“Lost Pages wasn’t the only bookshop I frequented, but the books I found on its shelves were… unique. I never saw any of these books anywhere else. Bizarre Bestiaries. Dictionaries of dead, obscure languages. Maps to lands that may never have been. Essays on religions with unfamiliar names. Obscure mythologies. Accounts of wars no history teacher had ever mentioned. Such were the wares of the bookshop that fed my teenage dreams.”
|Jean-Honoré Fragonard, “Jeune fille lisant”|
I didn’t always read short stories like I do now. I used to be all about the novel. I wanted a longer, deeper narrative experience. Having a family cured me of that, at least temporarily. I still love novels, but I don’t read them like I used to. Maybe when the girls go off to college. That’s okay, because the more I read short stories (and the more I try to write them) the more I appreciate the form. The best short stories aren’t just shorter – less – than a novel. The best ones have to contain something bigger then the five thousand word package they come in. Reading a good short story is like unpacking a magical suitcase that contains a whole attic’s worth of stuff. Or like stepping into a phone booth and finding yourself inside the Tardis traveling to adventures in lands and times unknown.
Stories this week.
Friday 04: The Cross-Time Accountants Fail to Kill Hitler Because Chuck Berry Does the Twist by C.C. Finlay in this month’s Lightspeed Magazine (it will be available online on 5/15. I’ll link to it then) – I love the title, the story worked for me on some levels, especially character and the premise. Overall, the character and the plot didn’t quite gel for me.
Saturday 05: Wonderwall by Elizabeth Hand in Saffron & Brimstone – This slipstreamy story oozes with nineties nostalgia as seen through the eyes of a desperately poor college drop out.
Sunday 06: Another Word for Map is Faith by Chris Rowe. Click to listen to it on PodCastle – This story’s been around for a while and I can see why, it has a fascinating premise. What if post-apolyptic religion concerned itself with reshaping the landscape to match old maps. A kind of geographism…
Monday 07: I listen to This American Life on Mondays and this week featured a story called resurrection – about a boy and his armadillo. It isn’t genre, but don’t let that stop you. As noted at the end of the story, no armadillo’s were harmed in the making of this fiction.
Tuesday 08: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu in Clarkesworld (you can listen to it here) – More map-making! This story was/is nominated for a Nebula, a Hugo and a Locus award. And I can see why, a very arresting little story (about insects no less) with some big ideas.
Wednesday 09: Al by Carol Emshwiller in Feeling Very Strange – Written by one of the grand dames of Science Fiction. I’m still thinking about this one. It didn’t really grab me, but its sticky as in the characters and images keep bouncing around in my head, might have to reread. So, I guess that’s a kind of success.
|Apropos of nothing|
|my short story short list|
Check out StoryADay.org, where you can commit to writing a story a day for the month of May. I just found out about this a couple days ago via Nicky Drayden, who’s just crazy enough to try such a thing. It sounds like Nanowrimo (which I completed once a few years back), like a kick in the butt with potential for mining several diamonds in the rough while loosing lots of sleep.
I am tempted. I seriously thought about signing up, but I’ve got some other goals and deadlines to pursue this month. Namely, it looks like I’m going to be able to attend both ApolloCon and ArmadilloCon this year, both of which have writer’s workshops. I want new stories to send into the workshops in early June, and they need to be in decent shape since I get the most out of workshops/critiques when I submit my best work.
Then I read Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Marshall Ryan Maresca’s post about the value of reading, and it really got me thinking. He mentions an anecdote that Stephen King reads four hours a day and writes four hours a day (wow, nice work if you can get it). I realized that while I’ve been successful at shoe horning some amount of writing into my life, I have sorely neglected my reading. If I expect to keep returning to the well, I think I’d better get back to that 1:1 ratio of reading to writing.
So, I’m committing to reading one story a day in May (and beyond with any luck). Sounds pretty pithy next to the idea of writing one a day but life is all about balance and baby steps after all.