short fiction

Great Online Short Fiction I Have Read Recently (weekday reading)

I will soon be doing another Fiction Magazines Worth Reading for 2010, but before I get to that I want to talk about some specific stories I've read online, which you can read for free and which I heartily recommend.

I recently talked about how much I loved Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's collection Memories of the Future. One story of his not in that collection but every bit as good is called "Yellow Coal" and is a perfect example of everything that's great about his work.

Wet Asphalt favorite Matt Cheney has one of his first published stories available at Failbetter, called "Getting a Date for Amelia". Whenever I see Matt has a story available I always jump and read it, because he's one of my favorite story writers right now. Matt, come out with that collection already please!

From Clarkesworld, here's "The Things" by Peter Watts. Watts recently became an internet cause célèbre because of his recent arrest and subsequent conviction over a border-crossing incident. However, aside from all that, it's important to remember that he's also a pretty good writer, and one of the few practitioners of "hard" science fiction that I have any patience for. "The Things" is a fascinating exploration of identity from the viewpoint of an alien that has no conception of it, constructed like a monster movie, but turned on its head from a thriller into a think piece, reminding me of early Alan Moore stories where a different perspective provides for startling revelations.

From Strange Horizons, "Who in Mortal Chains" by Claire Humphrey provides a picture of an immortal who simply wants to settle down but instead finds herself pulled back into violence, the only thing she really knows how to do well. What could be the set-up to a more typical action story, however, becomes a more-subdued-than expected meditation on personal affection, with unexpected moments of beauty.

And finally, "Last Beautiful" by Robin Sloan. I'm probably going to have to write a whole piece on Robin Sloan, because he seems to be doing everything you're not supposed to do as a writer and being very successful at it. The best example is his novel, Annabel Scheme, which he self-published, getting tens of thousands of dollars in money from Kickstarter.com to do it. This is not someone who's well-established already, this is his first novel. "Last Beautiful" is another perfectly good example; he wrote it sentence by sentence in Twitter, getting feedback as he went from his Twitter followers, something that would give Jeff Vandermeer a heart attack. And yet the story is actually really good, the tale of a lost love and the last beautiful day ever in San Francisco. Again, Robin Sloan deserves more analysis, but if you want to see what doing everything wrong and making it work looks like, read this story.

The Atlantic is Publishing Two Stories a Month -- But Only for the Kindle

Like many, I was sad when the Atlantic decided some years ago to stop publishing monthly fiction, making the number of magazines paying real money for short fiction countable on the fingers of one hand. (My count is currently Harpers, The New Yorker, Playboy and Esquire. Am I missing any?) Apparently, Atlantic has started buying short fiction again twice a month for release on the Internet, which would be wonderful, except it's exclusively for the Kindle. What's worse, according to the New York Times, "Although the authors may at some point obtain the rights to republish the stories as part of a collection or in another magazine, the stories cannot appear in any other e-reader format." So it can NEVER be available for a device other than the Kindle?

You know, the short story audience is small enough without putting extra barriers in the way. The Kindle may currently be the most popular dedicated ereader, but as someone with a Sony Reader myself, and with the Nook on the horizon, it strikes me that limiting your potential reader base this way is the height of stupidity.