Tag: unhappy endings

Short story: “The Hanging Stranger”

“The Hanging Stranger,” by Philip K. Dick

First published in Science Fiction Adventures, December 1953; collected in Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick; available as an ebook from Offworlders here; reprinted by TeknoBooks, June 14th, 2007; online here on americanliterature.com; also on Scribd

5,234 words


I was slightly disappointed by the insect-like beings; I would have liked to see the threat be less specific, more enigmatic, in keeping with the atmosphere of paranoia and uncertainty.


Flash fiction story: “Coda”

“Coda,” by Emily Everett

Appeared in Tin House‘s Flash Friday feature, December 8th, 2017

828 words

In another story, the last paragraph would be a happy ending, but here it means the loss of the main character’s chance at agency, free choice, a life of her own. Elegantly done.

Short story: “The Jamcoi”

“The Jamcoi,” by J. M. McDermott

First appeared in the collection Disintegration Visions (Apex Publications, 2012); reprinted by Apex here, November 26th, 2014; read with gusto by Setsu Uzume in PseudoPod 570, November 23rd, 2017

6,516 words

I enjoy this very much. It makes me think of lobsters, which have to be boiled alive to get the right flavor, and veal calves, which have to be confined in tight pens and deprived of iron—even the scanty iron they could derive from licking their own urine off the floor—to get the right tenderness. And foie gras.

I like that when the husband suggests that the bird really doesn’t feel anything, and really it only feels pleasure at the endorphin rush (he doesn’t seem to notice the contradiction), the wife says, “Don’t ever say that again, David. Please, don’t ever say that to me again.” I like the vision of the imaginary daughter, drinking from her little teacup.

I feel like this story could go further, could do something beyond just the intense descriptions of suffering and the rather literary ending. Not sure what.


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.”


Short story: “When the Lady Speaks”

“When the Lady Speaks,” by Damien Angelica Walters

First appeared in the anthology What Fates Impose, August 15th, 2013, by Alliteration Ink (on Goodreads); subsequently online here in Gamut

3333 words

Cool piece.

I think Marian changes her name to Marina to play her fortune teller role, but later the fortune teller is called Marian too. Probably a copy editor’s error.


Short story: “Pray on the Weak”

“Pray on the Weak,” by Katja L. Kaine

Appeared in Fabula Argentea, October 2nd, 2017

2404 words

Really evokes the main character’s frustration and struggle. I didn’t care for the last line, which seems to raise questions that belong in another, different story.


Short story: “What’s Not There Can’t Hurt You”

“What’s Not There Can’t Hurt You,” by Sara Taylor

Appeared in Granta, October 28th, 2016

1915 words

Creepy. I’m pleased to see Granta publishing something that wouldn’t feel out of place in Nightmare or Pseudopod—they’re genre-flexible when the writing is good.

I can’t decide if I’m satisfied with the ending. The reveal that refuses to resolve anything reminds me of “Suzanne Delage.”


Short story: “The Testimonie of Alyss Teeg”

“The Testimonie of Alyss Teeg,” by Carys Davies

Appeared in Ploughshares Summer 2016; the opening can be read on Project MUSE

Pages 25–37 in the magazine, maybe 3000 words?

A fine, cruel story.

The eccentric spelling and capitalization seem to insist on the authenticity of the narrative voice. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing; it made me pay closer attention to the narrator’s diction and syntax, asking myself whether someone could have written this without being what I think of as fully literate, questioning, doubting.

The word “testimony” suggests that Alyss is presenting for our judgment the real truth of what happened. But of course she can’t give us the real truth, any more than she could give it in court; the real truth is hidden in the heart of her sibling, the one she never stops calling “James Elward.”


Short story: “Double Time”

“Double Time,” by John Chu

First appeared in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Twelve Planet Press), edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (buy the ebook); reprinted in Mothership Zeta issue 0 (September 21st, 2015)

Roughly 4,478 words

A touching story, but I found the ending sad in a way I’m not sure was intended or not. What a terrible fate, to get the pride and approval you need only by cheating time and eavesdropping.


Short story: “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism”

“20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism,” by Jon Padgett

First appeared in the 2013 anthology The Grimscribe’s Puppets, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., which won that year’s Shirley Jackson Award; read beautifully for episode 433 of Pseudopod, April 9th, 2015

Maybe 3,000 words?

Deliciously creepy.

I found myself pleased by the long introductory section, which gives only faint hints of what is to come. It’s worth spending some time building up anticipation and setting the tone. And, of course, it gives us all a valuable lesson in ventriloquism.