I’ve read a number of articles, essays and blogs over the past six months describing the apparent slow death of short fiction. Once the cornerstone of science fiction, and a major component of modern literature in general, it does seem like fewer people are reading short stories these days. Whenever I give reading suggestions to patrons, it’s only one out of every ten who will say they are open to a great collection of short stories.
I happen to love short stories. My RSS feed (and mailbox!) is filled with fantastic short fiction from the likes of Lightspeed, Electrric Velocipede, Asimov’s, Analog and Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. I love how self-contained and open to possiblities science fiction and fantasy short stories can be. So much is left to the imagination to fill in the world-building blanks. Paolo Bacigalupi once described short fiction as “little grenades of ideas,” which I absolutely love. With that in mind, here are some recent short story collections that are worth your time and positively exploding with ideas and possibilities
It’s no secret to anyone who will listen to me gush for a hot minute that I love Fredrick Pohl, and it looks like I’m not alone! This collection of new short fiction covers a wide range of subject matters, though all are written in homage to the diverse short fiction over Pohl’s long, illustrious career. Luminaries such as Neil Gaiman, David Brin and Connie Willis all take a crack at writing a story Pohl-style, and the results are a win across the board. A loving tribute to a sci-fi legend.
A unique and titillatting collection of science fiction written by indigenious authors, from North America to Australia. Vibrant and inimitable tales from some truly talented voices in the world of science fiction.
As I mentioned earler, Lightspeed is an online science fiction and fantasy magazine and it has a proven track record of publishing some of the best stories of any genre. Their stories are as eclectic as their writers; as they put it:
“From near-future, sociological soft SF, to far-future, star-spanning hard SF—and fantasy: from epic fantasy, sword-and-sorcery, and contemporary urban tales, to magical realism, science-fantasy, and folktales. No subject is off-limits, and we encourage our writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope.”
If you’ve never read any of the Dying Earth novels by Jack Vance be prepared to have your mind blown! All you need to know going in is that it’s the very distant future where the aging Sun is bloated, dim and red on the precipice of extinguishing. Vance’s highly stylized approach to this world favors wit, chicanery and lyrical embellishments over swordplay and epic battles. Think Dickens, Lovecraft and David Foster Wallace all writing a book together and you’re halfway there. You can feel a palpable joy as the various authors in this collection try their hand at creating a story in classic Dying Earth-style.
This collection doesn’t have a clunker in it and has at least two or three of your favorite authors, such as Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, Tad Williams, Kage Baker, Mike Resnick, Tanith Lee, Robert Silverberg and many, many more. The audiobook is particularly awesome!
Carol Emshwiller is one of those authors that doesn’t so much write stories with a clear beginning, middle and end. She summons magic from unlikely disparate parts and whips them into a frenzy before they disperse into dust, leaving the reader dazed. Her stories are magic, even when they don’t feature magic in them. She’s always struck me as a more whimsical Joyce Carol Oates, with a mean streak of humor straight out of a Flannery O’ Connor story.
A hilarious and thought-provoking collection from the criminally underrated David Gerrold. Seriously, if you’ve never read The Martian Child, or The Man Who Folded Himself or seen his episode of Star Trek (“The Trouble with Tribbles”) you are missing out. The story “Franz Kafka, Superhero” is worth the price of admission alone, but all these stories are guaranteed to put a smile (or at least a wry smirk) on your face.