Flash fiction story: “The Chex Gambit”

“The Chex Gambit,” by Jon Lasser

Read for Toasted Cake 184, May 13th, 2018

Not sure how many words



Short story: “Our Side of the Door”

“Our Side of the Door,” by Kodiak Julian

Appeared in Lightspeed MagazineMay 2018 (Issue 96)

3,240 words

Another story that could be classified as realistic fiction just as easily as fantasy (last one here). I admire the way the literary plot unfolds, the ambiguity of the boy’s supposed journey.


On prose quality

“Sometimes [what draws me into a story is] a matter of style, but not always, since a compelling world can survive clumsy or awkward writing, as in Poe or David Foster Wallace (in Wallace’s case the awkwardness is deliberate, of course). “

—Iain Higgins, member of The Malahat Review‘s fiction board

Short story: “The State of Nature”

“The State of Nature,” by Camille Bordas

Appeared in the New Yorker, April 9th, 2018 (online here) and in the April 3rd episode of The Writer’s Voice

6,787 words

I like the way everyone’s fear of and preparations for the unthinkable—whether that’s societal collapse or rape—come together as a coherent theme. The revelation of the mother’s assault unfolds naturally, reasonably, though I couldn’t have predicted it. Perhaps that’s how all revelations should work in fiction.

Has anyone ever come running to the rescue at the sound of a rape whistle? Or been scared off by one? It does seem illogical.


Short story: “The Third Tower”

“The Third Tower,” by Deborah Eisenberg

Appeared in Ploughshares Spring 2018 Vol. 44 No. 1

I’m going to guess 4,000 words, I really have no idea

This seems to be the story of the stifling of a girl/woman’s spirit, her imagination even. Her peculiar condition hurts her, but suppressing it seems to hurt her more.


Short story: “I Happy Am”

“I Happy Am,” by Jamel Brinkley

Appeared in Ploughshares Spring 2018 Vol. 44 No. 1

I would guess 4,000 words

Something like an epiphany at the end—an epiphany the boy isn’t yet prepared to understand. Good story.

His daydream of being a robot is very real.


Short story: “How to Become a Monster”

“How to Become a Monster,” by Nyssa Chow

Appeared in Ploughshares Spring 2018 Vol. 44 No. 1

Perhaps 2,000 words?

A marvelous story. The boyfriend’s descent is cruelly believable.


Short story: “Carouseling”

“Carouseling,” by Rich Larson

Appeared in Clarkesworld, issue 139, April 2018 (read by Kate Baker on the podcast)

5,279 words

A fine heartstring-tugger.

Short story: “Artisanal Trucking, LLC”

“Artisanal Trucking, LLC,” by Mary Robinette Kowal

Appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, March/April 2018

7.5 pages, maybe let’s say 2,500 words

A very likable story, but not much happens. Despite Dude’s remorse and his second thoughts about his trucking, the ending doesn’t demonstrate that he’s learned anything from his accident. He continues to revere and celebrate “authenticity.”

The science fiction element is remarkably slight. A world full of self-driving trucks and speedy shopping drones is almost here.

On Henry James and that thing he does

“He splits hairs until there are no longer any hairs to split, and the mental gesture becomes merely the making of agitated passes over a complete and disconcerting baldness.”

—Rebecca West (x)