Thursday, June 30, 2016

Short Fiction - June 2016

[An 1886 illustration of the kineograph, from Wikipedia]

Short Fiction - June 2016

Before I start talking about specific stories, here are some half-year stats. As of today, I've read 201 short works this year, ranging from microfiction to novelettes. I've also been keeping track of word counts this year (using sample page counts for print books when necessary), and have read more than 667,500 words of short fiction in the last six months.

Because I like to skip around so much in terms of story length and genre, I rarely read an entire anthology straight through, but I made an exception recently and was rewarded with two of my four favorite stories of the month. The anthology is Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, and is full of original young adult stories edited (and in one case written) by Stephanie Perkins. I chose this anthology on the strength of her earlier editorial effort, My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, which I started last year and plan to finish during the upcoming holiday season.

Naturally, not every story in either anthology appeals to me. But overall, I really like what she's doing in these books.

"The Map of Tiny Perfect Things"
by Lev Grossman

Length: 13,200 words (est.)
Category: Novelette (YA / fantasy / science fiction)
Where Published: Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories (anthology), edited by Stephanie Perkins
When Published: 2016
Link (book purchase)

In this story, which I'm not sure whether to call fantasy or science fiction, high school student Mark realizes he's living August 4 over and over, ala Groundhog Day. He's coping fairly well for the most part, and then meets Margeret, a fellow repeater. They get to know each other slowly, and together make it their mission to find and map all of the perfect moments that they can find.

I really enjoyed this story. I give it extra points for openly referencing the movies Groundhog Day and The Edge of Tomorrow while not being too similar to either one. I also liked the way the Abbott's Flatland is referenced. But then again, Lev Grossman, who wrote the Magicians trilogy, is particularly good at incorporating formative popular culture into his fiction.

I got this book at the library, but I'm tempted to buy my own copy just so I'll own this particular story.

"A Thousand Ways This Could Go Wrong"
by Jennifer E. Smith

Length: 12,200 words (est.)
Category: Novelette (YA)
Where Published: Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories (anthology), edited by Stephanie Perkins
When Published: 2016
Link (book purchase)

In this story, Annie runs into Griffin, a shy boy she's had her eye on for a while, and asks him on a maybe-a-date/maybe-not-a-date outing to an arcade. {MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD} When Annie gets stuck late at the camp where she works while waiting for an autistic boy's mother to pick him up, Griffin comes by and gets along with the little boy remarkably well. It takes Annie longer than it does the reader to put two and two together, but Griffin finally tells her that he has Asperger's (which he notes they're now calling autism).

This is one of the better fictional treatments of the subject that I've seen. It's not played for laughs (ala Big Bang Theory), nor is it from the point of view of someone with more severe autism, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It's just a thoughtful look at what it might be like to navigate the beginnings of a romantic relationship when one of the two people has a harder time with cues. I also thought the characters were very well developed for such a short story.

"One More Bite"
by Michelle Muenzler

Length: 800 words
Category: Short story (horror)
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2016-06-09
Link (free)

There aren't many authors who can make me actually look forward, with pleasure, to reading a dark, creepy story. Michelle is one of those authors. This short story, at 800 words, is really all atmosphere, since we don't find out terribly much about how this ... let's call it a "process" ... works. But that atmosphere is so beautifully constructed that it's delightful (and delightfully creepy) to read.

by Caroline M. Yoachim

Length: 581 words
Category: Short story (science fiction)
Where Published: Daily Science Fiction
When Published: 2011-07-18
Link (free)

In this super short story, a woman keeps her husband company as he remembers his impending death, even though he doesn't seem to remember anything else about their life together. I'm not entirely sure what is happening in this story, but it's not simple Alzheimer's. Whatever is happening, the tone of the story is lovely and sad, and that's what mattered to me.

Other stories read in June 2016:

(alphabetical by author)

- "The Arrangements" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2016)
- "On Discovering a Ghost in the Five Star" by Peter M. Ball (2016)
- "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo (2016)
- "Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block (2016)
- "Last Stand at the Cinegore" by Libba Bray (2016)
- "Don't Read This Story" by K.T. Bryski (2016)
- "The Exterminator's Daughter" by Meg Cabot (2007)
- "Brand New Attraction" by Cassandra Clare (2016)
- "Good Luck and Farewell" by Brandy Colbert (2016)
- "Time and Space Died Yesterday" by Brandon Echter (2016)
- "Souvenirs" by Tim Federle (2016)
- "The Weight of Kanzashi" by Joshua Gage (2016)
- "Pencils, Rules, Bones, Heart" by JT Gill (2016)
- "Department of Truth" by Jennifer Rose Jorgensen
- "Going Deep" by James Patrick Kelly (original 2009; reprint 2011)
- "The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R." by Benjamin C. Kinney (2016)
- "The End of Love" by Nina LaCour (2016)
- "Turkey Shoot" by Tom Lavagnino (2015)
- "The Greyhound" by Dafydd Mckimm (2016)
- "Irma Splinkbottom’s Recipe For Cold Fusion" by Janene Murphy (2009)
- "The Job" by Bob Page (2016)
- "In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins (2016)
- "The Day the Future Invaded" by Beth Powers (2016)
- "Failed Interview with the International Convocation of the Damned" by Luc Reid (2016)
- "Inertia" by Veronica Roth (2016)
- "Useful Objects" by Erica L. Satifka (2014)
- "Little Dead Girl" by C.M. Saunders (2016)
- "Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron (2016)
- "America, America" by Okafor Emmanuel Tochukwu (2016)
- "After the End" by Damien Angelica Walters (2016)
- "Created By..." by David Wardrop (2016)

List of the sources from which these stories came:

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

- Daily Science Fiction, June 2016
- Diabolical Plots, June 2016
- Flash Fiction Online, Nov 2009; Jan 2016
- The Mammoth Book of Nebula Awards: SF (anthology), edited by Kevin J. Anderson, 2011
- Nature, Oct 2014
- The New York Times Book Review, June 2014
- Prom Nights from Hell (anthology), 2007
- Strange Horizons, June 2016
- Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories (anthology), edited by Stephanie Perkins, 2016
- Trigger Warning: Short Fiction with Pictures, 2015; 2016

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