Tag: twenty-first century

Short story: “Gephyrophobia”

“Gephyrophobia,” by Rykie Belles

Appeared here in Strange Horizons, June 10th, 2019, and on the podcast

1,544 words

(Spoilers.) (I don’t always warn for spoilers but this one is subtle.) Love the slow, tantalizing, delightfully incomplete reveal. I find the story satisfying despite its fragment-like quality and inconclusiveness.


Novelette: “The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change”

“The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change,” by Kij Johnson

The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (Viking Press, 2007, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling); anthologized in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: 21st Annual Collection (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008, edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin J. Grant); shortlisted for the 2007 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and the 2008 World Fantasy Award—Short Fiction; read for Drabblecast 407, June 4th, 2019

8,583 words

Wittgenstein said, “If a lion could talk, we would not understand him.” This story explores the idea that if a dog could talk, we would not be able to love her. A little tragedy and perhaps an allegory for oppressors’ inability to connect with the oppressed. Or for parents’ inability to let their children be their own people?

Kij Johnson is always thought-provoking.

Short story: “I Live on Your Visits”

“I Live on Your Visits,” by Dorothy Parker

Appeared in the New Yorker, January 7th, 1955 (scanned here for subscribers); collected and probably anthologized all over; read for the June 2019 episode of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast by Andrew Sean Greer

A few thousand words

One of those marvelously funny-mean stories Parker is so good at. Do people still write stuff like this? I wish they did. The mother’s compulsive need to dramatize and martyrize herself is so funny (though not in a laugh-out-loud way, as Greer points out on the podcast) and, underneath that, sort of sympathetic. I think she wants to be a victim, and to dominate her son, much more than she wants him to stay or to love her. And perhaps she really does live on his visits.

Flash fiction story: “Chablis”

“Chablis,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker on December 12th, 1983 (subscribers can read here); read by Etgar Keret in the March 2nd, 2015 New Yorker Fiction Podcast

According to Treisman, about a thousand words (a single page in the magazine)

The subject matter is so ordinary and yet the voice is so very Barthelme.

Everyone describes Barthelme as a master improviser, like a jazz musician, and it seems true. This story has little forward movement, yet we go along for the ride, enjoying the slow reveal of this man’s prosaic life.

Etgar Keret: “I think surfing is a good thing, because when you surf, you know, the wave sometimes takes you. They don’t take you in a linear route, you know, they take you to all kinds of places. And the idea is to keep your balance and stay on top of the board, and if you do that, it’s successful, even if at the end you find yourself at the same point in which you started.”

Short story: “Hysteria”

“Hysteria,” by Liz Breazeale

Appeared here in The Collagist, Issue One Hundred and Two, April 2019

1,367 words

A marvelous nightmare. Great title too.

What I just learned is a novel excerpt but I think is also a short story but I’m not sure: “Ross Perot and China”

“Ross Perot and China,” by Ben Lerner

To appear in the New Yorker May 27th, 2019, and read for The Writer’s Voice (both online here)

A few thousand words

I really like Adam’s panicky journey, and the suspense over Amber’s fate right up until he makes to leave the scene. And Amber’s rambling monologue too. I’m trying to piece together the themes. Amber’s contempt for her stepfather, her contempt for her boyfriend; Adam’s mistake regarding the house, his inability to connect with Amber, his pointless attempt to make her see what he sees behind his eyelids. Is Amber to blame for their failed relationship? Or is it that Adam is, like the stepfather, a bit of a blowhard, a bit of a phony, his efforts to communicate insincere? That’s certainly what the title suggests: Amber doesn’t care about Ross Perot and China because she understands that it’s just talk.

Ross Perot. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while.

Short story: “Nightgrief”

“Nightgrief,” by Joyce Carol Oates

Appeared in issue 72 (Nocturnals) of Conjunctions, spring 2019

About 15 pages, which calculates to 6,735 words

Intense from beginning to end. I’m interested in the fact that I guessed from paragraph one that this was about a couple who had lost a child. Even before the story made it clear that there were two of them, husband and wife, I could tell. Something about the sharedness and overwhelming quality of the grief. The characters go unnamed, like those in “People Like That Are the Only People Here” and “Incarnations of Burned Children”; here, maybe, it’s because they’ve lost their identities to this grief, been subsumed by it. (Writers, I think, don’t plan that sort of detail out, but merely do what feels right.)

Novelette: “The House at the End of the Night”

“The House at the End of the Night,” by Steven Potter

Appeared in issue 72 (Nocturnals) of Conjunctions, spring 2019

26.25 pages, which I calculate to equal 11,786 words

Gripping. The ending strikes me as ambiguous, the younger brother’s success uncertain. The older brother’s desperate notion of how to stop him suggests it will end badly. I like the way their characters and relationship are drawn, the way the power dynamic shifts between them.

This issue is full of good fiction! I recommend it.

Short story: “The Presentation on Egypt”

“The Presentation on Egypt,” by Camille Bordas

To appear in the New Yorker on May 20th, 2019; online here and read on The Writer’s Voice

Several thousand words

I find each of the three (I think three) points of view absorbing. I would expect to be in suspense about whether and how the daughter would learn the truth about her father’s death, but I felt no such suspense. What kept me listening so intently, then? Maybe seeing how her father’s biological/personal legacy played out in her? The mystery of what precipitated his suicide isn’t what kept me listening either—I think it’s exactly as it seems.

Flash fiction story: “Haunt”

“Haunt,” by Carmen Maria Machado

Appeared in issue 72 (Nocturnals) of Conjunctions, spring 2019; online here

About 2.25 pages; 1,011 words (rounding down to call this flash)

Really good. I love the premise. An unlikely and seemingly successful human connection. At least, I hope, really hope it’s successful at the end—that Elsie accepts her. How heartbreaking it would be to be rejected at that point.

It appears I’ve read something by Machado once before, and been struck by it.