short stories

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 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.

Review: The Best of Michael Moorcock

This article is part of a series on the work of Michael Moorcock that will culminate in an interview with the man himself. The story collection The Best of Michael Moorcock is his most recent book.

Considering the work of a writer like Michael Moorcock can be a little intimidating if only because of the sheer volume of material one is dealing with. Over the course of his fifty-year-plus career, Moorcock has written dozens and dozens of books in nearly every genre, and his influence has been broad and immeasurable. His books were formative to the New Wave SF movement that he himself spearheaded in the sixties and seventies, which in turn helped define the SF (and much non-SF) that would come after. His books influenced the creation of Dungeons and Dragons and the plots of children's TV shows. His character Elric was parodied by Dave Sim in the comic Cerebus, his literary fiction novel Mother London was called "one of the most astonishing London novels ever written ... a tour de force" by Alan Moore, and Michael Chabon dedicated his Moorcock-esque historical adventure novel Gentlemen of the Road to him. In the seventies Moorcock even performed with the rock bands Blue Oyster Cult and Hawkwind, who both based songs on his work (in Hawkwind's case, a whole album), as well as with his own band The Deep Fix. The man is an eclectic talent, and a prolific one.

Trailer for "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You"

Electric Literature just put together this animated trailer for the short story "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You" by Wet Asphalt favorite Jim Shephard. It's... pretty damn awesome.

Full disclosure: Electric Literature pays us money to put ads on the site (but not to post things like this). Irregardless of that, I honestly believe that they are a pretty great literary magazine that appears to be doing everything right--and offering their magazine for a reasonable price in a myriad of formats including DRM-free ebooks. But most importantly they publish really good writers like Jim Shephard and pay him real money for the privilege. So go buy their first issue already.

Text of "Answer" by Fredric Brown

I recently discovered online one of my favorite short stories from when I was younger, a humorous SF story that's just over 250 words long, published in 1954. I had completely forgotten the title and the author, but remembered indelibly the closing lines. And here it is: "Answer" by Frederic Brown.

Makes me want to hunt down a read more of Brown's stuff...