Saturday, January 31, 2015

Short Fiction - January 2015

This year I've set myself the goal of reading at least one short story per day. My rule is that if I happen to read more than one short work on the same day, I don't get "credit" ahead, but if I miss a day, I have to make it up. The result has been that I've read 41 stories in January.

So far I'm loving it: I look forward to choosing the story, to reading it, and to posting short notes on a thread I created for this purpose on LibraryThing. I admit that there are some days when I go for flash fiction due to time constraints or because I'm distracted, but I'm also seeking out longer stories and pulling anthologies off my shelves that I've been meaning to crack open for ages.

My plan is to post here on this blog at the end of each month, listing all the stories I've read and discussing my five favorites, or possibly more than five. These are the stories that I've rated on LibraryThing as 4 1/2 or 5 stars out of 5. There were many other stories I rated 4 stars that I wouldn't mind writing about also, but I want to keep these monthly posts to a reasonable length.

I should also note that especially with short stories, this is all about very subjective taste. There will always be some stories I like or dislike based on subject matter that appeals to me or repels me, so there could be a perfectly well-written or even brilliant story that I don't personally rate high just because it's not for me.

Favorite Short Stories read in January 2015:

"Will You Be an Astronaut?" by Greg van Eekhout

This story begins as a children's book would, explaining very simply what astronauts do and asking if YOU want to be an astronaut. Then the story goes in totally unexpected directions. This isn't quite a plot spoiler (although you might want to look away if you're a purist), but I think that this story is extremely sophisticated because of the way it comments on brainwashing in multiple ways.

First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (otherwise known as F&SF), September 2002; read here in the anthology New Skies, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and published by Tor in 2003.

"A Million Oysters For Chiyoko" by Caroline M. Yoachim

This is a flash story of under 1,000 words that manages to tell a complete, haunting, lovely tale. Nanami dives for oysters in a world with a significantly decreased seafood supply, but she's also looking for something far more important to her. First published in Daily Science Fiction on January 21, 2015.

"Observations About Eggs from the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa" by Carmen Maria Machado

This is one of the oddest stories I've ever read, and I loved it. The title is self-explanatory. It's full of humor and wonder and fun. First published in Lightspeed, April 2014.

"Teddy Bears and Tea Parties" by S. Boyd Taylor

This was first published in Chiaroscuro Magazine in July 2009, but I read it as a Kindle standalone story (published 2011). I don't normally seek out horror stories, but this one had been recommended to me, and wow, was it ever atmospheric! And creepy, and oddly beautiful. The premise is that magic has come back to the world, so that everything now needs to eat, even formerly inanimate objects. Which means that food has run out quickly.... The Kindle edition is nicely illustrated by Jorge Rodas.

I don't recommend reading this one right before bedtime.

"It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins

Published in the anthology My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins and published by St. Martin's Griffin in 2014. I'd first started reading this mainstream YA holiday anthology in December but had only managed a few stories. I read this particular story in January, and it was by far my favorite in the book so far. Marigold, who has an unusual family situation, hopes to eventually escape by working in computer animation and movie-making. She has a YouTube channel and is trying to work up the nerve to ask a young man who works at the local Christmas tree lot if she can "borrow" his voice for her next project. When he insists on helping her bring the tree to her apartment, he learns more about her than she has shown anyone else, with surprising (to her) results. This story is full of warmth and significance, if that makes sense -- I felt like what happened in the story really mattered. I look forward to reading the rest of this anthology next December.

"'I'm lonely': Immune to Apraxia, Toronto doctor refuses to give up on a cure" by Kate Heartfield

This story, published just a few days ago by Daily Science Fiction, is written as an online news article, complete with indications where there would be links, infographics, and a related video. It gets the form and the tone of an online news article just right, with a beautiful balance between the factual information and the human interest angle.

The premise is that 97% of humanity has been suddenly hit with Apraxia, which makes it impossible for them to speak, although they obtain the ability to read, write, and understand spoken words. The article's main "interviewee" is a doctor who intends to work on a cure, against arguments that say resources should be spent on adaptation. This is highly recommended as an example of a story that says so much in so little space, in an unusual format.

Other stories read in January 2015:
  • "The Kindness of Bones" by Leslie Jane Anderson
  • "My Avatar Has an Avatar" by Robert Bagnall
  • "The Cleverest Man in the World" by Tony Ballantyne
  • "This Chance Planet" by Elizabeth Bear
  • "The Snow Bride" by Kate Bernheimer
  • "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling" by Ted Chiang
  • "The Sweet Life" by Aidan Doyle
  • "Practical College Majors in a Robot-Dominated Society" by Nicky Drayden
  • "In the Days of the Comet" by John M. Ford
  • "The Raven's Brocade" by Eugie Foster
  • "Doing Emily" by Joe Haldeman
  • "Snowman Suicide" by Caroline Hall
  • "The Bomb-Thing" by KJ Kabza
  • "The Circle of Life" by Gerri Leen
  • "Here at Profile" by Katie Lewis
  • "Maximize Revenue" by Chris Limb
  • "Valley of the Girls" by Kelly Link
  • "The Box That Eats Memories" by Ken Liu
  • "The Last Seed" by Ken Liu
  • "The Total Devotion Machine" by Rosaleen Love
  • "Shared Memories in High Definition" by Carin Marais
  • ""Voyage into the Heart" by Patricia A. McKillip
  • "The Lady Who Entertained" by Dazai Osaum
  • "The Executioner's Gaze" by Li B.Y. Ralph
  • "Tortoiseshell Cats are Not Refundable" by Cat Rambo
  • "Dichotomous key to "animals" discovered by the first settlers on Quintana: Kepler-186F" by Melanie Rees
  • "Real Plastic Trees" by Erica L. Satifka
  • "A Clockwork Break" by Shawn Scarber
  • "Nuclear Family" by Alex Shvartsman
  • "The Readers" by Mardra Sikora
  • "Mom and Dad at the Home Front" by Sherwood Smith
  • "Bee Futures" by Vaughan Stanger
  • "Food Man" by Lisa Tuttle
  • "A Letter from the Clearys" by Connie Willis
  • "Taedium Vitae" by KM Zafari

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