I’m always interested in short stories, whether singularly or produced as part of a collection or anthology – possibly because I’ve seen numerous references to the suggestion that this is a “dying” art form. (Stephen King, for one, is an author who fights against this suggestion and, incidentally, looks towards artistic expression in e-format, serialisation; pretty much anything if it gets the words onto paper. If you haven’t taken a look already, do yourself a favour and look out at least one of his short story collections. If you’re not a horror fan, why not plump for Different Seasons and read – or even re-read - his novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, amongst others?)
This is just a précis of some of my recent reads – and, in a couple of cases re-reads, which would be worth taking a look at.
Stories (Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio was a compilation I originally picked up a copy of for Gaiman’s novelette The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains and Joe Hill's The Devil on the Staircase (both of which are well worth the time expended in a read of).
It was also my introduction to Kat Howard's work, being the volume which contained her first published short story, A Life in Fictions, the tale of a girl who is, quite literally, written into a story by her boyfriend. Since then I’ve looked up copies of further shorts published by Howard and never yet been disappointed by having done so. I’d heartedly recommend her Beauty and Disappearance published in Weird Tales 356 but a number of her short stories have also been published online, such as Choose Your Own Adventure and The Least of the Deathly Arts.
Speaking of Joe Hill, 20th Century Ghosts also deserves a shout out. Hill is often coupled with the phrase “son of Stephen King” in write ups but is more than capable of holding his own against the legacy of his father’s writing, on the basis of my reading to date. Whilst this collection of short stories is predominantly horror based, some of the entries fall outside of this category, such as Pop Art, the story of an inflatable boy or Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead, which simply takes place on the set of a making of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. (Incidentally, if you’re a UK reader, there’s a short film of Pop Art available via the BBC website here, courtesy of Amanda Boyle).
I’ve also looked up a number of Karen Joy Fowler's short stories this year, within her collections, Black Glass and What I Didn’t See. I particularly enjoyed The Pelican Bar in her 2010 collection (What I Didn’t See), in which Norah is sent to a boarding school with a difference. To say much more would spoil the impact of the story, so I’d suggest looking it up yourself to get the full effect.
Margo Lanagan is something of an acquired taste for some but her short story collection Black Juice contains the excellent Singing My Sister Down, which was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best short story. It documents the tale of a young boy watching his sister being executed by way of a tar pit for the murder of her husband.