Short story: “Cat Person”

“Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian

Appeared in the New Yorker‘s December 11th, 2017 issue (online here—apparently they release stuff ahead of the date of the issue)

7,201 words, although it goes by pretty fast and so feels shorter

A sad little story. Doesn’t feel like a typical New Yorker piece (not that there’s such a thing as a typical New Yorker piece anymore).

Edited to add: Wow, this story is getting a lot of attention on Twitter, evidently because it’s so relatable. (I mean #relatable.) It kind of feels more like something that would run in The Hairpin or Catapult than the New Yorker, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.


Short story: “Father’s Last Escape”

“Father’s Last Escape,” by Bruno Schulz, translated from the Polish by Celina Wieniewska

Originally collected in Street of Crocodiles; appeared in the New Yorker (online here), January 2nd, 1978; PDF here; read by Nicole Krauss in the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, February 2012

Probably 2,000 words or even less

I listened to this a long time ago and it never completely left me. It makes me think of a parent slowly giving way to Alzheimer’s or some similar mind-wasting disease, so that the survivors bid him goodbye a little bit at a time, first one memory, then another. (I’m not the first to make this comparison.)

I am not to be trusted

Short story: “Rocket Surgery”

“Rocket Surgery,” by Effie Seiberg

First appeared in Analog in 2016; featured in episode 588 of Escape Pod

3,330 words

A charmingly optimistic story of artificial intelligence. Well, optimistic about technology, anyway—General Pitticks doesn’t sound like a great candidate for the presidency to me.

What makes a scene work or fail

“When you go to the doctor and tell him that you have a pain in your elbow, it is the quack who takes out his scalpel and starts to operate on the elbow.[…] [A]n experienced doctor studies you, takes an x-ray, and determines that the cause of the pain is probably a pinched nerve up in your shoulder—you just happen to feel it in your elbow.[…] Audiences are like that. When you ask the direct question, ‘What was your least favorite scene?’ and eighty percent of the people are in agreement about one scene they do not like, the impulse is to ‘fix’ the scene or cut it out. But the chances are that scene is fine. Instead, the problem may be that the audience simply didn’t understand something that they needed to know for the scene to work.”

—Walter Murch, as quoted here

Short story: “The Ninth Skeleton”

“The Ninth Skeleton,” by Clark Ashton Smith

Appeared in Weird Tales, Volume 12, Issue 3, September 1928; collected in The End of the Story (Night Shade Books); featured in Pseudopod 331, April 26th, 2013; online here at The Eldritch Dark and here on Wikisource

1,865 words

I didn’t really get this story, and I don’t think there’s much to get. On the forums, readers suggest that it’s about the main character’s girlfriend’s pregnancy and/or their future together, but it ends a bit open-endedly for me. Perhaps the end means the couple is infertile and Guenevere will take him with her to the grave childless.

I knew something Mallory Ortberg didn’t know/Honestly that blew my mind the first time I realized it

“I’m just like I am just now learning again on the Wikipedia page that the book In Search of Lost Time is not the same, or it is the same thing as Remembrance of Things Past. I thought the dude wrote two books. It’s the same book, two different translations.”

—Mallory Ortberg (x)

Short story: “Neighbors”

“Neighbors,” by Karley Miller

Appeared in Juked, November 12th. 2017

2,706 words

The opening of this story is dizzying, with Lisa and Janet turning out to be (spoilers!) Barbie dolls, but also real people, and the narrator turning out to be not a little girl like the one next door, but an ex-military man. I like it. “He can’t tell them his stories, though, because he can’t bring himself to taint that last moment.”

I also like the bit about the passing teenagers: “I was probably teaching them a valuable lesson. Don’t choose alone. I was glad they had taken notice.”

Short story: “Toward the Banner of the King”

“Toward the Banner of the King,” by T. R. North

Featured in PseudoPod 558, September 1st, 2017

4,287 words

A good PseudoPod episode. Authentic period voice. The reading by Justine Eyre is excellent.

I was surprised by the heavy allusions to The King in Yellow, but I suppose it’s sufficiently well known to horror readers that it needs no explanation. This story fits neatly into Chambers’ short story collection by that title.


Short story: “A Doll Full of Nails”

“A Doll Full of Nails,” by Ville Meriläinen

Featured in PseudoPod 554, August 4th, 2017

Maybe 3,000 words? Not sure 2,918 words—I was pretty close

Creepy doll stories are always good. I like how the doll’s stories increasingly shed light on the dollmaker’s past, but never quite reliably.

Also the title is great.