March 3, 2018

Stories I Love: February 2018

A lot of good stories that I read don’t make it onto this list. Some very good stories. This is not “stories I like,” these are the stories that hit all the right notes, immerse me in their world, possess me until they’re done, and end in a resounding way.

Here’s a few things that kept some of the good ones from making it on this list (cataloged here as a reminder to myself and any other writer who happens to be reading this):

  • Indeterminate gender of the protagonist. I’ve seen this several times. One story never made the gender clear (and the name didn’t help), another revealed halfway through it was a woman, when I had been imagining a man.
  • Pacing. I read this superbly written story that just built and built the character’s problem and then, in something that amounted to the protagonist shrugging their shoulders and hoping the problem goes away, the story ended. I think this is about writing a short story at a pace suited for a much longer story. Short stories, no matter the length, need a solid ending. They should not be the first chapter in a longer story.
  • Indistinct visuals and setting. I’m not the most visual person in the world (and you can count on your readers interpreting very simple descriptions differently than you do). Some stories I just can’t “see” and that makes it hard for me to “feel” them, and that makes them very hard to love.

Just as a reminder, all the stories I read in February are loved, an editor bought them and put them in their magazine. Many of them are excellent in many ways. These are the ones that worked very well for me. Your mileage will vary. This is part of my year-long commitment to read more short stories (at least 365) on my quest to become a better writer.


Stories read in February: 33
Words read in February: about 120,000

Stories read this year, so far: 74
Words read this year, so far:  203,000

OMG I So Love These Stories!

These are what I consider “must read” stories. As in you MUST read them! Now!

Each to Each
Seanan McGuire
Lightspeed Issue #49: Women Destroy Science Fiction, free, approx 8,000 words
I am at a loss as to how to explain this story. It’s sci-fi. It’s military. It’s feminist. It’s about women being genetically and surgically modified to become, essentially, mermaids. But that falls far short. It is superb and easily worth the price of the entire issue (which I paid for, but with the link above you can grab it for free).

Mother Tongues
S. Qiougy Lu
Asimov’s, Jan/Feb 2018, $19 for the print issue, approx 4,000 words
This story has really stuck with me, and with all the stories I’m reading that says a lot. It’s delicate and beautiful, telling the story of what price a mother will pay for her daughter’s future.
(For reasons I can’t fathom it’s actually hard to find an ebook version of this issue. I got it through a subscription, but shouldn’t it be easy to buy the issue?)

The Four Thirty-Five
Annie Reed
Fiction River: Editor’s Choice: An Original Anthology Magazine, $6.99 for the anthology, approx 4,000 words
This is my kind of story and beautifully wrought. I can’t tell you why it’s my kind of story, that would give too much away, but trust me, this is another good one by Annie Reed (who was in last month’s roundup).

The Hole Where Andy Used to Be
Sean Vivier
Flash Fiction Online, free, approx 500 words
It’s HARD to tell a story in 500 words (with characters and things happening), but this touching little story nails it. It’s quick and free, go read it!

H&D Plumbing
Courtney Floyd
Fireside Fiction, free, approx 1,000 words
A fun little story about a toilet possessed by a demon. A bit ghostbusters, plenty strange, and lots of fun. It’s short, it’s free, what are you waiting for!?

Other Stories I Love

I love these stories too, just with a bit less passion. It’s okay, I can love some stories more than others.

I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything
Laura Pearlman
Flash Fiction Online, free, approx 1,000 words
Delightful and inventive and funny. Like many pieces of flash this has a non-standard story structure, this one taking the form of a Reddit Ask Me Anything. And there is a very important role in this story for radishes. Radishes rarely get their due.

The Dock
James Mackeogh
Every Day Fiction, free, approx 1,000 words
Well crafted for such a short story. It’s got setting, character, and a satisfying ending (again, for the length). I present this as Flash Fiction done well.

Okay, thanks for joining me. If you are interested in more frequent updates about the stories I love, I’m posting some of the free ones throughout the month over on my facebook group.

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Robert J. McCarter is the author of more than ten novels and over a hundred short stories...... learn more

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