Saturday, May 30, 2015

Short Fiction - May 2015

This month it seems I had to struggle a little more to find stories that appealed to me, and especially to find stories that really stood out for me. Part of it may be that I wasn't reading with award nominations in mind, so I wasn't particularly guided by others' recommendations this month. Instead I just followed whatever whim I felt at the moment, and ended up reading a fair few media tie-in stories as well as several mainstream or literary instead of genre stories.

In the end, I read another 39 stories, and gave quite good ratings to a lot of them, but I'm only listing the following three as true stand-outs for me this month. Interestingly, one of the three is mainstream rather than science fiction or fantasy, and the two genre stories are flash and microfiction, respectively.

Also, I've made one other change to the way I'm doing this post: in addition to listing every story read, I'm listing all the venues in which I read them.

Favorite Short Stories read in May 2015

(alphabetical by author)

"Letter from a Drunk to a Long Gone Wife" by Jack Marx

This story appeared in an anthology published in 2009 by the Australia Council titled 10 Short Stories You Must Read This Year. While I found the other two stories I've read so far in this anthology to be a bit forgettable, this particular story is one of the most disturbing I've ever read, and I won't be forgetting it any time soon.

The story consists of a letter written from an older alcoholic to the beautiful young woman who was unfortunate enough to marry him. As the story begins, it's easy for the reader to assume it will simply be a lament from a man who knows he's ruined his life, but it turns out to be far more than that. (SPOILERS AHEAD) It's actually about the sick way in which an addict may try to justify his behavior, beginning with a "harmless" lie he tells to his future wife the first time they meet, to increasingly abusive but always well-disguised behavior.

At one point early in the story, I was concerned that the author was trying to show that the protagonist wasn't really that bad a guy, just a victim of his addictions, but now I'm convinced the author's intention was actually the opposite -- I think he wanted to show us what an utterly horrible person the protagonist was and remained to the point when he wrote this letter. And that any so-called "justification" for his behavior was entirely invented and irrational.

Before reading this story, please be aware that the domestic abuse is very disturbing. Seriously, every time I learned about something new the protagonist had done, I thought it couldn't get worse, but then it did. I'm glad I read this story, but it left me feeling very unsettled. I gave it such a high rating because I think the author crafted it brilliantly, in order to take me along the exact mental and emotional path I traveled from the beginning of the story to the end. The craft displayed was impressive.

"In Memoriam" by Rachel Reddick

This story is technically flash fiction, but it feels like more. It's a simple, thoughtful, first-person narration by a person who was born on and will die on a generational starship. Such a simple concept, but so well written. Of course, we don't have any say as to when and where we're born either, but it was interesting to imagine what it would be like to be born in that particular situation. You can read the story here on Diabolical Plots.

"H" by Jeff Xilon

This story isn't just flash, it's microfiction, at only 199 words. And it's a single sentence -- something I didn't even make note of until I read the author's comments on the origin of the story. It's so short I don't want to say anything about the subject matter; just go to Daily Science Fiction and read it here. Seriously, it will only take you two minutes or less! Anyway, I think it's a clever exercise that also tells a story, or at least part of one. I thought the length was just right for what the author was trying to do.

Other stories read in May 2015:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Hero" (Star Trek: Enterprise) by Lorraine Anderson
- "Life Itself is Reason Enough" (Star Trek: The Next Generation) by M. Shayne Bell
- "On the Scent of Trouble" (Star Trek: The Next Generation) by John Gregory Betancourt
- "Extra Credit" by Carlos Bueno
- "Restore the Heart into Love" by John Chu
- "Let Down, Set Free" by Nino Cipri
- "Bedside Matters" (Star Trek: The Next Generation) by Greg Cox
- "Last Words" (Star Trek: The Next Generation) by A.C. Crispin
- "The Alien Mind" by Philip K. Dick
- "Ships in the Night" by S.B. Divya
- "A Eulogy for Pretzel" by Lily Dodd
- "Jacob Gayne, Vice President" by Aaron Emmel
- "Farmer in the Dell" by Edna Ferber
- "That's Marriage" by Edna Ferber
- "Late Nights at the Cape and Cane" by Max Gladstone
- "A Night at Sandrine's" (Star Trek: Voyager) by Christie Golden
- "The Rapid Advance of Sorrow" by Theodora Goss
- "Norma the Wal-Mart Greeter Meets the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" by Renee Carter Hall
- "Spit" by Michelle Hart
- "The Corpsman’s Tale" by Iain Ishbel
- "Suicide is Not Your Friend" by Sara Jacobelli
- "You Can Change Your Life" by Toni Jordan
- "Out of All Them Bright Stars" by Nancy Kress
- "Music Lessons" by Douglas Lain
- "Hate at First Sight" by Kathy Lette
- "Ol' Soapy's Revenge" by Marina J. Lostetter
- "The Tragically Dead Girlfriend" by Kate Marshall
- "With Paper Armour and Wooden Sword" by Tracie McBride
- "Four Horns" by Anthony Morgan-Clark
- "White Poplar" by Shannon Peavey
- "Mars Won" by Stephen V. Ramey
- "When Push Comes to Shove" (Star Trek: Voyager) by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz
- "The Space Vortex of Doom" (Star Trek: Voyager) by D.W. "Prof" Smith
- "Morning Bells are Ringing" (Star Trek: The Next Generation) by Kevin G. Summers
- "Pretending" by Ray Vukcevich
- "The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate" by A.C. Wise

List of the sources from which these stories came:

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

- 10 Short Stories You Must Read this Year (anthology), The Australia Council, 2009
- The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (anthology), edited by Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant, 2007
- Crossed Genres, May 2015
- Daily Science Fiction, various dates in May 2015
- Diabolical Plots, May 2015
- Every Day Fiction, various dates in May 2015
- New Skies: An Anthology of Today's Science Fiction (anthology), edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 2003
- One Basket (story collection by Edna Ferber), 1947
- One Teen Story, April 2015; May 2015
- QuarterReads
- Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 8 (anthology), edited by Dean Wesley Smith, 2005
- Star Trek: The Amazing Stories (anthology), edited by John J. Ordover, 2002
- Uncanny, November 2014; May 2015


Steven E. Belanger said...

Liked your story in Daily Science Fiction, which I also read all the time. One of the best things I've ever subscribed to online.

And I'm still not over the Bush / Gore fiasco in Florida. I can't believe that was actually 15 years ago! But I still cringe whenever I talk to someone named Chad.

It's very cool that you go out of your way to read so much short fiction. People say the form is dying out, but with all the markets you mention, it sounds like it's doing very well.

Amy Sisson said...

Thanks, both for your comments on my story, and on my short fiction reading. I'm hoping that in reading so much short fiction I'll eventually "ingest" writing wisdom, but actually, I'm just enjoying the reading for its own sake.

Thanks again -- your comment made my day!