Like so many others I stopped reading short stories when I was no longer forced to read them by my teachers in school. I have read the occasional short story put out as part of a series since, but it has still be rarely. In 2006 my sister’s boyfriend lend me his copy of Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman and it was amazing. I read it cover to cover and picked up Fragile Things: short fictions and wonders and it was also awesome. But it didn’t really lead to me picking up short stories as part of my normal reading routine for some crazy reason. I started listening to genre literature podcast last year in the fall and shortly there after I started picking up a short story every now and then. The podcasts talked so much about the short stories and with so much enthusiasm that I had to start checking some of them out. But it wasn’t until this spring that I started really reading them with any regularity*.
What really convinced me to read more than the occasional short story was the fiction podcast Clarksworld Magazine puts out. Their stories are always amazing. They really use a very broad definition of science fiction and fantasy when they buy their stories and they buy stories from a very diverse group of writers. Their stories tend to drop you into a world like none you have read before and tell you the most amazing stories in a very short amount of time. Their typical podcast is well under an hour, but some of the world I have heard about their I would love to see expanded into novels. I also read Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2012 Edition around new year this year and that also really helped kick me into reading more short stories.
The success of the Clarksworld stories have gotten me to branch out and seek out stories from different venues. Some of which I have read while I have listened to others. I am very surprised about the number short story podcasts that are free on the internet.
I also started seeking out short story anthologies and collections. I like author collections and I like themed anthologies quite a lot. I read: Paintwork by Tim Maughan around new year as well and it was great. One of the podcasts recommend it, sadly I can’t remember who. I pretty much read anything Seanan McGuire puts out, free or otherwise. I even seeked out her older free short stories online. I also read some smutty erotica short stories, which I will not talk more about.
The individual stories I liked best this year was Water by Ramez Naam: Branded wired everything – scary and fashinating! Victimless Crimes by Charlie Jane Anders: The mother of a superhero – really strange but also really good. The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu: A freaking amazing story which is really hard to describe. Better Phones by Grant Stone: A story about aliens, running and kindness.The History Within Us by Matthew Kressel: A beautiful story about memory and the end or perhaps the beginning of everything. All the Painted Stars by Gwendolyn Clare: An amazing story about a person who is also a spaceship, who interacts with humans for the first time. The Battle of Candle Arc by Yoon Ha Lee: It is probably the best short story I have read all year. The story is about math, calendars and space battles and has great characters in it. They are all highly recommended.
Currently I am reading both Glitter & Mayhem & The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 7 and I have just ordered Conservations of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee. I thought her short stories in Clarks World was so amazing that I have to have her collection. But more about that in future posts.
What I have come to love about short stories is their ability to give you a window into another world in a very short time, to present interesting and thought provoking ideas in under and hour and to make well written characters jump off the page right away. They make me pay more attention the language as well – it tend to be more polished than the novels I read.
*Don’t you just love how GoodReads lets you travel back in time and see when you were reading what? Instead of thinking you read something at a particular time, you can check!