Tag: titles

Short story: “Like a Ghost I’m Gonna Haunt You”

“Like a Ghost I’m Gonna Haunt You,” by Curtis C. Chen

Appeared in Daily Science Fiction and in Toasted Cake 195, October 2018

979 words


Not crazy about the title, which doesn’t fit the tone. (I didn’t realize it was a song until I googled it just now.)


Short story: “Take a Walk in the Night, My Love”

“Take a Walk in the Night, My Love,” by Damien Angelica Walters

First published in the anthology The Madness of Dr. Caligari (Fedogan and Bremer Publishing LLC), edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.; featured in PseudoPod 606, August 10th, 2018

3,983 words

(Spoilers, big ones.) The unfolding mystery was great, though the title should have tipped me off that the husband was behind it somehow—the title and for that matter the first line. I must have been distracted. But then the husband reveal is followed up with an even bigger one. I like the reference to Rebecca, though maybe that’s too much? Not sure.

Short story: “Eva Is Inside Her Cat”

“Eva Is Inside Her Cat,” by Gabriel García Márquez, as translated by J. S. Bernstein

Appeared in the collection Eyes of a Blue Dog in 1972; found in Collected Stories (1984), which was reprinted by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2008); online here and supposedly here, though I couldn’t get the latter link to open

8 pages (?), 4,280 words (though it feels shorter—my estimate was embarrassingly far off)

I officially don’t understand magic realism. Márquez’s work is beautifully written (at least in translation) and seems psychologically believable, but what’s going on? Perhaps this is not so much a magic realism story as a story that’s deliberately ambiguous about its reality: the protagonist may be dying and becoming a ghost, or she may be experiencing an extreme mental state and hallucinating.

As this commentary on The Reading Life remarks, it’s worth wondering whether a beautiful woman ever really thinks of her beauty this way—whether any beautiful woman has ever written of a similar experience. I feel like fiction by men contains an improbable number of beautiful women who are universally attractive to hetero-attracted men, as though men’s tastes never vary.

At the end it seems (spoilers) that she’s been dead for a long while, death having distorted her sense of time.

I don’t understand the title, since she never seems to get inside the cat. She may already be inside the cat without knowing it, but her experiences don’t seem tinged with catness or with the physicality of the cat.

Short story: “Border Crossing”

“Border Crossing,” by Ann Copeland

Appeared in The FiddleheadNo. 163 (Spring 1990) and No. 185 (Fiddlehead Gold)

Maybe 3,000 words?

I liked this story. The title seems to suggest what disturbs the main character: some kind of trespassing across the borders that divide his life as a father from his life as a man.

I’m curious about how a (presumably) female author approaches the interiority of a male character.

Short story or maybe novelette: “For Jeromé—with Love and Kisses”

“For Jeromé—with Love and Kisses,” by Gordon Lish

Apparently orginally came out in 1983; appeared in The Antioch Review, Vol. 68, No. 3, Annual All Fiction Issue (Summer 2010), pp. 546–588—JSTOR link here

43 pages, no idea how many words

I had a hard time with this story because it just goes on and on. It’s clever, but it’s not clever enough to hold up all the way through. I had no idea Lish could get so verbose, based on his work on Carver.

The title, with its play on “For Esmé,” falls flat for me. Maybe that’s deliberate—the narrator read “For Esmé” and its subtlety was completely lost on him.

Thomas Pynchon was apparently not really born Pinkowitz, but I can see why the joke was too good to give up.

Short story: “Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes”

“Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes,” by Thomas Ligotti

First appeared in Nyctalops #17 in 1982; featured in Pseudopod 434, April 17th, 2015

No idea how many words

An effective story.

The title is a pun on a poem/song that, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with the story. I would have titled it “The Hypnotist,” banal as that is.

Short story: “Better to Curse the Darkness than Light a Candle”

“Better to Curse the Darkness than Light a Candle,” by Joseph Cusumano

Featured in PseudoPod 561, September 22nd, 2017; ably read by Cheyenne Wright

Maybe 5,000 words? Not sure (the podcast is 43:06)

A good witchy story.

The title is clever (and made me want to listen), but it doesn’t fit the tone; I would have called it “Diogenes.”

Short story: “Here is My Thinking on a Situation That Affects Us All”

“Here is My Thinking on a Situation That Affects Us All,” by Rahul Kanakia

Appeared in Lightspeed Magazine issue 66, November 2015

2501 words

In his Author Spotlight, Kanakia says: “My writing process is changing continually, and it’s gotten to the point where I no longer have any idea how I do things. Right now, in particular, it’s going through a lot of flux. I used to write without any outline. I’d just have a character, a situation, and a sense of where I wanted things to end up. But I’ve lately come to realize that when I did this, I’d often leave out very critical elements and end up with weak stories that didn’t have strong character arcs. Basically, with each story I’d set off hoping that it would be like ‘Here Is My Thinking …’ (i.e. the kind of story that tells itself), but if it turned out to not be that sort of story, then I’d have zero idea how to turn it into something compelling.” I can sympathize with this. I almost never outline fiction, and like Kanakia, I have a sense that I leave too much up to luck. I can see how this story came together without outlining. The narrator’s story has a natural order to it that doesn’t require scene.

I don’t think the title fits, although I’ll admit it’s a good title. The situation affects humanity and the spaceship in two very different ways. Though I suppose it’s important to join the two together to some extent, given the spaceship’s attempts at compromise.

On the title and opening line of a short story

“The opening line of a story is absolutely crucial. It’s so crucial that the mere thought of it ought to terrify any writer into a lifetime of silence. That first sentence has to excite me into the rest of the story. It has to be so seductive that I can’t bear not to continue. I work on the opening sentence relentlessly, in my mind, and can’t begin writing until I have one I believe in—one that thrusts me as if violently into the story. I revise fanatically, but I don’t discover the first sentence on page 3. If I did, I’d throw the whole story away.

“That said, it’s also true that the opening line isn’t the opening line. The first words a reader sees in a story come in the title. The true opening line of a story is the title. The apparent opening line is actually the second line. What this means isn’t simply that the title is as crucial as the opening sentence, but that the opening sentence plays off the title. Whenever I hear that a writer chooses a title after the story is done, I’m astonished, baffled—for me, that would be like leaving out the name of the main character and deciding on it at the end. Think of how much information you get from a title like ‘Death in Venice.’ The first sentence takes place in Munich, but already you know that the story is going to Venice. You know that a death will take place. Death infects the opening sentence.”

—Steven Millhauser in an interview with failbetter.com

I think Millhauser writes a short story in order to capture a feeling, and he knows what the feeling is when he begins. The title, the opening line, the main character’s name all have to feel right in order for him to proceed. For me (perhaps in part because I lack confidence), the process is usually more open-ended. Often I start with a bit of a scene or a hint of a voice or just an idea; I keep writing until I’m able to envision this thing as some sort of story; I try to come up with a title that fits the essence of the story I have in mind; I have doubts about the major characters’ names and change them. It’s inefficient. I much prefer it when I manage to do something like Millhauser.

Short story: “Beyond Sapphire Glass”

“Beyond Sapphire Glass,” by Margaret Killjoy

Appeared in Strange Horizons, August 10th, 2015

991 words

For someone like me who sees artificial/simulated consciousness as just another form of consciousness, this is a little tragedy. Janna has a chance to change her (?) mind and join Hannah in “heaven.” Instead she torments herself talking to someone whom she considers dead, making it harder for either of them to grieve and move on.

Not a big fan of this line: “I got that vacant look on my face.” I get what the narrator means, but it would flow much more naturally if the observation explicitly came from another character, like: “Kevin says I get this vacant look sometimes. I think I had it then.”

I accidentally listened to this podcast episode twice because while the story itself is memorable, the title and the title image are both meh. Very generic fantasy stuff.