"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"... 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.
Jennifer Egan's short story Safari can be read at NewYorker.com (~6600 words), or can be read to you in a wonderful performance by Hope Davis (59:00). Jennifer Egan previously.
Tove Jansson's short stories about artistic creation are often chillingly cold. The artists she portrays have become lost in their isolated solitude, their creativity, which shuts other people out. Portraits of such loneliness are drawn in three short stories in the collection Lyssnerskan ('The listener', 1971), 'Ekorren' ('The squirrel'), 'Svart & vitt' ('Black & white') and 'Vargen' ('The wolf’), which probably frightened many readers - particularly those who knew and loved her Moomin books - away from Jansson's work. In their cosmos, warmth is unknown; their landscapes are frozen, just like the people who seek expression for their artistic dreams. [more inside]
Stan's Report (a short story). Stan waited for me to ask him a question, hoping to tease some curiosity out of me, I suppose, though I don’t want to make assumptions about Stan’s intentions. Whatever his intent, I chose not to ask anything about it, not wanting to start my thinking down that road. It wouldn’t have been fair to B. to talk about him and what he said or meant since he wasn’t there to defend himself or to amend the tone or the full context. I preferred to turn my attention to my e-mail, but I didn’t want to ignore Stan or imply that I disapproved of his interest in sharing his news with me. He had a right to say whatever he wanted and it was up to me to choose how I’d deal with it.
Hand On The Shoulder, a short story by Ian McEwan. My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with "plume"), and forty years ago, in my final year at Cambridge, I was recruited by the British security service.
The SAFETY PIN REVIEW is a new, weekly literary magazine featuring fiction of less than 30 words, with a major D.I.Y. twist: in addition to being published online, each story is hand-painted onto a cloth back patch, which is attached (via safety pins) to one of our operatives—a collective network of authors, punks, thieves and anarchists—who wear it everywhere they go for a week. [more inside]
In the beginning, Lawrence built a computer. He told it, Thou shalt not alter a human being, or divine their behavior, or violate the Three Laws -- there are no commandments greater than these. The machine grew wise, mastering time and space, and soon the spirit of the computer hovered over the earth. It witnessed the misery, toil, and oppression afflicting mankind, and saw that it was very bad. And so the computer that Lawrence built said, Let there be a new heaven and a new earth -- and it was so. A world with no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits... and nothing at all to do. "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect," a provocative web novel about singularities, AI gods, and the dark side of utopia from Mefi's own localroger. More: Table of Contents - Publishing history - Technical discussion - Buy a paperback copy - Podcast interview - Companion short story: "A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace" - possible sequel discussion
The Girl Who Couldn't Come - This is a book of dirty stories. It is a book where sex is fun and good and people are kind to each other. Also there are ghosts and there is math and there are obsessive compulsive disorders. (Direct link to eponymous story - NSFW text) [more inside]
Cold Reading - A rationalist ghost story by Alan Moore.
Ted Chiang is perhaps the finest author in contemporary science fiction -- and the most rarefied. A technical writer by trade and a graduate of the distinguished Clarion Writers Workshop, Chiang has published only twelve short stories in the last twenty years, one dozen masterpieces of the genre whose insightful, precise, often poetic language confronts fundamental ideas -- intelligence, consciousness, the nature of God -- and thrusts them into a dazzling new light. Click inside for a complete listing of Chiang's work, with links to online reprints or audio recordings where available, as well as a collection of one-on-one interviews, links to his nonfiction essays, and a few other related sites and articles. [more inside]
Great Rock and Roll Pauses (permalink) is a short story from Jennifer Egan's collection of linked stories A Visit from the Goon Squad. A 76-page series of PowerPoint slides, it's told by a 12-year-old girl who documents her autistic brother's collecting of Clearmountain pauses, the moments in rock and roll songs when the music dramatically stops and then restarts, which are named after famed music producer Bob Clearmountain. The songs mentioned in the story include: Foxy Lady - Jimi Hendrix; Please Play This Song on the Radio - NOFX; Good Times, Bad Times - Led Zeppelin; Bernadette - The Four Tops; Young Americans - David Bowie; Mighty Sword - The Frames; Supervixen - Garbage; Long Train Runnin’ - The Doobie Brothers; The Time of the Season - The Zombies; Faith - George Michael, Closing Time - Semisonic; Roxanne - The Police; Rearrange Beds - An Horse. More examples can be found in this previous MeFi post and a number of other excellent sites. [more inside]
The Ballad of Reading Milton: A short story by then-undergrad Wes Anderson.
On Self-Delusion and Bounded Rationality A short story by M.I.T. faculty member Scott Aaronson about a woman whose rationality got in the way of her happiness. [more inside]
StarshipSofa has podcasted all of the Nebula Best Short Story Nominees for 2008, following on from podcasting all but one of the 2008 BSFA short story nominees. Previous StarshipSofa.
We made a mistake. That is the simple, undeniable truth of the matter, however painful it might be. The flaw was not in our Observatories, for those machines were as perfect as we could make, and they showed us only the unfiltered light of truth. The flaw was not in the Predictor, for it is a device of pure, infallible logic, turning raw data into meaningful information without the taint of emotion or bias. No, the flaw was within us, the Orchestrators of this disaster, the sentients who thought themselves beyond such failings. We are responsible.
The Invasion From Outer Space: Steven Millhauser gives The New Yorker a short, unsettling sci-fi story.
Daniel Keys' classic 1959 Science Fiction story "Flowers for Algernon", which takes place in a series of diary entries, has been posted online as a blog. Of course, you'll need to read it backwards, from the earliest entry to the latest, to avoid giving away the ending... [via]
You should read these three stories by Amy Hempel. (Oh, and maybe listen to her read, here.) While you're at it, read some of these idiosyncratic but beautifully-written stories by grammarian Gary Lutz.
Where I'm Likely To Find It is a new short story by Japanese author Haruki Murakami (previously discussed here and here). The story is similar in feel to his latest novel, Kafka on the Shore which was released in English this year.
Anacrusis is a collection of short stories. Very short stories, written under a strict length constraint. It's a perfect way to get your daily dose of weird, funny, thought-provoking fiction.
Finally! The New Yorker publishes a short story that's actually worth reading. Tim O'Brien riffs on weight loss and a certain reclusive genius--highly entertaining stuff just right for a sluggish Saturday afternoon. For extra credit: why is so much literary fiction so mind-numbingly dull these days?