May 8, 2018

Stories I Love: April 2018

Everything is a tradeoff, including this goal of mine to read 365 short stories this year in a quest to become a better short story writer.

Several things have gone by the wayside to make room for this reading:

  1. Non-fiction reading. I’m so far behind reading Wired Magazine it’s ridiculous and I’ve got a shelf full of non-fiction books I haven’t gotten to.
  2. Novel reading. I’ve only read two novels this year, one in April since I was on vacation for a bit and could dedicate more time to reading. (I am not tracking novels or words read in the stats below)
  3. General internet wandering. Just don’t have time.

This is not to highlight this as a bad thing or a serious thing, just to say even with simple things like this there is a tradeoff. If you add something new to your day, something else has to go. Simple.

Another consequence of all this short story reading is I have become pickier. While I haven’t bailed on too many stories, I can feel that I’ll be doing more of that soon. I’ve become attuned to the kinds of stories I like, so why read a bunch of stories I know after the first few pages I’m not going to like. Well… there are reasons, like widening horizons and learning form writers with very different styles, but my tolerance is going down.

And this is probably a tiny glimpse as to what it is like to be an editor having to read through a slush pile. You’re really looking for any excuse to get to the next story that will work for your publication. For stories to make this list, they have to not only be well written, but be my kind of story.  When I send stories out to market they have to be well written and the kind of story the editor is looking for. I knew this, but this challenge is giving me a better feel for it.

It’s also helped me to understand what kind of stories I really like, which feeds directly into the kinds of stories I write.

After four months of this, it’s clear I’m giving some things up, but for now this is a good tradeoff, one worth doing.

One more note, which I’ll expand on one of these months: If you’re out there reading free stories, please consider supporting the publications you read so they can, you know, keep paying the writers.

Ok, so on to the April stories!


Stories read in April: 34

Words read in April: about 103,000

Stories read this year, so far: 150

Words read this year, so far: 457,000

OMG I So Love These Stories!

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

Rich Larson
Clarkesworld, free, approx 5,300 words
This is such a touching and haunting love story. Rarely have I read a sci-fi story this beautiful. I just put a reminder in my calendar to read this one again in a month or two–it’s that good. So what are you doing? Go read it!

Divine Madness
Roger Zelazny
Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 92, free, approx 2200 words
This story is from 1966 and shows why Zelazny was a master. It’s short and beautiful and touching and written with such depth and flair. Amazing. Read it.

A Burglary, Addressed By a Young Lady
Elizabeth Porter Birdsall
Lightspeed Issue #49: Women Destroy Science Fiction, $3.99 for the issue, approx 5,600 words
So much fun. This story is a delightful combination of sci-fi and Victorian manners. Very unusual and a fun read. This story is not free on the site, but this issue of Lightspeed is amazing and huge and a deal at $3.99.

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.

The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane
Ron Collins
Fiction River: How to Save the World: An Original Anthology Magazine, $6.99 for the anthology ebook, approx 6,000 words
This issue of Fiction River explores ideas on how to actually, really, save the world. This story takes on an interesting way to deal with carbon sequestration, but it’s mostly about the little guy doing what’s right.

The Court Magician
Sarah Pinsker
Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 92, free, approx 3200 words
A fascinating story about magic and the price that must be paid.

From the above list, it’s clear that Lightspeed Magazine really hit the sweet spot for me with issue 92. The other issue I’ve read, 48, has appeared on these lists a lot too. They are putting out some really good stories (IMHO). The ebooks are inexpensive and totally worth it.

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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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  1. Thanks for the recommendations.

    If you’re also considering flash fiction, you might be interested to know that there is currently a flash fiction contest happening at Escape Pod (500 words or less, so each story is really short).

    Basically, any person interested can register to their forum and then read all the stories, and vote for their favourite ones. Stories are in groups of 9 or 10 stories, and you get to pick your 3 favourite stories in each group. A group of stories is released every two days, and the stories stay available for a week. Later there will be semi-finals and finals between the stories which got the highest scores.

    Anyway, what I find fascinating is that even though some stories are clear winners both for me and the majority of voters, some stories I really loved only got a few votes, and some of the stories I didn’t like still got many votes. I did know intellectually that editors chose stories according to their taste, and that taste can vary a lot from person to person, but it’s much clearer to experience it yourself. And just like you said, you get a tiny glimpse on what it is to be an editor going through a slush pile. An interesting experience.

    Their forum is there: and then you go to The Arcade > Flash Fiction Contest V – Escape Pod

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