Given the current pandemic situation and the fact that many of us are in isolation, perhaps feeling cut off from the world, or struggling to reconcile ourselves to this new reality, I think that escapism is more relevant than ever before. And while literature is a form of escapism in and of itself, if you’re wanting to venture a level deeper, portals may be the answer.
Portals come in all shapes and sizes, as do the worlds beyond them. While we can still appreciate the classic methods of travel such as walking through a wardrobe, tumbling down a rabbit hole, or being swept away in a tornado, there are so many more new and unusual types of portal to discover. As usual, short fiction is a quick and easy way to dip your toes into the pool of portal fantasy (and science fiction!). Here are 5 of my favourite portal stories – if you’ve got recommendations of your own to share, feel free to leave a comment.
The Mothgate by J. R. Troughton
A last stand against otherworldly dangers. Rifle-fire, a steady-hand, and the knowledge passed down from Mama Rattakin is all Elsa has to defend against whatever wild things come through the Mothgate. This is a touching story that redefines what it means to trust those who raised you–and to trust yourself. Read it at Shimmer.
We Who Stay Behind by Karl Dandenell
There are those who dare to traverse alien worlds, battle monsters, and step bravely into the unknown. And there are those who stay behind. Expertly written in second person point-of-view, this succinct and powerful story tells the tale of the people who stand in the shadows of ‘heroes’. Read it at Fireside.
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow
This award-winning story not only promotes escapism through literature, but manages to do so in a manner that is both heart-breakingly real and fantastically whimsical. Often, those who are most in need of an escape just need someone to open the way. Read it at Apex.
Strange Waters by Samantha Mills
Fisherwoman Mika Sandrigal only wants to go home. Lost in time, she sails into the same city again and again, desperately hoping that this time is the right one. A story of relentless hope and a life spent searching, this bittersweet journey is well worth your time. Read it at Strange Horizons.
How to Find a Portal by Debbie Urbanski
Portals are a dime a dozen, yet Leslie is still looking for hers. Though she grows older and her relationships change, she never stops looking for her personal escape. This is a difficult story to read at times and doesn’t shy away from the main character’s flaws or familial hardships, but provides an honest account of her life. Read it at Lightspeed.