Tag: ambiguous endings

Short story: “What’s Not There Can’t Hurt You”

“What’s Not There Can’t Hurt You,” by Sara Taylor

Appeared in Granta, October 28th, 2016

1915 words

Creepy. I’m pleased to see Granta publishing something that wouldn’t feel out of place in Nightmare or Pseudopod—they’re genre-flexible when the writing is good.

I can’t decide if I’m satisfied with the ending. The reveal that refuses to resolve anything reminds me of “Suzanne Delage.”


Short story: “Owl Eyes”

“Owl Eyes,” by Joyce Carol Oates

Appeared (PDF) in The Yale Review, Vol. 104 No. 3, July 2016

Around 17.5 pages, 6501 words

I’m not sure how to feel about the ending of this story. Jerald has discovered a new place in himself, a new capacity for action, but it’s hard to know what his adventure will cost him. I’m also not completely sure I buy the suddenness of his change.

I found myself slightly jarred—irrationally—by the mention of an iPad. Something about the language or the setting feels to me like that of an earlier era. Or it might be that the language sounds so very Joyce Carol Oates (I was reading her work before iPads were around) that I’m automatically taken back in time.

Short story: “Double Time”

“Double Time,” by John Chu

First appeared in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Twelve Planet Press), edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (buy the ebook); reprinted in Mothership Zeta issue 0 (September 21st, 2015)

Roughly 4,478 words

A touching story, but I found the ending sad in a way I’m not sure was intended or not. What a terrible fate, to get the pride and approval you need only by cheating time and eavesdropping.

Short story: “The Authorized Biography”

“The Authorized Biography,” by Michael G. Ryan

Appeared in episodes 197 and 198 of Cast of Wonders, February 14th and 21st, 2016; text here

7,539 words, taking up two episodes/25 pages

Good, gripping fun. The ending was a bit unresolved for my taste, but that’s forgivable—I have a hard time imagining another ending that would fit the story.

The main character’s marriage strikes me as pretty pathetic until the point when he actually starts communicating with his wife. I don’t know how people can live like that.

Short story: “The Influence of Thomas Glittio”

“The Influence of Thomas Glittio,” by Arthur Staaz

Featured in Pseudopod episode 432, April 4th, 2015

Uncertain of word count

I went into this story a bit skeptical. The name Thomas Glittio is kind of obvious, and stories about writers trying to write are … well. But this works. The description of how it feels to copy/channel Glittio is exactly what I want writing to feel like (and it does, sometimes, a little bit). Reading, too.

Short story: “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism”

“20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism,” by Jon Padgett

First appeared in the 2013 anthology The Grimscribe’s Puppets, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., which won that year’s Shirley Jackson Award; read beautifully for episode 433 of Pseudopod, April 9th, 2015

Maybe 3,000 words?

Deliciously creepy.

I found myself pleased by the long introductory section, which gives only faint hints of what is to come. It’s worth spending some time building up anticipation and setting the tone. And, of course, it gives us all a valuable lesson in ventriloquism.

Short story: “Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets”

“Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets,” by Jacob M. Appel

Appeared in The Gettysburg Review, issue 23:2, summer 2010; published in a collection of the same title by Black Lawrence Press

15 pages in the magazine, maybe 2,500 words

For a story about a topic as contentious as abortion, this is a charmingly light and gentle piece. You can feel the author being amused by his characters, maybe, but not censuring them or talking down to them.

I tend to read the ending as being about Ziggy’s moral failure. He has allowed his choices to be dictated more by emotion than by rationality, and surely he will have cause to regret it soon. Then again, neutrality was never really a viable moral stance for him to take, and how much harm can he do by making himself happy?

Short story: “Love Like a Crooked Spine”

“Love Like a Crooked Spine,” by Len Kuntz

Appeared in Cape Fear Review, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014; found via FictionDaily

699 words

Swift, smart, and intense. I’m not sure I know what the protagonist is planning to do with that knife, but I know it’s going to hurt.

I’m pretty sure Wendy’s name changed to “Amy” for one sentence. “Wendy” is better for this story, I think—a bit more whimsical and distinctive.

Short story: “Supply Limited, Act Now”

“Supply Limited, Act Now,” by Helen Marshall

From the collection Gifts for the One Who Comes After, published September 16th, 2014 by ChiZine Publications; appeared on SF Signal, September 23rd, 2014; read very aptly for episode 485 of Escape Pod, March 10th, 2015

6,362 words

A sweet, funny-sad oddball of a story. I think the ambiguity of the ending works very well.

Short story: “Makeisha in Time”

“Makeisha in Time,” by Rachael K. Jones

Appeared in Crossed Genres Magazine (subscribe), Issue 20: Time Travel, August 2014; featured in Podcastle episode 345, January 6th, 2015; featured in Cast of Wonders episode 176, August 30th, 2015 and as a Staff Pick for episode 191, January 20th, 2016; also read for StarShipSofa No 414, December 9th, 2015; appeared in the full list of Hugo nominations and so was collected in the first Long List Anthology, published by Diabolical Plots, L.L.C., December 15th, 2015

3,212 words

I remember being impressed but frustrated by this story when I first read it in Crossed Genres. At first I read the ending as another form of suicide, but on a reread I understand it better. Our society has forgotten Makeisha a thousand times. We don’t deserve her. She belongs to a better era, and now she’s going to find one.

This is the type of story that wears its politics, and its political anger, on its sleeve. That limits its depth, I think, but opens the way for more works of fiction exploring the same territory.