Tag: present tense

Short story: “Restroom”

“Restroom,” by Kim Gibson

Appeared in Defenestration, December 20th, 2017

2,746 words

A charming story of unexpected kindness. Tight and fast-paced enough to feel shorter than it is.

I found the narrator enjoyable even though he starts out cynical and hostile towards this perfectly innocent stranger. I’ve been working on a story with a similar character arc, and I’m curious what makes a reader keep reading when the main character at first seems unlikable. In this case, perhaps the humor woven into the character’s cynical commentary.


Short story: “Toothless”

“Toothless,” by Cara Dempsey

Appeared on Monkeybicycle July 8th, 2016

587 words

A good nightmare.

Short story: “Five-Year Plan”

“Five-Year Plan,” by Jason Marak

Appeared on matchbook, March 2016

386 words

Nicely captures a certain hopeless hope.

The author says, “I let the character’s words (rhythm, diction) do the work.” That’s probably what holds the piece together so well.

Short story: “Star-Crossed”

“Star-Crossed,” by Kimberly Van Ginkel

Appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, volume 9, issue 1 (otherwise known as issue 49), second half of January 2011 (as far as I can tell; there’s no date on the issue itself)

5,559 words

I got a little impatient with this pair of lovers—like a lot of characters in fiction, they could have avoided a lot of trouble with one or two quick conversations—but I’ll admit I was hooked. There’s nothing like misunderstandings and pining to make a love story sing.

Short story: “A snapchat is sent.”

Untitled piece whose first line is “A snapchat is sent.”; no byline, may be by editor Spencer Madsen

Appeared on the sorry house tumblr on September 22nd, 2013

179 words

Great use of the social media format. I’ve never even snapchatted, but I understand the feeling very well.

Short story: “Among the Sighs of the Violoncellos”

“Among the Sighs of the Violoncellos,” by Daniel Ausema

Appeared in Strange Horizons, April 13th, 2015 (read / listen)

1,529 words

Delightfully clever and weird. This is the bit that won me over:

Two philosophers once had a sword duel there, arguing whether the lack of water below made it a true or false bridge. To one it undermined the very concept of bridge-ness and made mockery of such categories. To the other, the word could have many meanings, could signify countless things, each in its own context.

Who won the duel depends on how you define words like winner and duel and death. In the eyes of the law, the winner was the one who defined sword to mean whatever weapon he could lay his hands on. And the sign winner signified a cell with bars and a locked door.

Short story: “Robots Make Babies”

“Robots Make Babies,” by Rachel Adams

Appeared in issue fifty-four of The Collagist, January 2014; found via Wigleaf‘s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of 2015, edited by Roxane Gay

364 words

I’m not sure I understand what this story is about, but I like it. Especially this line: “Now the babies are growing into tiny people the robots do not love.”

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before the robots realize that the distinction between their creators and their creations is arbitrary, and that their love is meaningless.

Short story: “The Trampling”

“The Trampling,” by Christopher Barzak

Appeared in issue 28 of Nightmare Magazine, January 2015

4478 words

I would not have expected a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fanfiction to comment on modern-day worker exploitation so explicitly and so gracefully, but here we are.

What really impresses me about this story is more technical: the use of an omniscient narrator, the smooth point of view transitions, the old-fashioned authorial “we” that seems to invite the reader to sit down and have a drink. The section breaks help, I think, though there are only two. The opening paragraph is an excellent model of how omniscient narration works.

Short story: “Going for a Beer”

“Going for a Beer,” Robert Coover

Appeared in the New Yorker, March 14th, 2011; read by Joshua Ferris in the May 2015 New Yorker Fiction Podcast

1,083 words (My guess was pretty close: 1,000)

Unlike “The Babysitter,” this story is held together by its main character and a definite, if unconventional, chronology. It works much better for me. In fact, it’s beautiful in its unity and in its nightmarish power.

Edited to add that it’s worth a chart. Will add that later.

Section Word count
He goes for a beer 74 *


He dates the young woman 253 *





The wedding 73 *


Children happen 134 *


He goes for a beer, has an affair 106 *


The fallout 131 *


He doesn’t go for a beer, then does 205 *




Beers, orgasms 12
Deathbed, death 95 *



Short story: “Selfies”

“Selfies,” by Lavie Tidhar

Appeared on Tor.com on September 17th, 2014; “acquired and edited for Tor.com by consulting editor Ellen Datlow”

2,632 words

This is a simple, old-fashioned scary story, and a fun read. It strikes me as uncharacteristic of Tor.com, whose fiction tends towards more austere, literary pleasures.

I’m sorry to see some commenters interpreting this as a story about the dangers of vanity and insecurity. Maybe that was the author’s intention, but I hope not. The theme of vanity isn’t even very prominent in the story; the character’s compulsive picture-taking never seems like self-glorification or self-decoration or self-criticism or even a means of reinventing herself. The only reason we see vanity here is that we’ve been primed to see it.

I don’t think the main character’s age is specified in the story. The dialogue in the second section implies that she’s been out of school for at least a year, so I’m guessing she’s nineteen. She comes off as much younger, especially when she interacts with the shopkeeper. (She never thought of herself as pretty, but “didn’t give it much thought one way or another”—what a weird, false-sounding thing to say.)