Since the first ever online literary magazine SwiftCurrent was created in 1984, the concept of periodicals devoted to literature existing mainly in digital form has become a norm. As reliance on print periodicals which have existed with restricted access to many decreases, web-based publishing has made it easier to spotlight the existing generation of emerging writers. American Writer Ander Monson describes this new norm wittily by saying, “It’s not that we don’t need or read print magazines, so much as that we might not need many more of them – not when we can get so much (and kill fewer trees) thanks to screens.”

In Kenya, recent times have seen both established and emerging writers embrace the wave of online periodical literature by submitting and subsequently getting their literary work published in online literary magazines and journals. At the forefront are Fiction writers who have taken advantage of various online literary platforms by making their now easy-to-access works the tool through which to peer at the Kenyan identity and way of life.

Here are five outstanding short stories among many brilliant ones written by Kenyan fiction writers that were published in 2023:

Theatre Masks – Dennis Mugaa

Theatre Masks by Dennis Mugaa is a short story named the winning story in the 2022 Black Warrior Review Fiction prize. In late December 2022 upon the short story being announced as the winning story, American author Maurice Carlos Ruffin who had been the judge of the contest commented on it as ‘a short story that asks the questions that only great fiction can’. One rife with longing and conflict on every page, the author weaves a tale of international students each suffering from a particular lack of love. These voids propel the story to its tragic but all-too-real end. Theatre Masks was published online on June 29th, 2023. Dennis Mugaa’s debut short story anthology Half Portraits Under Water & Other Stories is set to be released by Nigerian publishing house Masobe Books in 2024.


Price Tags – Buke Abduba

Buke Abduba’s Price Tags, which was published in Adda Stories subsequent to it being shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2023,  is a story exploring the steep journey to betterment that humans experience. In her interview with Voeertal , Buke terms the principal theme of Price Tags as ‘the search for better’, saying it is a really important aspect of her own life because it is through her parents’ struggle that she gets to experience all the good things they never did. She also says of the story as one that draws from the struggles of the women in her community.  Price Tags was published on 13th July, 2023.


Sande – Mercy Munyanya

Published in the seventh issue of Lolwe which was released in June 2023, Sande by South Carolina-based Kenyan writer Mercy Munyanya is a story where she masterfully uses the first person point of view to narrate an expository tale that draws a thin line between exploration of personal banes and social-cultural issues. On their introduction, the guest-editors of that issue of Lolwe, Bongani Sibanda, Hibaq Osman and Filemon Iiyambo, described the short story as one that ‘has clear and succinct prose, and a bone scraping emotional honesty which enchants with a tenderness never seen before; a trenchancy of thought that would leave an invested reader dabbing their eyes in awe.


In the Forest of Talking Animals – Makena Onjerika

Published in the 30th issue of the monthly speculative fiction magazine The Deadlands, In the Forest of Talking Animals is the latest offering by Makena Onjerika, the Caine prize winner 2018. The short story explores an other-worldly reality through the eyes of a protagonist girl whose character is woven in Makena’s blueprint elaborately simple yet striking prose. In the Forest of Talking Animals was released on 26th October 2023. Makena Onjerika, who is a huge advocate of the speculative fiction genre in Kenya, is currently compiling a highly anticipated anthology of Kenyan speculative fiction scheduled for release in 2024.


It was 2002, and We Were Unbwogable – Claire Gor

The guest editors of Lolwe issue 8, Charmaine Denison-George, Logain Ali and Alírio Karina, where Claire Gor’s It was 2002, and We Were Unbwogable was published, described it as ‘a melodic and humorous exploration of childhood experiences that define and remain with us’. It was 2002, and We Were Unbwogable delights with descriptions of scenarios/phrases esoteric to the Kenyan essence. The short story was Published on 23rd December 2023.