I am officially old enough to goggle at how shocking it was to hear Bart Simpson exclaim “Eat My Shorts!” and how popular that silly catchphrase was.
But I’m here to talk about another kind of shorts, short stories. Oh no, not another post about “the power” of the short story! You either enjoy reading short story collections or you don’t, I’m not here to change your mind. But when master anthologist Ellen Datlow shared a link to Terry Bisson’s classic short tale “They’re Made Out of Meat,” my morning commute was occupied with picking some of my favorite short stories. Not “the best” ones, I’ll leave that to the academics. Here are some that have stuck with me over the years.
Of course, “They’re Made Out of Meat,” by Terry Bisson. It’s a masterful piece of flash fiction consisting entirely of dialogue, a form that usually leaves me cold. (If you love them, befriend Roddy Doyle on Facebook; he shares many, and his are uncommonly good, as one would expect from a fine writer). This story is available in his collection Bears Discover Fire.
“The Gentle Way,” by Lawrence Block. A not-so simple revenge story from a master of the short form (he’s got quite a talent for novels, as well). This one’s my favorite, so much that I riffed on it in “The Big Snip,” when LB asked me to contribute a story for Dark City Lights. You can read this in his collection Enough Rope. It’s a brick of a book collecting decades of great stories.
“The Redfield Girls,” by Laird Barron. His collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All is crammed with great horror stories. Some are much more dreadful and terrifying than this one, but none so chilling.
“Run Kiss Daddy” by Joyce Carol Oates. This is in New Jersey Noir and involves a grisly discovery and a new father’s response to it. It reminds me of how easily we can dupe ourselves into committing terrible things.
“Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” by Stephen King. Who doesn’t like a shortcut? One of King’s best, the eponymous driver loves finding a new shortcut… but when they become shorter than as the crow flies, the disturbing backdrop of what makes our world comes to light. In Skeleton Crew, which was my introduction to King.
“A Small Good Thing” by Raymond Carver. I just really like bread. And also stories that show us being terrible and self-absorbed, but with a chance for redemption. It’s available in his collection Cathedral and Short Cuts, where I first read it
“This is Not for You,” by Gemma Files. Unapologetic and dark as all hell.
What are some of your favorites? Tell me in the comments.
Today’s best reading from the interwebs:
Missing hiker found dead two years after she disappeared had kept a journal of her final days. If you’re an avid hiker or a fan of Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon this will resonate. Firecracker will never let me hike the Appalachian trail again…
We may need to expand our definition of “human” as finds in Neanderthal caverns dated 176,000 years ago depict a much richer life than we ever imagined from our hirsute prognathous cousins. A Shocking Find In a Neanderthal Cave In France
If you haven’t discovered the imaginary world of Scarfolk, a dystopian English city trapped in the ’70s, this is a good place to start: Discovering Scarfolk
33 No-Fee Writing Contests, a Publishing…and Other Forms of Insanity.
19 Markets that pay $500 or more per story. SF and horror are the only remaining genres where writing short stories can make you a living. Maybe Lit. This and the Neanderthal story come via Gemma Files,