Sunday, November 13, 2011

Short Story Collections for the Aspiring Speculative Fiction Writer

I'm a short story writer.

When people talk about speculative fiction, they usually associate the genre with novelists: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, etc.

And yet, when I look at the field, we have a rich pool of wonderful, exciting short stories.

One common problem among writers who attempt to write short fiction is that they don't read enough short stories. Novels, yes. Short stories, no.

So if you're looking for writing advice from me (that's completely the opposite of what you'd learn from NaNoWriMo), here are books that I recommend you read. Note that these are books that are in print and relatively easy to order (and if you're from the Philippines, you will have to order these books as they're not readily available in local bookstores). For example, I think Mary Robinette Kowal is a writer everyone must read, but her short story collection, Scenting the Dark and Other Stories, is out of print (I will instead defer you to her sampler of stories). Kij Johnson is another talented author but at the time of this writing, her short story collection hasn't been announced yet (although do check out her fiction).

So, without further ado, here are ten short story collections that have influenced my writing, and recommended to aspiring short story writers:

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

In many ways, Kelly Link took both the Fiction and genre world by storm. There's a reason for that — her writing style very different from what was the norm at the time, and Magic for Beginners, I feel, is her strongest collection (of the three that's been released to date).

In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss

This was the book my peers recommended to me and I was never disappointed. Interstitial fiction is an amorphous, ever-changing beast, but if you want to catch a glimpse of interstitial fiction done right, you need to read Theodora Goss.

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

I think many genre readers (and writers) will miss out on Aimee Bender, simply because she isn't overtly genre, which is a shame. Like Link, she employs unconventional techniques for her time, and incorporates the speculative elements organically.

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

For readers of my generation, the most commonly-referenced Haruki Murakami short story is "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning." There's an unconventionality to Murakami — whether a foreign perspective or simply a unique style — that's a breath of fresh air yet remains accessible.

The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories by Jeffrey Ford

If there's any writer whose short fiction I can safely re-read (and continue to be impressed by), it's Jeffrey Ford. His short stories are elegant, immersive, breathtaking, and while it's been almost a decade since the book was released, it continues to be relevant and engaging.

In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay

There's always room for subtlety and elegance, even in genres like horror, and Paul Tremblay understands this. What makes his fiction remarkable is that it creeps up on you, instead of being transparent and overt.

Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumière

Claude Lalumière has the ability to combine two (or more) unrelated genres and craft this potent story that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Twelve Collections and The Teashop by Zoran Živković

Zoran Živković's fiction is simple yet elegant, and what's impressive with Twelve Collections and The Teashop is that he manages to create twelve stories that are effective independently, but when read together, forms this larger tapestry.

After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh

I've finally found the time to crack open this collection and Maureen F. McHugh impresses, especially with her character-driven narratives. Human motivation can be both a wonderful and scary place and McHugh knows how to draw them out and utilize those elements in her narratives.

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

Okay, I lied: this might not be the easiest book to get a hold of (it might become easier the following year as non-Australian publishers pick it up) but this is a solid reprint of Margo Lanagan's short fiction. Like Paul Tremblay, you need to read between the lines to appreciate Lanagan's fiction but the rewards are well worth it.

1 comment:

dementedchris said...

I've only read three on your list -- thanks for sharing all these!