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You can get used to anything, the old saying goes. No matter how unusual or repugnant, if you do the same thing day after day it becomes unremarkable. This even applies to retrieving and identifying GI bodies during the Vietnam war.

Despite this story winning the World Fantasy Award, the fantasy is suitably quiet that you could read this as a straight Vietnam story. It succeeds admirably on this front, giving the right level of details to achieve verisimilitude while being accessible to anyone. I especially like at one point where a major tells the newly arrived protagonist to, “Secure your gear,” and they aren’t sure whether that means to take it with them or leave it on the helicopter. But they bring them, “… because Budweiser could get to be a real collector’s item in the boonies, and there were a lot of collectors out here.”

As for what happens next, click on the link below and see for yourself. A highly effective piece of horror.

Graves by Joe Haldeman

Availability: free online, free audiobook, print

Word count: 3,200

Awards: Nebula Award, World Fantasy Award, third place Locus reader’s poll

First published: Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Oct-Nov 1992

Where to find it: Freely available at Nightmare Magazine here

An audiobook is freely available from Starship Sofa here

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Tenth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois, 1993, St Martin’s Press

The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Sixth Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, 1993, St Martin’s Press

New Masterpieces of Horror, edited by John Gregory Betancourt, 1996, Barnes & Noble Books

None So Blind, collection, 1997, AvoNova

War Stories, collection, 2005, Night Shade Books

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