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Category: Short story entries

Short story: “A Coward’s Death”

“A Coward’s Death,” by Rahul Kanakia

Appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, issue 93, February 2018

2,140 words

A crushing story, tolerable only because it’s so short and parabolic. Who is the coward? Usurus acts to save a few lives in the short term, while Tiktus stands up to tyranny at great cost to everyone around him. It’s Usurus who is venerated, but it’s Tiktus who provokes that urgent question at the end, and the answer: “No. Never.” It’s the kind of question and answer that could inspire rebellion—revolution—if not for the story’s great, terrible last line.

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Flash fiction story: “Hurt and Be Hurt”

“Hurt and Be Hurt,” by Geoff Schmidt

Appeared in Zone 3, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 2018

A little under three pages, maybe a thousand words?

A wonderfully compact story of losing love. I didn’t really get the reindeer symbolism. Something he shares with his kids and not with his wife and lover? A place in his life where somebody else might fit someday? Maybe.

Short story: “Waypoint”

“Waypoint,” by K. C. Vance

Appeared in Zone 3, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 2018

About five and a half pages, maybe a few thousand words?

The way this story is written is interestingly oblique. The downplaying of the lost child, the lost marriage, in favor of the lost parakeets. The marriage, too, seems to have ended because of the pregnancy, so losing the pregnancy must be like losing her husband a second time. A lot of unstated emotion.

I like how we learn that she doesn’t tell her estranged husband about her miscarriage only when we’re told she left a message about the birds.

There was one paragraph where I had trouble with a flashback because it was in simple past tense instead of past perfect. I wish writers would stop avoiding the word “had.” It’s a useful word.

Short story: “So Sorry You’re Going Extinct!”

“So Sorry You’re Going Extinct!”, by Paul R Hardy

One of the second-place winners of Escape Pod‘s 2018 Flash Fiction Contest, read in episode 641

477 words

A delightfully bleak story. If you read the initial letter alone, it would be funny, but as a whole it’s more like horror fiction.

Short story: “An Open Letter to the Family”

“An Open Letter to the Family,” by Jennifer Brozek

Appeared in Uncanny Magazine Issue Twenty-Four, September/October 2018, the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue

1,474 words

A thoughtful piece, though there’s not enough plot movement or conflict for my taste. I also don’t sense the nervousness/apprehension that I imagine the narrator is surely feeling despite knowing she’s making the right choice. Could be just me, though.

Flash fiction story: “Ndakusuwa”

“Ndakusuwa,” by Blaize Kaye

Appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination #237, November/December 2016 (the magazine would appear to be defunct now); nominated for a 2017 Nommo Award by the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS); later appeared in Strange Horizons, September 3rd, 2018 (read/listen)

857 words

A simple and effective form.

I would have liked the last line better if I’d known “ndakusuwa” means “I miss you” in the ChiShona language. But perhaps that line isn’t aimed at a monolingual person like me.

Short story: “New York Girl”

“New York Girl,” by John Updike

Appeared in the New Yorker, April 1st, 1996 (subscribers can read here, I think); read by Tessa Hadley on the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, September 3rd, 2018 (listen here)

Several thousand words, I imagine

I haven’t read much Updike. I rather like this, especially the last few lines, where—as Hadley and Treisman point out—the dream the protagonist cherished, represented by this sometime lover, is gently obliterated. Though I personally never got a strong sense of what that dream was—too subtle for me maybe.

Short story: “Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely”

“Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely,” by David D. Levine

First appeared in Realms of Fantasy, June 2004; anthologized in Year’s Best Fantasy 5 (edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, July 2005) and The Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy (edited by Mike Ashley, Running Press, 2008); collected in Space Magic (Wheatland Press, 2008); read for Drabblecast 113, May 6th, 2009, and featured in a Director’s Cut episode, July 1st, 2018 (see the Internet Speculative Fiction Database page)

A few thousand words?

Cute. And very typical of the Drabblecast; the sound effects are a nice touch.

I didn’t know it had also appeared in Realms of Fantasy. I wonder how typical it is of that publication (which is now defunct)? I imagine it stands out as a bit oddball. It feels like a slight stretch even classing it as fantasy.

Edited to add: Just listened to the Drabblecast episode reprising it, and I forgot how good the last line is.

Short story: “Definitely Maybe”

“Definitely Maybe,” by Allee Richards

Appeared in The Lifted Brow, issue 38, June 2018 (buy the issue or read an excerpt of the story)

Several thousand words; I’m getting lazy about word count

A story about being in a bad relationship and very aware of it, and the desperate inadequacy of nineties-style “Girl Power.” Perhaps the inadequacy of more contemporary feminist thinking, too? I like the character bragging about how she used to grow out her underarm hair, to prove she’s better than this.

I can’t get over how much this magazine costs to ship to the U.S. Not sure it contains enough fiction to be worth it, but at least the fiction is good.

Short story: “Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe”

“Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe,” by Ramsey Shehadeh

First published in Strange Horizons, June 30th, 2008; appeared in Drabblecast 249, July 12th, 2012, and in one of Drabblecast‘s Director’s Cut Specials, August 16th, 2018

4,348 words

What an excellent story. The slightly distant point of view (Is it omniscient? Seems like we get a tiny glimpse into Patrick’s mind when he blurts out that line about cigarettes) works well, letting us understand Jimmy’s motivations without hammering us over the head. The first sentence is also great, opening with a bombshell and tapering off, deadpan, into the minor details of the cafe’s location.