November 8, 2018

Stories I Love: October 2018

I was lucky enough this year to attend the Austin Film Festival, which is about film, but is focused on writers. I went to four days of an amazing conference listening to and meeting some successful screen writers and podcasters. It’s a different world, but it’s still storytelling and I learned a lot

I bring it up because I really wanted to hit the story-a-day goal this month and knew I wouldn’t have time while in Texas. So, on the plane ride there, I read three stories quickly and completely focused. Normally it’s something I fit into the cracks of the day, reading a bit here and there. All three stories were excellent (some are below). The excellence wasn’t really surprising, I was reading them from one of the top magazines, but it wasn’t lost on me that I was finding more to love in these three stories than I normally do.

I’ve pondered this for a while and come to what seems like an obvious, but no less important lesson: as readers, we get back what we put into a story. Full attention makes for a better reading experience. Totally obvious, right? This means that in some cases when I don’t love a story, it’s what I brought to the experience, and no fault of the writer. This being another aspect of the subjective experience of art, an aspect of it that is much more in our control.

This is also a lesson that has been growing for me this year as I’ve read all these stories. As a writer, I must keep in mind that my reader will often be distracted. I need to keep grounding them, pulling them back in the story, and reminding them what’s going on. I don’t think it is wise to assume my reader is fully focused on my story. And it is definitely not wise to assume my reader knows everything I do. Obviously you can go too far with this and over explain, but I’ve found over and over stories that are well-written but don’t seem to take into account the distracted reader or assume I know things I don’t. These stories didn’t work as well for me as they could have.

Ok, enough rumination, on with the stories!


Stories read in October: 31

Words read in October: about 121,000

Stories read this year, so far: 312

Words read this year, so far: 1,002,000 (broke the one million words read mark!)

OMG I So Love These Stories!

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

The Queen of the Peri Takes Her Time
Corey Flintoff
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction July/August 2018, $8.99 for the ebook issue, approx 5,400 words
The name Corey Flintoff rang some bells but seemed out of context with sci-fi. It turns out, I heard his name many times on NPR and now he is writing fiction. This story is exotic and beautifully written and so worth a read. Often stories based in other cultures lose me, lacking common language, but this one didn’t do that. It gave me enough details to draw me into it’s exotic locale without over doing it. Excellent!

How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps
A. Merc Rustad
Lightspeed Magazine, free, approx 5,000 words
This is a quirky story with an unconventional structure about a woman who wishes she could become a robot. It’s also touching and charming and very well written. 

The Huntsman and the Beast
Carrie Vaughn
Asimov’s Science Fiction, September/October 2018, $2.99 per e-issue, approx 11,000 words
This charming story puts a fun spin on a familiar fairy tale. It is very well written and engaging.

Her Monster, Whom She Loved
Vylar Kaftan
Lightspeed Magazine, free, approx 1,800 words
This short story is a beautifully written epic myth. It’s all the more impressive because it’s just not the type of story I can write, which lets me just gaze on in awe without envy or feeling inadequate (writers and their delicate egos!)

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 Phobos Experience
Mary Robinette Kowal
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction July/August 2018, $8.99 for the ebook issue, approx 7,000 words
Mary Robinette Kowal is the kind of writer where you know you will be in good hands. This is an excellent retro hard-scifi space adventure. Great fun!

Shod In Memories
M.K. Hutchins
Daily Science Fiction, free, approx 1,000 words
This is a quick, free story that puts a fun spin on Cinderella.

So what are you all reading? Have you found a story you love lately?

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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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