I Love Short Stories!

The Zanzibar CatWriting about Karen Joy Fowler’s “The View From Venus” last week got me to thinking about other short stories that I love. And that gave me the idea of coming up with a table of contents for my dream short fiction anthology.

So I made one. My rules were simple: any short story that moved me so much that I still remember it. All of these have been in print, some multiple times. Some are famous; some I know about because I know the author. There’s no order here. I just listed stories as I thought of them.

I’m sure I’ve left something important out, even though I’ve spent the last week trying to think of all the possibilities. And, of course, I haven’t read all the great short stories around. So in the comments, please provide your own TOC for the perfect short fiction anthology. Or just list a few stories you think should be added to this one.

Karen Joy Fowler, “The View From Venus.” I told you about this one last week.

Joanna Russ, “When It Changed.” This is my favorite short story ever, except that the ending has always bothered me. It’s in the collection The Zanzibar Cat.

L. Timmel Duchamp, “The Fool’s Tale.” I remember wanting to look up all the footnotes in this story, to see if they were made up or real. This was originally published in Leviathan 3.

Connie Willis, “All My Darling Daughters.” Most people seem to think Willis’s “Even the Queen” is her great feminist moment, but I’ve never liked that story. This one, on the other hand, is powerful and frightening. I found it in Ellen Datlow’s anthology Alien Sex.

James Tiptree, Jr., “The Women Men Don’t See.” I will never understand how anyone could read that story and not know Tiptree was a woman. I cannot imagine that a male writer in the 1970s could  have understood the invisibility of women. Of course, I’m also pretty sure that no one would have published it had they known who Tiptree was in the rest of her life.

Gregory Frost, “The Madonna of the Maquiladora.” People are always debating whether stories should be written in second person or not. This is an example of how powerful the perspective can be when it’s done right. It originally appeared in Asimov’s.

Pamela Zoline, “The Heat Death of the Universe.” I read this in Justine Larbalestier’s anthology of stories with essays, Daughters of Earth.

Robert Freeman Wexler, “Tales of the Golden Legend.” There’s an excerpt here.  This story made me love surrealism.

Therese Pieczynski, “Eden.” This was published in Asimov’s in 2000. Aliens in a working class setting. Very powerful.

Samuel R. Delany, “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones.” I love the way the 60s underlies this story.

Theodore Sturgeon, “The Man Who Lost the Sea.” This was reprinted in Strange Horizons.  All you people who keep wondering why people are signing up to go to Mars should read this.



I Love Short Stories! — 6 Comments

  1. Some excellent short stories in your list. The ones by Tiptree, Russ, Zoline, Sturgeon and Delany would be on my list as well.

    I would add:

    Ursula Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
    Octavia Butler, “Speech Sounds”
    Judith Merrill, “That Only a Mother”
    Arthur C. Clarke, “The Nine Billion Names of God”
    Eleanor Arnason, “Knapsack Poems”
    Karen Joy Fowler “What I Didn’t See”
    Ray Bradbury, “The Veldt”

    There are other stories by Russ, Tiptree, Delany, Butler, Bradbury and Le Guin that also came to my mind, but I stuck to one story per author.

    • I knew I’d forgotten something! I intended to include the “Omelas” for sure. And “Knapsack Poems.” I decided not to include “What I Didn’t See” because I already had one of Fowler’s.

      And the others are most excellent as well. So many good short stories in the world.

  2. I have to start with two by the same author.
    Holding Wonder and The Anything Box by Zenna Henderson.
    Whoops, those are both collections, guess that fills my list.

  3. One of my all time favorite stories is “Light of Other Days,” by Bob Shaw. I’ve always thought the “slow glass” concept was really neat.

    I’ve never liked the end of “When It Changed” either. Given the society Russ constructed, I always thought their reaction would more closely resemble what happened in Tiptree’s “Houston, Houston, Do You read?”