Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Secretary - Main Street Theater

The Secretary
Main Street Theater
[Left to right: Elizabeth Marshall Black as Janelle, Alice M. Gatling as Ruby,
and Bree Welch as Lorrie]

The good news is that I didn't miss Main Street Theater's production of "The Secretary", because some extra performances were added to the run. The bad news is that I saw it on the very last night, so I can't urge you to go see it this time around. (But I can urge you to go to a different performance at the Main Street Theater; they really put on some terrific productions!)

Written by Kyle John Schmidt and directed by Julia Traber, this little one-act, one-set, six-actor oddity is a satiric commentary on gun culture in our country. The theater's website description says:

Ruby runs a small-town gun company, manufacturing products like “The Bridesmaid,” “The Babysitter,” and “The Mallwalker,” But what happens when guns start going off all over town–and no one’s pulling the trigger?!!

So you can guess what "The Secretary" refers to. Hint: it's not a person.
Read more!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Short Fiction read in January 2019

Short Fiction read in January 2019

Image from used under a CC license

New year, new re-start of the Great Short Fiction Reading Project!

Here's what's different this time around: In addition to picking stories of various lengths from different sources, I plan to read every story published this year by Daily Science Fiction (five days a week), Every Day Fiction (seven days a week), and Nature's "Futures" section (once a week). Those are all flash (except for the occasional DSF story that tiptoes past the 1,000 word mark), so it should be manageable. I'm also going to post monthly stats, which I'll put way down at the bottom of the post so nobody has to see them if they don't want to.

Here's what's staying the same: each month I'll blog about my favorites from that month's reading, and list all the remaining stories I've read and the collective sources they came from.

These are my four favorites of the 85 stories I read during January (alphabetical by author):

"Terra Forms" by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks and Justin Adams

Length: 5,230 words
Category: Science fiction - hard (short story)
Where Published: Perihelion
When Published: 2018-04
Link (free to readers)

This is hard SF with emotions, some neat technologies I haven't seen elsewhere in fiction, and themes of terraforming and colony ships. And it's well-written. In other words, there was no way I was not going to love this story. There's one plot "conflict" element at the end that I wasn't initially sure I liked, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it adds a layer to a story that otherwise might have been too "tidy."

Read more!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Short Fiction - September 2018 and Going Forward

Short Fiction - September 2018 and Going Forward

On January 1, 2019, I restarted my short fiction reading project in earnest. As in previous years, I'm reading the minimum equivalent of one short story per day of the year. By minimum equivalent, I mean that it's OK to occasionally miss a day, as long as I make it up. And on many days I will read multiple stories, but I'm not allowed to count them as credits towards future calendar days -- they're just a bonus.

For those who know my obsessive detail-oriented personality, it won't surprise you to know I'm keeping extremely detailed statistics. You should see my spreadsheet, with eight separate tabs! There's really no need to keep these kinds of stats, but it makes me happy, so there you have it. I've also added something else to this year's goals: I plan to read every story published in 2019 by Daily Science Fiction, Every Day Fiction, and Nature's "Futures" section. But I don't want all of my reading to be flash fiction, so I'm trying to mix a lot of longer works in there too.

Shortly after the end of January I'll post my monthly round-up. I've read and cataloged 22 stories so far this month, which isn't bad considering it's only January 10th. (Hmm, I've also already hit my health insurance deductible for 2019, so not all quick starts are good starts....) In the meantime, I found my half-written blog post for reading I did back in September 2018, so I thought I'd go ahead and post that now. Several of the stories I read that month came from a 1939 collection of stories by E.M. Delafield, best known as the author of Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930). I find I'm lately drawn to these types of stories, which are about ordinary people's daily lives, loves, and heartaches during that specific time period.

However, the two stories I most enjoyed reading in September 2018 were:

"Copy Machine" by Shane Halbach (2014)

Length: 665 words
Genre-Subgenre (category): ??? (flash fiction)
Where Published: Flash Fiction Online
When Published: 2014-06

I'm not at all sure how to characterize this little piece of flash. If you take it literally, then I guess it's science fiction, but I read it more as a wistful commentary on how difficult romantic relationships are to maintain indefinitely. What if we could clone ourselves -- the desirable aspects of ourselves -- as easily as using a photocopy machine? Wistful, yet a little playful.

It's also available as a podcast at Toasted Cake here

"Strings" by Charlie Hughes

Length: 3,163 words
Genre-Subgenre (category): Mainstream - dark (short story)
Where Published: Trigger Warning
When Published: 2018-05-02
Illustrated by: John Skewes

Geoff is a forty-six year old who plays solo guitar gigs when he can get them. He's flattered when his much younger downstairs neighbors make a fuss over his playing, but is confused when things turn out quite differently than they initially appeared. I found this story sad, powerful, and extremely relevant to today's world.

Additional stories read in September 2018:
  • "The Whale Wore White" by Anatoly Belilovsky
  • "Robot" by Helena Bell (2012)
  • "Breath" by Chelsea Berghoefer (2018)
  • Stories in Love Has No Resurrection (1939) (collection) by E.M. Delafield:
    • "Love Has No Resurrection"
    • "Mothers Don't Know Everything"
    • "O.K. for Story
    • "It's All Too Difficult"
    • "The Young Are in Earnest"
    • "Bluff"
    • "The Girl Who Told the Truth"
    • "Victims"
    • "The Other Poor Chap"
    • "I Believe in Love"
    • "It All Came Right in the End"
    • "Soliloquy Before a Mirror"
    • "The Reason"
    • "The Indispensible Woman"
    • "Opportunity"
    • "My Son Had Nothing On His Mind"
    • "They Don't Wear Labels"
  • "The Philistine" by E.M. Delafield (1926)
  • "Yellowcat" by Claire Humphrey (orig. year unknown)
  • "Universal Reality" by Michael Allen Lane (2018)
  • "The Pink Agate" by Mary E. Lowd (2018)
  • "The Vector of Our Love" by Elizabeth Shack (orig. year unknown)
  • "My proposal for a book to be adapted into a movie starring Dwayne Johnson" by Robin Sloan (2018)
  • "The Wrong Plane" by Robin Sloan (orig. year unknown)
  • "Play Pretend" by Alex Sobel (2018)
  • "Friday After the Game" by James Van Pelt (2000)

List of sources:
  • 10Flash
  • Analog
  • Clarkesworld
  • Curious Fictions
  • Daily Science Fiction
  • Flash Fiction Online
  • Freeze Frame Fiction
  • Grain Magazine
  • Love Has No Resurrection (collection by E.M. Delafield)
Read more!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Short Fiction - August 2018

Short Fiction - August 2018

I've finally managed to re-start my short fiction reading project, in which I read at least one short work every day and then blog about my favorites each month. In August, I read a total of 39 stories. Without further ado, here are my three favorites of the month.

"Who Will Greet You At Home?" by Leslie Nneka Arimah

Length: 5,602 words
Category: Short story - Fantasy
Where Published: The New Yorker
When Published: 2015-10-26
Illustration by Jeffrey Fisher

This author is new to me. In this story, women fashion babies from materials at hand -- yarn, mud, twigs -- and have their own mothers bless the child into life. Women without mothers, or who do not get along with their mothers, can buy or barter for a blessing in backroom transactions that may literally cost them some of their own joy or empthy. Ogechi has tried again and again to make a baby that can withstand the physical dangers of a hard world, until finally in frustration she does the forbidden, creating a baby made of the hair of many women.

It's a little hard for me to put my finger on why I enjoyed this story so much, especially as it's a bit grim. But I definitely liked the inventiveness of this concept, and the emotions that it evoked. There's a literary element to this piece that makes it right at home in The New Yorker, yet it's more accessible than I find many of that publication's stories to be.

"Your Great Journey" by Ash Harrington

Length: 1,010 words
Category: Short story - Fantasy
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2018-08-17

Second-person POV is becoming more widespread these days, and that's fine as long as it works within the given story. Here it most certainly does, at least as far as I'm concerned. In this piece, which is just a smidge over a thousand words, "you" have died on your fifteenth birthday, and you feel a little lost as you hang around your house and your grave. Your family and friends can see you, as is the norm in this world, but you're surprised at how uncomfortable they seem to be around you. This is a nicely told story in a small, tight package.

"The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections" by Tina Connolly

Length: 7,845 words
Category: Novelette - Fantasy
Where Published:
When Published: 2018-07-11
Illustrated by Anna & Elena Balbusso

In this beautifully written novelette, Saffron and her husband Danny were reasonably happy as the village bakers, but Danny's talents for infusing his sweet and savory confections with a little something extra make him known to the Regent, who imprisons the couple and forces them to work for him. Not trusting the pair, the Regent prevents them from communicating with one another, and makes Saffron act as his pastry taster lest Danny try to poison him. The sadistic ruler holds lavish dinners for members of his court, alternating courses of normal food with a tasting menu of Danny's creations, each of which evokes specific types of memories, such as the "Rose-Pepper Shortbread of Sweetness Lost."

The story builds at an appropriately slow and thoughtful pace, course by course, as Saffron relives memories and wonders whether Danny is trying to communicate something to her. It's a lovely story, and there are only two things I would change, one small and one not. [Major spoilers ahead] First, the name Danny doesn't fit my idea of this story world. More importantly, I didn't like that Saffron outright said to the Regent that he might enjoy reliving his memories of torturing her sister before having her executed. I felt the Regent would have immediately grown suspicious at Saffron's suggestion. Nonetheless, I found the story imaginative, satisfying, and, as mentioned, beautifully written.

Additional stories read in August 2018:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Hello Again" by K. Barrett (2018)
- "We Do Not Know What Happened to the Children" by Claire Bartlett (2018)
- "A Suitable Level of Reward" by Lee Battersby (orig. year unknown)
- "The App" by Dustin J. Davis (2018)
- "Timeskip" by Charles de Lint (1989)
- "Dispell" by Preston E. Dennett (2018)
- "The Nearest" by Greg Egan (2018)
- "A Midsummer Night's Abduction" by J.M. Evenson (2018)
- "Your Great Journey" by Ash Harrington (2018)
- "The Privilege of the Happy Ending" by Kij Johnson (2018)
- "The Friendly Beasts" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (2018)
- "A Matter of Perception" by KJ Kabza (2014)
- "One-Sided" by KJ Kabza (2010)
- "Anaphylaxis" by Stephen Kyo Kaczmarek (2018)
- "Final Inspection" by Afalstein JD Kloosterman (2013)
- "The Christening" by D.H. Lawrence (1911)
- "Second Best" by D.H. Lawrence (1914)
- "The Quartermaster's Charge" by Jessica McAdams (2018)
- "Glass Stiletto" by Meagan K. McKinley (2018)
- "Fleeing Gods" by Mary Anne Mohanraj (1997)
- "Time Travel Is a Voodoo Rite" by Grayson Bray Morris (2013)
- "The Sky Blue Ball" by Joyce Carol Oates (1997?)
- "The Nine Bajillion and One Names of God" by Aimee Ogden (2018)
- "The Day the World Broke" by Autumn Owens (2018)
- "Comment Below" by Ciaran Parkes (2018)
- "Quantum Entanglement" by Corie Ralston (2004)
- "Writing for the End of the World" by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez (2018)
- "Our Lady of Sorrows" by Austin Ross (2018)
- "In Our Country" by Jessie Seigel (2018)
- "The Fallen Girl" by Marge Simon (2018)
- "Customer Review: Life of Jesamie Blake 0-39" by Marie Vibbert (2018)
- "The Time Mechanic" by Marie Vibbert (2014)
- "After the First Comes the Last" by Holly Lyn Walrath (2018)
- "Strung" by Xinyi Wang (2017)
- "Final Girl Theory" by A.C. Wise (2011?)
- "Confessions of a Con Girl" by Nick Wolven (2017)
- "Tea for Two" by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (orig. date unknown)

List of the sources from which these stories came:

(alphabetical by anthology title, magazine title, website name, etc.)

- Asimov's
- Clarkesworld
- Curious Fictions
- Daily Science Fiction
- Diabolical Plots
- Every Day Fiction
- Nature Futures
- New Yorker
- Selected Short Stories (collection by D.H. Lawrence)
- Small Avalanches and Other Stories (collection by Joyce Carol Oates)

Read more!