I find it easy to keep track of novels that I have read, thanks to Goodreads. Short Stories represent more of a problem however. Stories can only be added if they are available separately online, for instance on a website. This rules out individual stories from anthologies I’ve read as well as magazines I subscribe to which aren’t freely available. So I’ve decided to start a short story reading log, where I can record what stories I’ve read each week, where I found them, and what I thought. I’ll also choose several of my favourite stories of that week. I should point out though that week is a fairly loose term. It might be weekly, it might be fortnightly or occasionally less often. Some weeks I might not read any short stories. Other weeks I might not have time to do a write up.
Out of the stories I’ve read this week, the only author I’d read before was Ken Liu, the others were all new to me. Escape Pod and Levar Burton Reads are audio podcasts, so I’ve listened rather than read these ones. In giving ratings and choosing favourites, I have concentrated on the story itself only rather than the narrator or any other bells and whistles (good though they may be). My favourites this week are:
Infinite Tiny Lives, Infinitely Small by Shane Halbech (from Daily Science Fiction) – As with all short stories on DSF, this is a Flash Fiction story. I’m normally not a big fan of Flash Fiction, they have to be really good to make an impact on me, but this one did. My imagination went into overdrive on this one, and I really wanted to pull out pencil and paper (or Sketchbook on my tablet) and draw an illustration for it. Then I remembered that I’m really bad at drawing and gave up on the idea. Anyone who does have some half decent drawing skills though, I all but guarantee you’ll want to get drawing after this one, you’ll see what I mean when you read it.
Mono No Aware by Ken Liu – This one is by award winning short story writer Ken Liu, and ticked all the boxes for me. It’s science fiction, end of the world stuff, space travel, exploring a different culture, strong characterisation, emotional pull. It’s take from the author’s anthology The Paper Menagerie, which has a lot of really good stories in it. The link I’ve put to this story is to the audio version, from LeVar Burton Reads podcast. Even without the narration this would have easily been one of my top picks of the week, but LeVar Burton does a really good job of narrating this. It was from one of his live shows, it has two musicians playing a very gentle background music which really adds to the atmospheric effect, and there’s also a short interview with Ken Liu afterwards.
A Witches Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (from Apex Magazine). Okay so that’s one hell of a mouthful of a story title- I keep forgetting it and having to look it up again – but don’t let that stop you reading this beautiful contemporary fantasy. It is about books that whisper from the shelves, it’s about escape, and it’s about witches (those last two are fairly obvious from the title I suppose). If you were ever a teenage kid who hung out in your local library, then this book will definitely resonate with you, and if you weren’t, well, what else were you doing when you were growing up? Never mind, either way this is a really funny as well as touching story. I’ve not come across the author before, but she’s got her first novel coming out in September, so that’s definitely worth checking out.
Con Man by Paul Dellinger – This one’s from Dreamforge Magazine, a new SF and Fantasy magazine I’ve just subscribed to. I think you have to subscribe to read this one, but it’s only $19.99 for a year’s digital subscription, or a couple of dollars a month on Patreon. Con Man was a really funny story about a con man who pretends he’s a successful SF author and makes a living by going to loads of different science fiction conventions. Whenever anyone asks about his books, he says they’re out of print and really difficult to get hold of hence why he doesn’t have any available. It’s a cheesy story, I’m not sure I’m convinced he could actually have got away with it so maybe a bit unrealistic, but you know what? It’s a good fun read, and that’s surely what it should be all about?
Here’s a list of other stories I’ve read this week.
A La Carte by Joy Kennedy O’Neill (from Daily Science Fiction) – ***
Morning Child by Gardner Dozois (from LeVar Burton Reads) – ***
Singing on a Star by Ellen Klages (from LeVar Burton Reads) – ****
The Scent of Lions by Tara Campbell (from Escape Pod) – ****
Walker in Leaves by Scot Noel (from Dreamforge Magazine) – ***
The Old Man Who Hid Music by Tom Sheehan (from Dreamforge Magazine) – ***
Half Life by David L Updike (from Daily Science Fiction) – **
That’s all for this week, hope you enjoy some of the stories.