleeds through the speakers. Maybe passion is contagious.
But enough about terrestrial protest songs. What if extraterrestrial cultures have their own version of protest music? And what if their songs are more powerful?
That’s the idea behind my story for the Recognize Fascism anthology. “May Your Government Be the Center of a Smelly Dung Sandwich” is a sci-fi tale about a song that literally has the power to create revolution. It’s sort of like the Monty Python sketch about the joke that kills, only this one’s set in outer space, plus there are more androids and less John Cleese.
On second thought, maybe it’s not so similar to the Python sketch after all.
“May Your Government” takes place on a dreary planet where the inhabitants are forced to work in terrible conditions to provide power for a wealthier world. Did I mention there are androids? Mean androids.
Sci-fi elements aside, this story is a peek into a culture where people have decided it’s simply easier to look the other way. A world where empathy is inconvenient and selfishness is king.
Things are pretty bleak within the world of the story, but there’s still hope. A hope that even when terrible things are happening, there will always be people willing to risk all they have to do the right thing. Sometimes all they need is a little musical inspiration.
It’s a comforting thought.
And hey, as much as I love protest songs, I hope one day we live in a world where they’re no longer needed. I’d be okay with that.
After all, we’ll always have disco.
Justin Short lives in Kansas. His fiction has previously appeared in places like The NoSleep Podcast, The Arcanist, and Jerry Jazz Musician. Visit him online at www.justin-short.com.
World Weaver Press
Publishing fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction.