Short Stories: Tiny Windows into Other Worlds

During this pandemic, I’ve heard from so many people – normally avid readers of long novels – that they are having trouble focusing on full-length books. I, too, have found myself in the same boat. Thank goodness for short stories!  Sometimes I forget about these gems, but quite a few book groups (including two that I belong to) have been re-discovering these little powerhouses. As Neil Gaiman says, “Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.” 

Short stories are also a great way to introduce yourself to unfamiliar authors or genres. For example, I’ve been intrigued by the growing number of Chinese science fiction authors whose works are being translated into English, but I didn’t know where to start. Then I saw the book Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation and had to check it out. The stories cover quite a gamut of moods and topics, ranging from a melancholic tale about artificial intelligence set in the near future to a time travel story set in an alternate 10th century China. Each story is prefaced by a brief description of the author’s life and work, and further context is provided by several essays about Chinese science fiction past and present. 

Continue reading “Short Stories: Tiny Windows into Other Worlds”

Black History Month reading inspiration: short stories

While February is a short month — too short — I decided to celebrate this Black History Month by reading a short story a day by Black authors. I have been rotating through a variety of anthologies and collections, delighted by the discoveries within:

Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
My favorite story so far is a story in a tradition that I absolutely adore: the epistolary exchange between rivals that becomes increasingly passive-aggressive and ridiculously cruel. “Belles Lettres” finds two professional Black mothers whose daughters attend a predominantly white school trading barbs and insults in increasingly delicious intensity. The daughters at the center of these letters show up in future stories, adding extra dimension and reflection upon that exchange. The Los Angeles Review of Books called this collection “clever, cruel, hilarious, heartbreaking, and at times simply ingenious.”

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans Continue reading “Black History Month reading inspiration: short stories”

Lessons learned from reading a short story a day

When the library closed for the pandemic on March 13th and I contemplated the altered days ahead, I had a revelation. I decided that I would tackle a goal I had long held–to read more short stories.

Every year I feel hard pressed to read enough of the newly-published fiction and nonfiction to feel grounded in my work as a readers’ advisor. Not to mention all of the older books I also keep meaning to get to, or that I hear about from colleagues and patrons. I used to think that I didn’t have time for short stories or that I preferred novels. Where did that idea come from?

Yes, short stories can slow you down. You have to make space for the world a short story creates, and each story, even in one collection or anthology, has a different pace, tone, cadence, and perspective that you are thrown into. Short stories are the gems of literature–they can be rough cut or burnished, but each story offers a prism through which you will discover a new voice, perspective, or world. When I thought that I did not like short stories or did not have time for them I was wrong, and I was missing out. Continue reading “Lessons learned from reading a short story a day”

Short Stories on a Theme

There are times when it may be hard to focus on a long novel, so a short story might be a better choice. You can pick up a book of short stories and read one or all. Many compilations feature different authors coming together to focus on one theme and giving you a selection of stories in varying styles and genres to choose from. Short stories can be a fun break from your normal reading or a long thoughtful pause about the meaning hidden inside the story. I’ve provided a list of different types of short stories you can find as an eBook. Hopefully one will strike your fancy!

Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories,Image of book cover for Echoes edited by Ellen Datlow

A short story collection can never be complete for me without one edited by Ellen Datlow. I’ve read anothologies by Datlow since junior high. This anthology collects ghost stories together for a deliciously creepy time. Either read it now or wait until closer to Halloween; it’ll be a treat either way. Continue reading “Short Stories on a Theme”

More Short Stories Online

Short stories are the form in which many writers hone their craft. And while each year’s Best American Short Stories and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthologies compile some of the best of that year, they don’t highlight all of what gets published and is worthy of note. So much depends on who edits an edition in any given year, and no group of editors can read everything. Here are some online journals offering short stories to read online; you can be your own judge of what the best stories are!

Agni cover imageAgni, co-edited by Sven Birkerts and William Pierce, publishes literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and reviews, and has a reputation for publishing emerging as well as established writers. Check out this recent piece: “A Viral Exchange, Under Lockdown” by Charles Bardes and Tom Sleigh. Continue reading “More Short Stories Online”