Over the last few weeks I’ve occasionally thrown a short-story link up on twitter, in that way that you do when you remember there are *fucking awesome short stories* out there and you want to share them with other people. Twitter is a horrible medium for recommending short fiction though – it has the kind of immediacy that makes it easy for people to go follow the link, but it lacks the real space to provide any kind of context beyond saying *awesome story here*.
So I wrote a blog post. And threw in some stories I haven’t linked to on twitter so people who follow me there still have something to go read on this fine Monday. All of the stories are free to read online at the time of writing, so links are provided.
And so, in no particular order, I give you…
5 SHORT STORY RECOMMENDATIONS IN 1,012 WORDS OR LESS
1) MARY MARGARET ROAD-GRADER by Howard Waldrop
This is a two-pack of firsts for more – it was the first Howard Waldrop I ever read and the first short-story I read over at Strange Horizons. It’s one of those stories that stuck with me for a long time. Long enough that I eventually started acquiring Waldrop short story collections, for which I can honestly say to Strange Horizons, thank you very damn much. I’m now, like, 90% convinced that Howard, Who? is one of those short-story collection everyone who claims to be a short story writer really should own.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the short-fiction I recommend tends to play with plot or structure in some way. Not this one. It’s a good, old-fashioned short story with a beginning, middle, and end, and it peeled the top of my skull and rewrote my brain by the sheer fact that it’s kick-ass.
2) THE RAPID ADVANCE OF SORROW by Theodora Goss
I’ve often said that writing is an ongoing conversation that writers are having with other works. The Rapid Advance of Sorrow is exactly that, a retelling of The Snow Queen fairytale that is utterly unlike any other retelling of said fairytale than you will ever come across. There are no fucking words for how much this story fascinates me – I keep coming back to it, again and again, and seeing some new facet in the tale that interests me.
Somewhere on my bucket-list there’s an entry that says “Write something as good as Rapid Advance o/Sorrow.” I keep trying, but I haven’t cracked it yet.
3) REPORT ON THE SHADOW INDUSTRY by Peter Carey
Somewhere along the line Peter Carey went from being a writer of weird short fiction to becoming a writer of slightly less weird novels, which is a damn fucking shame, ’cause I really liked Carey as a short story writer. Fat Man in History lives in my list of short-fiction collections everyone should own if they’re a short story writer too, right up there with Howard, Who?
There are so many seriously bad habits that I’ve picked up as a result of reading too many Carey short stories at a young age: stories broken into numbered sections; narrative ambiguity; vaguely real-world settings that aren’t really real.
I recommend this story to people all the time and half of them hate it on site. Also, the link heads over to the Adbusters website, which means I’m going to reiterate the first rule of reading short fiction on the internet – do not read the fucking comics. I know you’ll be tempted to do so now, simply ’cause I’ve specifically said so here, but no, for the love of the gods, don’t read the comments.
4) JOHNNY MNEMONIC by William Gibson
Yes, yes, I know you’ve already read Johnny Mnemonic. It’s a classic of the SF genre these days and it’s reprinted again and again, and besides, they made a movie out of it, even if it’s a terrible goddamn movie whose sole redeeming features are Dina Meyer, Ice T, and Henry-fucking-Rollins all being in the same film. Put all that out of your mind. Go re-read it. Especially if it’s been a while.
This is the short story that made me want to be a writer.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d toyed with the idea. Through most of my pre-teen years I wrote things – terrible stories, half-arsed novels that would get two thousand words in and peter to a halt, poetry that was beyond awful. If you’d asked me what I wanted to do with my life, my default answer was usually “be a writer” and “play dungeons and dragons.” (In that respect, I’m living the damn dream).
Then I read Burning Chrome at age fourteen and, man, I was done. There were no other options for me; if I couldn’t go out into the world and write cool things, there was no point to life. And so began a series of poor life choices that, all things considered, have turned out far better than they should have.
And every year I still re-read Johnny Mnemonic, just to remind myself why I do this writer thing. And every year, I sit there and remember why I do this writing-thing. (Bonus points: Fragments of a Hologram Rose)
5) UP HIGH IN THE AIR by Laura van den Berg
I discovered van den Berg relatively recently, through the simple expedient of her short-story collection, What the World Will Look Like When All The Water Leaves Us, getting reviewed in our local paper. I mean, let’s be clear here: her *short story collection* was reviewed in our local paper, which is traditionally the kind of publication that…well, let’s say it’s not the place I expect to find recommendations for good short fiction. Or, you know, news.
I immediately went out and acquired the book, ’cause it sounded kind of interesting, and ’cause there are few facets of my life that don’t get recorded here on the blog, I wrote up my initial reaction to it back in 2011:
Last night I started reading Laura van den Berg’s short story collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, which became one of those books that you start reading at a reasonable hour and stop reading in the wee hours of the morning, many hours after you planned on going to sleep.
It’s not simply that it’s a good book, more that it’s fiction that’s brushed with that touch of magic that great short stories are capable – brief and delicate and surprising and altogether beautiful. Not quite fantasy stories, but certainly on that strange intersection of literary and almost-fantasy-but-mostly-weird where all sorts of interesting things happen.
It reminds me very much of reading Miranda July’s short story collection for the first time, or the peculiar rewriting of the familiar that comes from your first exposure to Kelly Link.
I stand by all of that, really. You should totally go read Laura van den Berg.