You’ve heard me moan about reading short fiction before, but you know what? Every single time I read a short story collection by a talented author I’m like Oh, I do like this stuff, when it’s awesome. (A point most recently proven to me by Maureen McHugh’s collection After the Apocalypse.) But as so many reviewers have difficulties reviewing short story collections and reviews of single stories become absurd when they approach the length of the story itself, it is really hard to find the goods you’re going to like. On top of that there are like 30 trajillion short stories being published online weekly.
Thanks to the prodding of Cecily of Manic Pixie Dream Worlds we’re going to have a short fiction reading club. She’s selected the first two stories up for a read and a grope: Ruthanna Emrys’ “Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land” from and “Because I Prayed This Word” by Alex Dally MacFarlane from Strange Horizons. Both are free, so just follow those links to glory if you want to read along.
This is what Cecily has to say about her recommendation: “These were my favorite fantasy shorts of 2014 and have a lot in common—lesbian relationships, few to no dudes in them (these both ace the Bechdel test), and an unusual narrative structure. They are also both stories that respond to other stories. What makes them super special, at least to me, is the use of very distant third point of view to create a main character that is basically a world itself—and both of these worlds are those in which it is safer for people who have characteristics that in the real world have been historically unsafe ones to have. (Those would be Jewish folks and women who love women, respectively.)
“And what imaginative worlds they are. Tikanu envisions a Jewish Narnia in a world in which there are also Christian and Islamic versions, and that’s okay, and in which folks from all can visit each others’ nations and form relationships. And it has magical mint plants and dolphin alliances and golem librarians and is basically the sweetest world-building I’ve ever seen. MacFarlane’s story is a bit more high-concept with portals to a city made of words and a city made of sound. Literacy being a key to women’s freedom is a theme she’s written about in other stories, and this one does magical things with it.” (Read more of her thoughts on reading short fiction here.)
Discussion is to be had on twitter via #ShortSFF this Thursday and beyond. Cecily has already recommended a few post-apocalyptic stories that we can look at next round and in conjunction with 1000 Ways to End the World which I will announce next week, but the general plan is to keep the “club” pretty fluid and easy going, no pressure, all fun, free donuts (you’re buying). Meanwhile, Jonah at Yelling at My Bookshelves has already written about this month’s stories right here. I’m off to read them myself right now. Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts on this post, or watch for my #shortsff review posts on Thursday.