Tag: satire

Flash fiction story: “The Exhibit”

“The Exhibit,” by Samantha Kimmey

Appeared in Split Lip Magazine, September 2018

395 words

Great atmosphere. I like how the woman who ends up acting more or less as the main character only appears as an individual halfway through (after 199 words). The real main character seems to be the crowd.

I like the satire here too, the way the visitors assess their own reactions to the art rather than actually responding to it. They don’t recognize it as actual real-life cruelty because the context is so alienating.


Short story: “The Gifts of War”

“The Gifts of War,” by Margaret Drabble

Appeared in Winter’s Tales 16 in 1970; collected in A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories; also in the anthology Into the Widening World: International Coming-of-Age Stories, edited by John Loughery

About 16 pages in my library’s copy of A Day in the Life; ? words

A story of accidental cruelty that has stuck with me for years. Now that I think about it, the plot sort of reminds me George Saunders’ “Puppy,” but this story is quieter and the heartbreak happens onstage, from an outsider’s point of view. The clash between different social classes is similar too. As in “Puppy,” the point of view stays close to one character and then switches to another about halfway through, at a section break. This story is way more successful at differentiating the two voices.

If there’s a social message/satire intended here, I don’t get it. The title and epigraph seem out of place to me. I see it as loss-of-innocence story, with the college kids’ naive politics being nothing more of a foil for the unhappy woman’s jadedness and involuted life. Joyce Carol Oates actually described this as “an antiwar story” in the New Yorker, so consider me entirely out of the loop on this one.

I first read this in the coming-of-age anthology mentioned above, and I’m still not sure which character is supposed to be coming of age.

Short story: “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby”

“Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker, May 26th, 1973 (subscribers can read here); collected in Amateurs (Farrar, 1976), and in Forty Stories (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987), and in a collection of the same title (Penguin Books, 2011); read online here and here; also read on Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

1,634 words—I would have guessed much shorter

I enjoy Barthelme’s occasional rambling absurdity. “It didn’t rain, the event was well attended, and we didn’t run out of Scotch, or anything.” That “or anything” is good. The last line, with that mention of gratitude, is wonderful.

Note that all the characters seem to be adults, since one of them “runs a car-and-truck-rental business” and the others seem to drink Scotch and know a lot about event planning. They’re all men.

Satire? I dunno, maybe, maybe not. I notice the characters live in a country where the death penalty has been abolished.

Short story: “Ormonde and Chase”

“Ormonde and Chase,” by Ian Creasey

Appeared in Asimov’s #461, June 2014; read for StarShipSofa No 533, April 18th, 2018

5,300 words, according to the author

An enjoyable yarn with a touch of (rather nonspecific) satire. (At least, my American ear didn’t pick up on the specifics.)

Novelette: “The Revolution, Brought to You by Nike”

“The Revolution, Brought to You by Nike,” by Andrea Phillips

First appeared in Fireside Magazine, February 2017 (February 2017!?); read for Escape Pod episodes 644 and 645

9,891 words

A gripping and bewildering story. The concept of a corporate savior driving a revolution is played straight all the way through, with no one apparently questioning it, no one evincing a sense of irony or ambivalence or guilt. Nor does anyone except the president question Nike’s moral authority (who does sew those shoes, anyway? Mine say they’re made in Indonesia).

The last line is incredible. Is this wish fulfillment or satire? Or wish fulfillment tempered by satire? Read the author’s essay in the same issue of Fireside for a possible answer.

Short story: “Robert from ‘Cat Person’ Asks for Relationship Advice on Reddit”

“Robert from ‘Cat Person’ Asks for Relationship Advice on Reddit,” by Rachel McCarthy James

Appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, December 12th, 2017

905 words

Oh man, is this ever accurate. I hope this fictional Reddit post gets some very blunt replies.

Short story or fictional essay: “M*rphed”

“M*rphed,” by Robert Coover

Appeared in Granta 140: State of Mind | The Online Edition, October 20th, 2017, online here

2106 words

Good to know Granta publishes speculative fiction now and then. The main character’s plight is reminiscent of “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” except it’s not malicious so much as absurd, indifferent to/amused by his suffering. Perhaps a satire on entertainment.

Short story: “Children’s Stories Made Horrific: Curious George”

“Children’s Stories Made Horrific: Curious George,” by Mallory Ortberg

Appeared on The Toast, November 2nd, 2015

1,831 words

I think this is excellent because it makes my skin crawl. And of course it makes me think of Rotpeter.

Anything can happen to you. Anything can happen to you.
Anything can happen to you.

If enough things happen to you, you can learn to love something just for being familiar.

On satire and ridiculousness and just rolling with it

“I am always on the lookout for raw material to manipulate in esoteric ways, and [it’s] usually garnered through satire. But then I ride that material pretty hard, and before you even know what’s going on, it’s not satirical anymore! […] That doesn’t mean we lose sight of the fact that this stuff is ridiculous. It’s still plenty ridiculous. […] The thing is, we can mock stuff and that’s fine. It doesn’t mean that stuff demands excessive scorn, or can’t be treated as a legitimate topic to roll with in a story. So I think drawing your own horse porn is pretty weird. But who am I to say that’s REALLY so terrible? I’m not better than anybody. I’ll poke fun at it for a while, but then I’ll just roll with horse dicks with a straight face for a while too. Maybe have a beer with them. Turns out they’re a good bunch of dicks when you get to know ’em!”

—Andrew Hussie (archived here, found via this)

Short story: “The Lone Star Sin Eaters”

“The Lone Star Sin Eaters,” by Evan Berkow

Appeared in Strange Horizons, July 6th, 2015

5,999 words

I like how this story treats the sin eaters’ work as both meaningless and meaningful. It becomes meaningful the same way all human activity becomes meaningful; they all find scraps of human connection between themselves and each other and their clients and their tormentors.

At the same time it remains cruel and absurd. The story carefully makes it clear that Oscar’s pain doesn’t make Jamie better, even as it wakens his capacity for empathy and guilt. And we can never forget that this is essentially just another disgusting way for the vindictive to get off on their twisted version of justice, and for the rich to exploit the poor. As satire, it’s bitterly apt.