If you have been following this blog for a little while you know that I’m part of the “short fiction reader sect”. I read a lot of short fiction and that’s something that has now become very important for me as a reader. I know that most people don’t like this format, considering it to be way too short for any kind of development or just hard to read.
It’s true that shorter fiction can be a bit challenging at first since you have to immerse yourself in a story faster than usual, the writing can also be a little more experimental and sometimes, when you really enjoy a story, you just want more of it.
Up until last year, I wasn’t a huge short fiction reader myself. When I’m reading a novel, I tend to be pretty slow to immerse myself into the world and the characters and because of that, the only times I tried to read shorter pieces, I struggled with it; at the time I was finally interested by what was going on it was basically done.
The first short story I loved was The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu, I first heard about this story because it won the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award so I decided to give it a try. It’s very short but it left me in tears and that’s when I realized that short stories could as powerful as big novels. Even more so sometimes because of how short they are. When they manage to move you to tears or to make you laugh, or both, you have to remind yourself that, they did it in a few pages.
Short stories, novelettes and novellas always had an important place in the science fiction genre. If you look at older SF books, you may see that most of them are quite short (most of them are under 250-300 pages). That’s because fifty years ago, paper was very expensive and most publishers couldn’t afford to publish longer books. As of today, a great number of a vintage SF books would be considered as novellas, because of this, most authors at the time also wrote short fiction and those had a real influence on the genre. A ton of authors actually started their career through short fiction magazine such as Asimov, Analog and F&SF. That’s for example the case of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke whose first stories were published in Astounding (which is now Analog). That was also the case of Alaistar Reynolds who was discovered when he published a story in Interzone.
Thanks to Internet, thousands of SF shorts are published every year, so, when I hear that short fiction is a dying art, it does drive me a little nuts! On the contrary, short fiction is back in fashion. Thanks to Tor.com Publishing and their line of amazing novellas, I discovered some wonderful short fiction writers such as Kai Ashante Wilson, Matt Wallace, Angela Slatter for example. On Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nightmare and Uncanny to name just a few, you can read hundred of short stories for free including ones written by very famous authors and some that are just launching their career. If you want be a little bit of an “hipster” it’s a great way to discover some amazing authors when they are just starting their career. 😉
If you want to start reading shorter works, I have several general recommendations:
- If you really enjoy a particular author, look if he has any written short stories. Short stories and novel writing doesn’t require the exact same talent but it’s still an interesting place to start.
- Check Tor.Com, Clarkesworld Magazine, Uncanny Magazine or any short fiction magazine website basically, most of them put their stories online for free and it’s a good way to see if any of those magazines publish stories that you may enjoy.
- If the stories that you have previously were not really you thing, it doesn’t mean that you will never enjoy this format, it just means that you still have to find the style you’ll like so persevere and I’m sure you’ll find something for you!
Here is a list of some of my favorite stories if you’re looking for a place to start. I have read many of them so I won’t link all the ones I loved but here as some of the ones I would absolutely recommend and that are available for free on Internet!
- The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
- The Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson
- The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik
- Pretty much anything written by Sam J. Miller but Things with Beard and When Your Child Strays From God are available for free on Clarkesword and they are incredible
- Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands by Seanan McGuire
- Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong
- And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices by Margaret Ronald
- Balin by Chen Qiufan
Well I could probably recommend twenty more with no problem but it’s still longer than what I had originally planned so I’ll stop there. A quick disclaimer, almost all of those stories are depressing and some of them are fantasy and not SF but they’re all great! 😉
Do you read short fiction ? If not, why ?