Monday, June 6, 2016

Short Fiction - May 2016

Short Fiction - May 2016

I'm a few days later than usual posting about my monthly reading, but here are my favorite stories read in May.



"Sparrows"
by Gary Emmette Chandler


Length: 1,000 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Flash Fiction Online
When Published: 2016-05
Link (free)

This is a lovely short piece about brothers and flying -- not inside aircraft, but wearing a suit fitted with wings. I don't want to say too much about it, but my favorite line was "What sort of Sparrow hesitates before the fall?" I also liked the pacing and use of flashbacks, which felt perfect even at this short length.



"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"
by Ursula K. Le Guin

Length: 2,817 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Original Publication: New Dimensions 3 (anthology), edited by Robert Silverberg, 1973
Link: (see notes below)

A recent conversation with one of the professors at the community college library where I'm temping convinced me that I needed to finally read this famous story. And although I spent the first half of it thinking "this isn't really a story" (not that that's a crime), by the end of it I was completely sold. I would have liked to have the text was broken up into a few more paragraphs for ease of reading, and sometimes the story tries a little too hard, but where it succeeds it does so at a level that's kind of off the charts.

I'm not posting a link to this story because I feel that doing so in this case would be supporting a case of copyright violation. The fact that the professor and I were able to pull this story up on the internet so easily -- the very first Google hit was a PDF obviously put online by a professor somewhere -- sparked an interesting copyright discussion. In my opinion, posting this story freely online for one's students is a violation of fair use, unless you're the author. The posted version uses 100% of the work (as opposed to an excerpt), it's posted it in a way that's not limited to the students in that class, and it's very likely the professor is using it over and over again from semester to semester. In addition, it could possibly be shown to be causing financial loss to the creator. Even if the professor were photocopying it on paper for his/her whole class every semester (as opposed to posting it publicly on the Internet), that would still be a violation unless the educational institution cleared/paid for the use. That's why professors put things on reserve in the library instead. People tend to think because the purpose is educational means that anything goes, under the guise of "fair use," but that's not so.

On the other hand, as my professor points out, if he uses a college textbook anthology of short stories and teaches 10 of the 50 stories, with the students paying $50 for that textbook, well, it's creating a real hardship for them. And while he himself wouldn't post the story online, since he knows it already is online, he can just tell his students to find it. (Does it make a difference if he tells them exactly where to find it, or if he tells them to just Google it? In a way I think it does.)

In any case, I'm not posting the link. For anyone who would like to read it, you can find it in anthologies and collections and, well, on the Internet.


"The Long Fall Up"
by William Ledbetter


Length: 7,794 words
Category: Novelette (science fiction)
Where Published: F&SF
When Published: 2016-05
Link: N/A

I read two amazing stories this month that have to do with child-bearing, and this novelette is one of them. A pilot is sent after a woman who is harboring an illegal zero-g pregnancy in order to prove that healthy children can be born in space. The company that employs the pilot, however, is less than forthcoming about its true motivations. This story works hard to get the science right even though it really isn't about the science, and it pushed all the right emotional buttons for me.



"The Right Sort of Monsters" by Kelly Sandoval

Length: 3,682 words
Category: Short story (fantasy)
Where Published: Strange Horizons
When Published: 2016-04-04
Link (free)

And this is the other story about child-bearing. A village woman desperately longs for a child, and has to decide whether to take the same drastic measures her own sister took to have a child that some might call a monster. The plot went in a direction I did not expect, which I enjoyed, but most of all, I loved the way the author revealed the specific details of this world so gradually and naturally.

I don't have children and have never wanted them, so it takes a lot for a story to make me understand that someone would feel the way this woman did in the beginning of the story. I do feel very protective of small creatures (including human children!), however, so by the time I got to the end of the story, the author had completely "spoken" to me. In that regard, for me reading this was akin to reading Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow as an atheist, and getting a glimmer of emotional understanding of the concept of sainthood.



Other stories read in May 2016:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Stacy and Her Idiot" by Peter Atkins (year unknown)
- "The Gambler" by Paolo Bacigalupi (original 2008; reprint 2012)
- "Getting Dark" by Neil Barrett Jr. (original 2009; reprint 2012)
- "17 Amazing Plot Elements... When You See #11, You'll Be Astounded!" by James Beamon (2016)
- "Ice and White Roses" by Rebecca Birch (2014)
- "Bodyshop" by Graham Brand (2016)
- "Fence to Fence" by Jennifer Cox (year unknown)
- "Last Round" by Paul Crenshaw (2016)
- "The Reality Machine" by Karl El-Koura (2016)
- "One Last Smoke" by Alex Granados (2016)
- "A !Tangled Web" by Joe Haldeman (original 1981; reprint 2012)
- "The Promise of Space" by James Patrick Kelly (original 2013; reprint 2015)
- "Best Friends Forever" by Michelle Ann King (2016)
- "The Poet with Fishhook Eyes" by Michelle Knowlden (2016)
- "The Summer of Rotting Lasagna" by Zack Kotzer (2015)
- "The Man Who Didn’t Believe in Luck" by Preston Lerner (year unknown)
- "The Finite Canvas" by Brit Mandelo (original 2012; audio reprint 2014)
- "The Fountain and the Shoe Store" by Paul Steven Marino (2011)
- "Swift, Brutal Retaliation" by Meghan McCarron (original 2012; audio reprint 2014)
- "Bridesicle" by Will McIntosh (original 2009; reprint 2012)
- "A Brutal Murder in a Public Place" by Joyce Carol Oates (original 2011; reprint 2012)
- "The Black Kids" by Christina Hammonds Reed (2016)
- "Bird Watching" by Anton Rose (2016)
- "Will It Fly?" by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero (2016)
- "After the Coup" by John Scalzi (original 2008; audio reprint 2014)
- "The Box" by J.T. Sharp (2016)
- "Fortune for Your Freshman Year" by Lucy Silbaugh (2016)
- "To Give Birth to a Dancing Star" by K.B. Sluss (2016)
- "Night Watch" by Nancy Sweetland (2016)
- "Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia" by Rachel Swirsky (original 2012; audio reprint 2014)
- "Across the Terminator" by David Tallerman (original 2013; reprint 2015)
- "Chit Win" by Deborah Walker (2011)
- "Heating Up" by Daniel Wilmoth (2016)
- "Fried Chicken You Can’t Refuse" by Peter Wood (2016)
- "The First Snow of Winter" by Caroline M. Yoachim (2016)


List of the sources from which these stories came:

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

- Black Dahlia & White Rose (collection by Joyce Carol Oates), 2012
- Clarkesworld Year Seven (anthology), edited by Neil Clarke & Sean Wallace, Wyrm, 2015
- Daily Science Fiction, Dec 2011; Apr 2016; May 2016; June 2016
- Every Day Fiction, Jan 2016; Apr 2016; May 2016
- Flash Bang Mysteries, Spring 2016
- Flash Fiction Online, May 2016
- Freeze Frame Fiction, year unknown
- The Mammoth Book of Nebula Awards: SF (anthology), edited by Kevin J. Anderson, Robinson, 2012
- Luna Station Quarterly, June 2016
- Nature, Nov 2014
- One Teen Story, Apr 2016; May 2016
- Perihelion, Apr 2016
- Pinball, Spring 2016
- Punchnel's, May 2016
- Strange Horizons, Sep 2011; Apr 2016
- Tor.com: Selected Original Fiction, 2008-2012 (audio collection, Brilliance Audio, 2014)
- Trigger Warning: Short Fiction with Pictures (year unknown; Mar 2016)
- Vandercave Quarterly, 2015


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