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
I hurried past Val, kicking at snowdrifts as if they were hiding exotic specimens. When I was younger, I’d found Grandma’s stories of the old world fascinating but remote from my daily life. I didn’t draw parallels between Great-Aunt Janice and myself until I was ten or eleven. By then, of course, I’d already chosen my current name. Nobody here besides me even remembered what it had once been. No one knew anything about Great-Aunt Janice’s early years either, though I planned to change that today.
Birds flew past me, but I was so distracted I couldn’t tell if they were swans or sparrows. I overlooked more birds, even when Val pointed them out.
“The Fugue of Winter” by Steve Toase
“Open it,” Bryony said, the smile still there. Still mocking.
Sally shook her head.
“The dead should stay covered. It’s disrespectful to gaze upon them.”
“There’s no one dead in here,” she said. “The only thing to mourn inside that box is something beautiful nearly lost from the world.”
Bryony flicked the clasps. Flakes of rust fell onto the table. Sally’s hand went out to stop her, then paused.
“Trust me,” Bryony said.
“Black Ice City” by Andrew Dana Hudson
In Svalbard I find new comrades. To join the winter party, one must bring ice, and to wrangle ice of any consequence one needs more than a single boat. So I hobnob in Barentsburg hostels, buying drinks and trading planktonspice until I win the favor of seven rough men out of Yuzhny. They’re Irish and Icelandic, Spanish, Dutch and Saharan, all drawn north to seek their fortunes in one unlikely way or another. They pilot bedecked new cutters, fresh from Hokkaido factories, hulls too clean to have run the Northwest Passage.
“What’s the story there?” I ask, more than once, but they laugh and dismiss me.
The Spaniard, Mateo, grins. “Sometimes boats fall off the back of other boats.”
"The Scale of Defiance" by Nina Niskanen
In the city of Väinölä, as a result of an almost-forgotten spell gone wrong, the citizens become smaller and larger according to their mood. Leena sat on the subway, barely 15 hands high, trying to keep the teenagers kissing each other next to her from completely invading her space. She would not go any smaller, partly because she did not want to force that on herself, but also because she had once before tried to be doll-sized on the subway, and that had been enough for her to last the remainder of her life. Instead, she pressed herself into the wall. The teens brought to mind the first, tentative time she held the hand of the woman she would later marry. These teenagers seemed to expand to fill all available space, which matched her own memories. She did not want to take away from their happiness by making them stop.
"The Body Politic" by Octavia Cade
Fascism appears first in the body. It’s writ over flesh, as if politics have the power to turn meat into monster. I’d never thought of myself as monstrous before, but mirrors don’t lie. Nor does mutation.
It starts with the inability to keep food down, the refusal of foreign substance. I used to think of my body as a reef, as an ecosystem. All those tiny organisms come together, a set of species I’ve never bothered to count. A colony creature, but this is not now a world fit for colonies. Everywhere, the reefs are dying, the corals turning pale and fragile, the waters warming them to incapacity and death. It’s too much to choke down.
"In Her Eye's Mind" by Selene dePackh
Lynch brushed sleet off his well-tailored shoulders and carefully pushed Rusalka into the dark vestibule ahead of him. “Not inside yet, Cross, and don’t get comfortable. This AI developed an instability that forced a shutdown. The Department tried a few times to bring the building back online, ended up just leaving it in standby mode. Nobody sees fit to believe me, but the thing isn’t just randomly scrambled. You’ll see for yourself, unless it decides to behave just to spite me.” He pulled out his badge and used the street lights from the open door to search for the authorization slot. After a click and a soft grinding sound, the security panel illumination came on.
A heavily synthetic voice spoke. “Good evening, Sergeant Lynch. What is your business here?”