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Tag: happy endings

Short story: “The Empyrean Light”

“The Empyrean Light,” by Gregory Norman Bossert

Appeared in Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018; online here

3,682 words

I really like this. You get to know Ms. Wronski so gradually and so well, and you even get a glimpse into the character of the faithfully watching crow. And what happens to the fallen crow is such a wonderful surprise.

I kept thinking about how I would react to finding a dying animal—in the past I took drastic action, but today I think I would bring it something to drink (if you’re dying in great pain, you may as well get tipsy) and try to keep it warm. Certainly I would talk to it, as Ms. Wronski does. Crows, at least, surely understand that they’re being spoken to, and can interpret tone of voice.

That “Ms.” is interesting, a hint perhaps that she’s a teacher and accustomed to writing her title and surname across a chalkboard (or maybe they use whiteboards these days).

I wonder why “empyrean” rather than “celestial” or “heavenly”? Had to look it up. Maybe to suggest something ancient?

Apparently the author focuses mainly on speculative fiction. Always refreshing to find that kind of crossover.

Semicolon watch: I found twelve! I think it’s safe to say semicolons are alive and well in literary fiction.

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Novelette?: “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”

“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” by Alice Munro

Published in the collection of the same title (McClelland & Stewart, 2001); briefly excerpted in the New York Times, November 24th, 2001

Perhaps 12,000 words? I remember it being pretty long

It’s been over a decade since I read this, but I remember it well. I adore the ending—as Hamilah Marcus puts it, “a setup for disaster that somehow turns out okay.” I adore Johanna—so unromantically romantic, so unlovably lovable, so worthy of the (I hope happy!) marriage she is rewarded with. I like the careful development of each character—the best writers, it seems to me, show respect for every character they write.

The title is perfect: a childish ritual that yearns for some intimation of what adult relationships will be like.


I just reread this and found myself moved by the powerful sense of loneliness at the beginning. Johanna’s admission to the shopkeeper feels uncharacteristic of her, the act of someone overflowing with feeling and without a friend in the world to express it to. I think the uncharacteristicness of it is established in the scene where she arranges the shipping of the furniture and gets her train ticket. It’s tricky to establish a character’s typical behavior when you have them behaving atypically so early on.

I adore the last line. It’s unsubtle, perhaps the least subtle thing in the story, and yet it fits perfectly. How apt that we end with this girl on the brink of womanhood, idly absorbing the news of Johanna’s baby, someone with her own tiny part to play in the world and mystified by it.

The descriptions of settings are rather detailed. I usually don’t much care for descriptions, but it’s important that the women’s clothing shop and the decrepit hotel and the other settings are brought to life for us.

Flash fiction story: “The Fridge of the Future”

“The Fridge of the Future,” by Jack Curran

Appeared here in Every Day Fiction, November 22nd, 2018

966 words

A charming story with a wonderfully hopeful ending. Though I found the switch from a magical hole in the fridge to the more mundane world to be puzzling. Somebody suggests in the comments that Peter is perhaps getting delusional in his old age.

Short story: “Loyalty Test”

“Loyalty Test,” by Andrew Gudgel

Featured in Escape Pod 649, October 11th, 2018

2,561 words

An enjoyable yarn. I didn’t see the ending coming—I wonder if I should have? Either way, fun.

Short story: “Mirror Ball”

“Mirror Ball” or “Mirrorball,” by Mary Gaitskill

Appeared in Index (a magazine I can’t seem to track down online); collected in Don’t Cry: Stories (2009, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.); featured on the Knopf Doubleday site on April 24th, 2009

7,474 words

Fascinating. There’s so much abstraction, and yet the story comes through as vivid and urgent. Lots of imagery to keep it grounded.

Gaitskill seems to have a remarkable view of sex, and a remarkably dark view of casual sex and sex work. Perhaps she believes sex should be confined to stable relationships because it’s so dangerous emotionally (or rather, according to the worldbuilding of this story, spiritually). Pardon me for speculating about the author, but it’s hard to resist when the theme runs so unmistakably through other stories of hers, like “The Agonized Face.” It’s an attitude that overlaps with the puritanical, though the rawness, frankness, and intensity of her work is far from it.

How strange that this young woman (“girl”) is saved by an encounter with a homeless-looking man and by her rather inappropriate, desperate phone call. How wonderful that this young man (“boy,” thank goodness for gender parity—perhaps they are so called because of their innocent foolishness, their ignorance of the nature of souls) answers his phone when he has good reason not to.

Flash fiction story: “The Golden Key”

“The Golden Key,” by Carlea Holl-Jensen

Appeared in FLAPPERHOUSE #17, Spring 2018, March 20th, 2018; online here March 16th

841 words

An interesting piece with a great ending. Seems to be about an emotionally reserved/deadened man rediscovering a sense of romance (I mean, not eros romance, but the romance of mystery and delight). I like the way the romantic title contrasts with the mundane appearance of the key in the story. Maybe the key and box have to appear mundane in order to break through the main character’s reserve? A more conventionally fairy-tale-ish golden key and beautifully carved wooden box might have provoked his skepticism or cynicism, too fantastic to be real.

Holl-Jensen is the editor of a magazine by the same title.

Edited to add: I think this story does something unusual—introduces a character’s typical state (emotional reserve) while almost simultaneously showing how that typical state breaks down in the face of an unusual event. It works for me, even though the character’s typical state is more told than shown.

Short story: “The Better Part of Drowning”

“The Better Part of Drowning,” by Octavia Cade

Appeared in The Dark, November 2017 issueonline here

5,207 words

A grim story full of mysterious and highly original worldbuilding.

Short story: “Love Like Monkeys”

“Love Like Monkeys,” by Jess Zimmerman

Appeared in Terraform, January 13th, 2017

2822 words

This story raises a bunch of creepy possibilities and refuses to fully resolve them. Not my cup of tea, although I can see it’s well done.

An interesting review: “What I liked about this story is that it’s a ‘gotcha’ story without a moral. It has the form of one of those irritating stories that the coffeehouse nerd in the brown cardigan writes to try to ‘wake people up.’ […] This story is happy to let it lie.”

Short story: “Fandom for Robots”

“Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Appeared in Uncanny Magazine Issue Eighteen, September 5, 2017

3530 words

This made me laugh out loud. Whatever bad things I’ve said about robots cutely misunderstanding human emotion, I take them back.

Short story: “The Wretched and the Beautiful”

“The Wretched and the Beautiful,” by E. Lily Yu

Appeared in Terraform, February 6th, 2017

2559 words

An elegant story. While I have no doubt about the author’s politics, the story itself makes its point with delicacy, almost ambiguity.

A nice touch: “For this special edition of Terraform, the writer, award-winning E. Lily Yu, artist, Jason Arias, and me, the editor, will be donating our fees to the International Rescue Committee, a group founded at the behest of Albert Einstein, which assists refugees around the world.”