Short Story Squee & Snark is opening its 2017 season!
With a whole Internet constantly supplying us with excellent short fiction, SSS&S is devoted to reading short stories often, and widely. Every week we read a story – hopping between magazines, authors, styles and subgenres. Then, we meet up back here and discuss – love it or loathe it, being able to talk stories over is often half the fun!
We’re kicking off discussing Sarah Pinsker’s “And Then There Were (N-One)” – the story of SarahCon, the exciting new convention for Sarah Pinskers from across the multiverse.
And, entering a new year of short fiction, we’re very eager for story recommendations – tell us what stories from 2017 you’d love to see discussed, because we’d love to discuss ’em!
Pinsker is a particular favorite of mine, clones and doubles and alternates are a particular favorite of mine, and murder mysteries are awesome! Also, it seems a bunch of other people really liked this story:
Sarah Pinsker’s story of a convention–SarahCon–for Sarah’s from thousands of alternate reality might be my favorite novella of the last several years, to be honest. It’s smart and funny and thoughtful in perfect proportions. It was enchanting from page one, and it’s a story and concept that has been often on my mind ever since I read it.
Rocket Stack Rank awards a rare five stars, calling the story “Intricately plotted, Moving, and Fun.” Full review (spoilers! murder mystery spoilers) is here.
What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!
That’s it for 2016 stories. Time to bring 2017 in! We’d love to hear your suggestions for 2017 stories, anything you’ve loved in the first few months of the new year. We’ll be on a short hiatus until April, and then we’ll see what you’ve been reading!
It’s not an exaggeration to say that stories like this one are why I keep doing this, rooting through hundreds of short stories on the off chance of happening on one, by an author I’ve never heard of, that completely blows me away. I don’t want to say too much about “The Venus Effect”‘s plot, both because it’s a surprise worth preserving, and because to describe the story is to make it sound like so much less than what it is–too academic, too gimmicky, too preachy. This is a story about stories, and about who gets to be the hero in the core stories of our genre. It shouldn’t work–the tack Hill chooses should come off as glib, and the structure he comes up with should devolve into repetition–and yet, amazingly, it does. If there’s one story on this list that I’d like you to read, “The Venus Effect” is it.
If Nussbaum wants us to read it, then read it we shall!
What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!
This is a beautifully written and haunting and somewhat disturbing (I love it) story about creation and having children and loss. I’m not sure what more I can say about it that won’t spoil the reading experience, aside from that the language and imagery is lovely and haunting. Definitely worth a read.
Michael Kelly at @sfeditorspicks writes much the same:
Lyrical, melancholic, and moving story about parenting, loss, death, and sorrow.
The story does a great job of showing the darkness that the women live in, the world that is at war, the endless stretches of dead children, the suffering that is still somehow necessary to it all. (…) There is magic in the story but not a pretty kind. The magic is dark and springs from pain, and it sets the mood, dark and brooding and festering.
What did you think of “The Fifth Gable”? Read the story, and come discuss in the comments!
Contextualizing the contemporary Western situation with some simple but effective bits of far-future imagination, Liu keeps things relevant by understanding the idea that problems will always exist, and thus what matters is our approach—our attitude—toward them.
Pro: (…) The ending is heartwarming because, after all that time, Mia finally has the right words–and they’re noble, inspiring words.At the large-scale level, it’s a great description of human evolution and transformation into a galaxy-spanning civilization–if civilization is even the right word for something so grand.
Con: There’s little action and no tension in the story, which mostly consists of a recitation of events that transpired.
While this story doesn’t seem to be as free from a sort of historical dualism (which leads to a tincture of human self-loathing which is mostly balanced by an explicit appreciation of our “wondrous” quality) as it is from the human vs. nature dualism that it explicitly disavows and does seem like yet another climate change story at first, it does move on to bigger and better things which do involve mega-engineering and a bit of “gosh wow” and is a good execution of the tried-and-true and fitting “time lapse” structure.
What did you think of “Seven Birthdays”? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!
Her latest story in Uncanny Magazine is classic Alyssa Wong: intense, visceral writing; searing imagery; building horror. An orphan in this alternate Wild West can bring dead things back to life—and perhaps put them to rest as well. Skeletons rise, dead things dance, and there’s an unforgettable scene involving a chicken. In the end, it’s also a beautiful story of loss and love.
Full disclosure: I love the desert and I love myth-making. Any story that can combine the two, bringing the desert to haunting life until you can hear the dead and smell the hot breeze is almost certain to win me over.
(…) Is it about trying to come to terms with your heritage? About not fitting in and being unsure where there’s a place for you? Possibly. It’s certainly about love and loyalty and what we’re prepared to sacrifice. And it’s definitely uncanny. Excellent stuff.
This is a story that equal parts strange and bleak and beautiful to me, like the desert. Like doomed love. (…) In many ways I read the story as about how sometimes there’s no escaping a situation, a place. Sometimes who you are, who your parents are, and the machinations and plots of those with more power, are damning and inescapable. Which is not to say that those situations are hopeless.
This story is a great exploration of what it’s like living with a curse in a survival of the fittest, use everyone for personal gain society, what it means to embrace your identity. It’s a fine exploration of power and expectations, love and boundaries, fear and the limitations it brings, it allows for, it thrives in. Grief and holding on. Moving on. What an intensely rich and sobering mirror of real life.
What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments below!
Tolmie has a careful, controlled, poised style that is the epitome of elegance – a kind of literary dressage, or dancing, in fact. Her poetical investigations into human rituals, creativity and modes of belief make her fiction some of the most interesting new work around at the moment.
This is a long and intricate story that unfolds like a dance, a very fascinating portal fantasy that looks very different from what I’m used to. It features a woman taken from a world that sounds very much like our own and put into a place that is basically one huge house. One enormous building with floors connected by a very special stairway. And it’s a great reversal of what normally happens in portal fantasies, where the main character is some sort of Chosen One. Here the woman is the lowest of the low, without the currency that would make her even able to leave the stairs she finds herself on. What follows is a rough education and the slow reveal of this society. […]
It’s a great and moving story that’s enchanting and magical and elegantly layered. An excellent read!
Pro: The narrator really does want to do something creative. He sings, he draws, and he despairs, because he knows he has no future. Paulo saves him, and he brings New York to life and defeats a monster with it.
Con: It’s hard to consistently suspend disbelief for this one. Swinging bridges and neighborhoods into action against a Cthulhu-like creature is hard to credit.
“The City Born Great” captures the personality of New York City wonderfully, its rough edges, and its unbreakable spirit. The places we live are imbued with the personality of their citizens, and full of quirks all their own. As someone who lived in Jersey and worked in NYC for several years, I fully admit this story had me wanting to punch the air and yell, “Hell, yeah! No cosmic horror is taking my city down!”