I kind of go back and forth on short stories. There have been years where that was primarily what I read and other years (like this one) where i read primarily novels and non-fiction. But I've been thinking about short stories a lot these days (who knows why) and thought I'd share these five with you. If you've read them, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you haven't, share one or two that you've liked and I'll read them if I haven't.
5. The Secret Shih Tan - Graham Masterson
As I'm so often reminded by friends, family and my partner, I can be sort of oblivious about some things. The inevitable endings of certain short stories is a classic example of this. I am incapable of seeing what others see coming pages before...and this story, about a cook looking for a cookbook that gives deeply, deeply forbidden recipes, has a "oh, surely not...oh, no...oh no way!" quality that makes all short fiction memorable.
Langan is America's master of the slow building mood creep (that feeling you might get from watching really great Japanese horror films...nothing shouty, but an inevitable, unbearable building) and this story (and his equally great "On Skua Island") is a fantastic example. You'll be as frightened as the main character when you finally realize what's what.
The truth is, I could have picked any one of a half-dozen MMS short stories and felt like I could defend the choice. This story builds slowly but with confidence and clarity to an ending that will leave you gobsmacked. Read him!
2. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas - Ursula K. LeGuin
A classic. Very short, spare in LeGuin's inimitable way and overwhelming. I have read it dozens of times. It's power does not diminish.
1. The Rain - J.G. Hayes
Joe Hayes' voice is unique. A gay perspective from South Boston. Authentic, real, brutal. This particular story was overwhelming and hard to read as the narrator suffers a kind of breakdown after a trauma. Find this out of print book if you can. If not, I'll lend you my copy.