“She kissed him and got in the car. Under all her clothing in back he saw the box of baby dolls, the box of pots and pans. It had been a good, deep kiss. He watched her drive away, going east toward Reno, her hand out the window, fluttering goodbye.”
From “Handcrafted Dolls” by Dale Herd, recommended by Coffee House Press. Read it for free tomorrow in Electric Literature’s weekly fiction magazine, Recommended Reading.
A sorcerer with a speech impediment summons a demon with similar verbal difficulties. Anger and animosity over being brought into this world softens and an unlikely relationship is formed. Hand sigils and sign language are used to communicate when tongues fail.
A skeleton wanders in the forest, swearing as it gets tangled in low hanging branches. In times of rain, it relishes the clean feeling as water scrubs it outside-in. It is occasionally chased by hungry wolves.
A sentient cottage cares for a heartbroken witch. Shadowy hands remove her hat and hang it on a peg by the door. They dry her cheeks, fix her a meal. A fire blazes welcomingly in the hearth and a grimore is set in a chair. Blankets are fetched. All she need do is sit, and read, and mend.
A pair of socks, mended by eldritch forces, gain sentience (though fortunately lack the ability to smell). With practice, they are able to shift their design and color. Throughout the ages, they witness the rise and fall of countless empires. Occasionally one gets lost in the laundry, causing the other to inspire grand acts of villainy and heroism to search out it’s lost partner.
"Thinking that you are good can make you bad. Talking about positive behavior can encourage negative behavior. Laozi is clearly on to something when he warns us that consciously trying to be righteous will, in fact, turn us into insufferable hypocrites and that anyone striving to attain virtue is destined to fail."
“In fact, the opposite is the case. You can’t read a short story properly online. Every word counts. You can’t drift. You have to surrender to “a beginning, a middle and end” that takes you “across the universe and back”, as Gaiman puts it. For all his joy in the tumble of Twitter and Google, these stories also express his ability to do the obverse – to switch off and concentrate. They demand all of your attention, something that our one-click world cries out to you never to give. So, to read a short story is a countercultural act, a little rebellion. The genre is at its best when it deals with discomfort, with feelings and people you don’t want to think about: the gaze in the street that you try to avoid, the noise in the night you pretend not to hear. That’s why it’s important – more so now than ever.”
This story first appeared in Irene 5, which contains sixteen contributors from five countries on four continents. You can order Irene here or pick it up at finer comics shops and small press fairs across North America.
It’s a rainbow of color, a dream of beauty, a wild bust of lafter, ‘an regular hot stuff.
For her new short story collection called Almost Famous Women, Megan Mayhew Bergman drew on the actual biographies—some of them very brief—of unconventional women, and then she filled in some important blanks, especially imagining their inner lives.
Endings define stories. A great ending can make everything that’s come before seem retroactively great. A weak ending can ruin everything. But why do they have to be so impossible to write? And is there any trick for crafting a strong ending that doesn’t involve endless misery?
FUJIKO F. Fujio (藤本弘/藤子・F・不二雄 ), Short stories / Ishoku tanhenshū / 異色短編集
6 books : Minotaurus’s Plate / Minotaurus no Sara / ミノタウロスの皿, 1977 Hall of Tranquility / Yasuragi no Yakata / やすらぎの館, 1978 Ultra Super Deluxeman / ウルトラスーパーデラックスマン, 1978 Nosutaru jī / ノスタル爺, 1978 Yume Camera / 夢カメラ, 1982 We Found an Iron Man / Tetsujin o Hirotta yo / 鉄人をひろったよ, 1987
“In the universe now there was no longer a container and a thing contained, but only a general thickness of signs, superimposed and coagulated, occupying the whole volume of space; it was constantly being dotted, minutely, a network of lines and scratches and reliefs and engravings; the universe was scrawled over on all sides, along all its dimensions. There was no longer any way to establish a point of reference; the Galaxy went on turning but I could no longer count the revolutions, any point could be the point of departure, any sign heaped up with the others could be mine, but discovering it would have served no purpose, because it was clear that, independent of signs, space didn’t exist and perhaps had never existed.”
I'm about to start writing a collection of short stories. Should there be a theme running through the collection and how strong should it be? Do you have any tips on writing a collection? Thank you.
Yes, there should be a theme or something else connecting them all.The theme doesn’t have to be strong. For example, if your theme is “love”, one story can be a romance, one can be about a parent and child, one can be about someone taking care of a plant, etc. Sometimes the theme is just a common genre between all the stories.
I'm taking a short story course where I need to write a short story (no problem I love to write) the catch is it has to be a realistic story not the science fiction and out there shit I thrive on and I'm on such a creative block because every idea seems stupid and already done and I feel like I can't do this. Any advice for writing things you don't usually write?
I’m very much the same as you… and I’m not saying that sci-fi/fantasy short stories can’t exist (they can and do, and I will include resources below for ‘em…!), but in class you’re always shown ‘the cream of the crop’ as it were… and these are usually very ‘literary fiction’ for want of a better descriptor…
That doesn’t mean you can’t put some sci-fi/fantasy into a realistic situation, however. There’s a whole sub-genre called ‘magic realism’. The best way to describe it is that the ‘magic’ in a magic realism story is very subtle and a minor thing next to all of the realistic elements. Characters might do or achieve things that bend the rules of normal life, but everything else in the story is bound by real life limitations.
One of my favourite books in the whole world is Natasha Mostert’s Season of the Witch, and I would probably class that story as magic realism. It relies heavily on the concept of memory palaces and remote-viewing. These are things which are achievable in real life, but Mostert makes it appear almost fantastical in the way these concepts are described and used. They’re also not things that every single person in the world can manage… You’re looking at BBC Sherlock level of memory palace here and as for remote-viewing, ESP… these are not talents that everyone in the world can boast about.
So… let me try to change your perspective a little bit here.
Short stories are a little like magic realism… in essence.
A short story has very few words… not a lot of room to explore great complex plot-lines, worlds or characters… You have to make what you say count… so if you take ‘realistic’ very literally, then I think you might limit yourself there.
If you haven’t already, please read Crazy Glue by Etgar Keret. This story is about a young married couple who, after a rocky part of their relationship, realise they are still in love. It might sound incredibly ‘realistic’ and boring… but give it a chance. Then you will see how it is possible to make something ordinary… come across in an utterly fantastical way.
I say… go Ghibli on it…! Studio Ghibli films, to me, present very normal, everyday life experiences in magical, fantastical ways.
If you like, you can read the short story I wrote for my short stories class. Spoiler alert: it’s terrible… but it was my way of writing about an ordinary experience without binding myself to the realistic. It was the first piece of work I shared to a group… and it received some nice comments but it also marked my first ever ‘heavy’ piece of criticism. If I remember rightly… I was told my writing was ‘pretentious’, ‘trying too hard’ and that the story ‘didn’t make sense’ or ‘go anywhere’.
Well, you can’t please everyone, huh?
I wish you the best of luck with your short story though, Anon…! If you can, please share it with me when you’re done! I’d love to see what you come up with.