Russia is the funniest country in the world. Some countries, like America and England, are funny mostly on purpose, while others, like Germany and France, can be funny only unintentionally. (But that counts! Being funny is tricky, so any way you do it counts.) Russia, however, is funny both intentionally (Gogol, Zoshchenko, Bulgakov) and unintentionally (Vladimir Putin singing, as he did at a televised event a few years ago, “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill”). Given the disaster Russian history has been more or less continuously for the last five centuries, its humor is of the darkest, most extreme kind. Russian humor is to ordinary humor what backwoods fundamentalist poisonous snake handling is to a petting zoo. Russian humor is slapstick, only you actually die.[more inside]
I could reach no possibilities in which Johnny Rivers—wise guy, bootlegger, crook with his eye on the big time—still clung to life. In every crime scene every one of me was looking at, he lay face-down on the floor with two bullets in his back. It was a pity. Not because Chicago was particularly the worse off for one more dead mobster, but because murders are murders, and solving Johnny’s would have been a whole lot easier if he’d lived long enough to tell me who had pulled the trigger. Maybe, in another universe, another me had shown up sooner and had gotten something out of him.
He Took His Skin Off For Me. "The story of a man who takes his skin off for his girlfriend, and why it probably wasn't the best idea..." Based on the short story by Maria Hummer. [more inside]
The Indian wedding that exploded in violence: a short story by Ranbir Singh Sidhu
Leviathan - a short story by David Sedaris
Yes, yes—We live in the Gibsonian tomorrow, the grim meathook future, the ever-weirder cyberpunk dystopia. But it won't be that way forever. Well, it might get weirder. But good-weird. To that end, the latest anthology from The Sockdolager, You Gotta Wear Shades, contains an astonishing seven tales of brighter futures. Because we happen to think things are in fact gonna get better.[more inside]
Tor.com presents "As Good As New" a short story by Charlie Jane Anders about a girl, the apocalypse, and making sure those three wishes count.
Tor.com presents Max Gladstone's A Kiss With Teeth, in which an ancient evil settles down and tries out middle-class married life.
What does the future hold? Is there life beyond the stars? Will artificial intelligence take over the world? Is time travel possible? All of these questions and more are addressed every week in Futures, Nature's science-fiction column. Featuring short stories from established authors and those just beginning their writing career, Futures presents an eclectic view of what may come to pass.... Prepare to be amazed, amused, stimulated and even outraged … That's the blurb from Nature's Futures online archive, with almost 400 short stories (under 1,000 words) to browse, and one new story added each week. If that is a daunting list to face, you can check out SF2 Concatenation's selection of the very best of the SF short stories from the journal Nature, with about 30 top picks as PDFs, instead of the web pages on Nature.com
“Your head is like obsidian,” she says to you, her hand passing North and South and East and West smooth across the surface, erasing away smudges, blood stains (but not scars, no, not scars, never scars) and the exoskeletons of memories bashed against a windshield.
You recall all you learned from geology classes as she continues to stroke your head. The glass forms because something very hot turns very cold, very quickly. This explains what’s happening right now — your body cooling rapidly against hers. Her skin broils, it could turn you into a naked volcanic glass statue and you would not really be surprised. And you would not mind.Short fiction by Mónica Teresa Ortiz. (Two illustrations contain nonsexual nudity.)
Pseudopod 401: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife Be careful what you wish for, and be careful of things with labels you can't read. [more inside]
Sofiya Tolstoy’s Defense [The New Yorker] In her own writings, Leo Tolstoy’s wife offered a rebuttal of the views that he set out in “The Kreutzer Sonata.” [more inside]
Exquisite Corpse [New York Times]
Taking their cue from the Surrealist parlor game, 15 renowned authors take turns contributing to an original short story.[more inside]
"He makes love to her, his first time with a woman, but she's not really a woman—is a woman, then a man, then his exact double, then a peacock, feathers alluringly erect. " Rumaan Alam's "Scene From A Marriage" imagines the domestic bliss of Zeus and Hera and assorted boytoys.
PodCastle 328: The Old Woman With No Teeth
When The Old Woman With No Teeth decided to have children, she didn’t go about it in the usual way. Well, really, what else could you expect from The Old Woman With No Teeth? If she ever did anything the usual way, even boiling a pot of water, the world might start spinning widdershins on its axis.[more inside]
"Now you just stop that. I can read perfectly well, you impudent ragger. Set down what I told you, and don’t believe all the stories you’ve heard about me."
There are many stories about The Old Woman With No Teeth, but people should not believe all of them. The most popular one is that she wore away her teeth by chewing a tunnel to the six-sided world. Nobody knows if this story is true. Many people have looked for the passageway she is supposed to have gnawed through reality, but none of the venturers have managed to pinpoint it.
"None of the ones who’ve come back, you mean. Silly bastards."
You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of
But in addition to our retreat into wishfulness, something else was brewing: a sense that the past was not only better than the present, but that the past’s predictions for the future were also better than what had actually become the present. No longer content to live in (or through) our memories of the past, we also yearned to live in the past’s vision of the future. We were nostalgic for yesterday’s prognostications: You could say that we succumbed to prognostalgia. Living with our backs to the future, on the cultural fixation with past dreams of the future, on the 50th anniversary of Isaac Asimov's write-up on the 1964 World's Fair, which is still being reviewing to track Asimov's hits and misses [via mefi projects] [more inside]
For many years Bruce Sterling has been writing about the battle for freedom on the internet, a subject he first wrote about in the highly acclaimed book The Hacker Crackdown in 1992. In this book, Sterling predicts that the term “privacy” may already be obsolete, along with those who once thrived on violating the integrity of others. Like spies, the paparazzi, rumour mongers—who actually has the most to lose in this transparent world?
Velma "Velveteen" Martinez is a toy-animating super hero created by Seanan McGuire, a.k.a. Mira Grant. Over the past six years, McGuire's "Velveteen vs." story cycle has been released gradually on LiveJournal, achieving a dedicated following thanks to the story's overall emotional complexity. As fantasy author Tanya Huff has written, "Velveteen is about a young woman who fights crime in a pair of rabbit ears in much the same way Buffy was about a girl who killed vampires. That being, not so much." [more inside]
We were in the stage where we couldn’t make serious eye contact for fear of implying we were too invested. We used euphemisms like “I miss you” and “I like you” and smiled every time our noses got too close.[more inside]
SF/F legend Connie Willis pours a preview of a near-future version of the story of backstage back-stabbing, " All About Eve" with "All About Emily" for Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.
To Kill a Child, by Stig Dagerman (Wikipedia). Translated by Steven Hartman. For a meager fee of seventy-five kronor Dagerman was commissioned by the National Society for Road Safety to write a cautionary tale as part of a campaign designed to get Swedish motorists to slow down on highways when speeding was becoming an increasingly difficult social issue with serious consequences for public safety. What could have been an ephemeral and gimmicky work of public service fiction became perhaps the greatest short short story in the history of Swedish letters, for in this tale Dagerman took the simple redressing of a particular social problem as the starting point rather than as an end in itself and out of these mundane materials created a poignant tale of choice, chance, and human loss that rises to the highest levels of art, literary balance, and philosophical concision.
"We can go to science fiction for its sense of wonder, its power to take us to far-off places and future times. We can go to political fiction to understand injustice in our own time, to see what should change. We may go to poetry — epic or lyric, old or new — for what cannot change, for a sense of human limits, as well as for the music in its words. And if we want all those things at once — a sense of escape, a sense of injustice, a sense of mortality and an ear for language — we can read the stories of James Tiptree, Jr.," the reclusive, award-winning author whose vague biography started out in the Congo, routed through a period as a painter, then service as a photo intelligence officer in WWII, and finally a researcher and teacher of "soft" sciences before getting to writing science fiction. There was another facet that was only guessed at by some, dismissed by others: the fact that "Uncle Tip," and his reclusive friend, the former school teacher Racoona Sheldon, were the same person. And they were Alice Bradley Sheldon. [more inside]
'Colonic' by Emily Haworth-Booth the winner of the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2013. Interview
Zero Hours - For a workshop on future London, Arup, Social Life, Re.Work, Commonplace, Tim Maughan and Nesta created 10 Future Londoners for the year 2023. This one describes the working day of 19 year old Nicki, a zero hours retail contractor.
"To launch a science-fiction anthology series is to dare comparisons with The Twilight Zone. Happily, Welcome to Paradox is not unworthy to be mentioned in the same sentence as Rod Serling's classic show. The weekly dramas, all based on short stories, are set in Betaville [a nod to Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 dystopian sci-fi/noir film, Alphaville], a future city filled with ultrahigh technology and perennial human unhappiness.... Bottom Line: Makes the future look intriguing." The Sci-Fi channel only produced 13 episodes (archived view of their site; ep list on Wikipedia), letting the series end with one season. The show was only released on DVD in Australia, which now seems to be out of print. But fear not! You can watch the episodes on YouTube in a convenient playlist, or with separate episodes linked below the fold. [more inside]
The Castle That Jack Built — by Emily Gilman, a finalist for the short story category of the 2013 World Fantasy Awards. (via)
Orson Scott Card's Unaccompanied Sonata [Google Books], which he has called one of his favorite short stories, is an darkly enchanting tale about a boy who, at a young age, is taken from his family and brought to a house deep in the forest...
Richard Kadrey is not the most prolific novelist in the world. Still, every five, six years or so out comes another book like Metrophage, or Kamikaze L'Amour, dark, violent, intense works mostly set in and around Los Angeles with characters straight out of a good punk rock song. The self-confessing film nerd is probably best known for his Sandman Slim series, and if you're impatient for the forthcoming Dead Set novel, you can bide your time with a ton of short stories online. [more inside]
Down to a Sunless Sea - a new short story by Neil Gaiman published by The Guardian as part of their series of Water stories.
They made it from beer cans, razors, safety pins, and did I do this part already? Whatever. They loaded it with the most precious artifacts of human culture they could find in Mexican Johnny D-bag’s van. “You gotta make it faster than regular Voyager,” said Red. “So our culture gets to the aliens before the CIA’s fascist pseudo-culture.”
The Ghosts of Christmas - A spooky SF story for Christmas by Paul Cornell.
“What I’m about to show you,” he says, “you can’t tell a soul about it. If you did, it would be major trouble. Trouble with a capital ‘T.’ ” He sips his drink and tugs the quilt away.Shirley Temple Three by Thomas Pierce
Mawmaw takes a step back. She’s looking at some kind of elephant. With hair.
“Don’t worry. She’s not dangerous,” Tommy says. “Bread Island Dwarf Mammoth. The last wild one lived about ten thousand years ago. They’re the smallest mammoths that ever existed. Cute, isn’t she?”
The mammoth is waist high, with a pelt of dirty-blond fur that hangs in tangled draggles to the dirt. Its tusks, white and pristine, curve out and up. The forehead is high and knobby and covered in a darker fur. The trunk probes the ground for God-knows-what and then curls back into itself like a jelly roll.
“What’s a goshdern Bread Island Dwarf Whatever doing in my yard?” Mawmaw asks.
My 6,128 Favorite Books - "Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."
"Farmer's Dilemma" is a short, sad and beautiful comic about family and acceptance. From Sam Alden's art blog, GINGERLAND.
"You sit down and pull the visor over your head. The visor interior is soft and enveloping. You squeeze the drip tube between your teeth and sickly sweet fluid floods your mouth. Pulses fire into your retinas." howling dogs is a work of interactive fiction by game designer Porpentine. It is a strange story about a person who lives in a cell and imagines strange scenes for a living. Endorsed by Emily Short, and made with Twine. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes with multiple endings. Via.
She sat zazen, concentrating on not concentrating, until it was time to prepare for the appointment. Sitting seemed to produce the usual serenity, put everything in perspective. Her hand did not tremble as she applied her make-up; tranquil features looked back at her from the mirror. She was mildly surprised, in fact, at just how calm she was, until she got out of the hotel elevator at the garage level and the mugger made his play. She killed him instead of disabling him. Which was obviously not a measured, balanced action--the official fuss and paperwork could make her late. Annoyed at herself, she stuffed the corpse under a shiny new Westinghouse roadable whose owner she knew to be in Luna, and continued on to her own car. This would have to be squared later, and it would cost. No help for it--she fought to regain at least the semblance of tranquillity as her car emerged from the garage and turned north. Nothing must interfere with this meeting, or with her role in it. "Melancholy Elephants," an enthralling, Hugo Award-winning short story by Spider Robinson about a disciplined operative, a powerful senator, and a crucial mission to preserve humanity's most precious resource. (some spoilers inside) [more inside]
Jonathan Strahan’s acclaimed Eclipse series of anthologies is coming to the web as Eclipse Online. The first story is The Contrary Gardener by Christopher Rowe, from Eclipse One.
It was on a Monday, April second - I was cruising in the vicinity of Betelgeuse - when a meteor no larger than a lima bean pierced the hull, shattered the drive regulator and part of the rudder, as a result of which the rocket lost all maneuverability. [more inside]
Television Without Pity re-capper Jacob Clifton has written a short steampunk story for Tor.com. “There’s a level on which the story is an indictment of using steampunk as a fashion or trend. It came about because I wanted to see what would happen if you substituted Jane Austen for Jules Verne in the steampunk equation...” The Commonplace Book
Great authors inspire us. But what about the stories that inspire them? Recommended Reading, a magazine by Electric Literature, publishes one story a week, each chosen by today’s best authors or editors. [more inside]
"... That’s the way with epiphanies: You can’t know in advance what they’ll be. Even me. I can see them coming, but I can’t understand something until I understand it.”T he man who can see the future has a date with the woman who can see many possible futures.