I Like Short Stories
I have always preferred short stories over long novels. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading novels, especially well-paced, well written novels, but I have always preferred the short story.
I think it’s because it’s fun to see what the ‘twist’ will be and how the author can develop a handful of characters (at most) in just a few hundred to a couple of thousand words. As anyone who has tried to write a short story will tell you, it’s hard. You have the pressure of fitting a whole story (beginning, middle, end) with characters and settings into a few pages of words. And what’s worse – it has to be both believable and punchy. I like stories with a twist in the tail 🙂
Lawrence Block is one of my favourite authors. As well as writing a large number of novels, featuring Bernie Rhodenbarr (The Burglar Who…. series), wonderful books full of wisecracks, believable characters and unlikely situations, Matt Scudder (alcoholic ex-cop turned private eye, very dark in places) and the truly wonderful Hitman/Keller series. The latter ties in nicely with the point of this, the first book is a series of short stories – the Hitman is a sympathetic character: one who fell into the work he does and neither likes it nor hates it. Like the rest of us, he has a job because he has to have a job. his job is to kill people, but he wants more. I have to admit, in one way I find the series of shorts to be a tiny bit cheating – you have a number of stories to develop your characters and situations. But do them well and I’ll forgive you.
Lawrence Block, in my opinion, also writes wonderful short stories. (See how I brought this back around?) His stories have wonderful twists in them which never fail to send a shiver up my spine – a physical manifestation of how good I think the tale is, if you will. Anyway, I didn’t intend this to be a post about my appreciation for this great author. Let’s leave him, with this final thought for you – if you have the opportunity, pick up one of his books, you’ll read a writer who loves writing.
At the start of this, I professed a love for reading. Now I’m not one of your fair weather readers, I don’t just read one genre or author, I read voraciously. Sci-fi, mystery, horror, thriller, historical, science-fantasy, biographies, auto-biographies, books of scripts…… you get the message? I read. A lot. I have come to the point that I now rarely select books based on author or genre, merely on whether the book itself catches my eye. Yes, dear reader, I really do judge a book by it’s cover. Of course, I also buy and borrow based on author and genre, it’s just that when I can’t find a particular book using that criteria, I grab something else.
A friend of mine introduced me to the sci-fi greats while I was still at school – Asimov, Ellison, Simak, Silverberg, Moorcock, Spinrad – I read everything I could find by them. Over and over again. Follow the links I just gave you and check out their stories. Project Gutenberg has, more than likely, a number of their works for you to try for free. And if not there, elsewhere.
Which, relatively neatly, brings me to my inspiration for this post. If you ever read my Links page, you will be aware that I not only read the Something Awful front page, but that I am also a member of the forums there. A goon posted links to publicly available short stories and I wanted to keep said links in a findable place. Here, in fact. So, a set of links for you and me to enjoy.
http://www.neilgaiman.com/exclusive/shortstories/chulthhustory – Neil Gaiman just does not write enough. American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust, Smoke and Mirrors (short stories, yay!) and other works show him to be a wonderfully chilling writer with an obvious love for his craft.
http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/archive.html – Harlan Ellison, Sladek, Bester, Bloch, Silverberg and many others have short stories listed here. Run there, do not walk.
http://sujith_v.tripod.com/stories/paw.txt – it’s The Monkey’s Paw! You must know about this story.
http://sujith_v.tripod.com/stories/reformation.txt – This is an O. Henry story. O. Henry is a rather well known author for good reason.
http://www.baen.com/chapters/W200501/0743498747___2.htm – hehe, not everything Robert Heinlein wrote was a classic. His tales are still fun though.
http://adin.dyndns.org/adin/TheLastQ.htm – a religious tale, of sorts, by Isaac Asimov. Despite being a famous scientist, he retained his faith and many of his stories are either allegories or directly about God or Satan. Usually with twist. C’mon, these are short stories after all.
http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/green.htm – Green magic, by Jack Vance. Faust retold.
http://365tomorrows.com/ – a daily short story! (stop salivating in the back)
http://www.online-literature.com/bierce/ – shorts by Ambrose Bierce.
http://www.lspace.org/books/toc/toc-english.html – Terry Pratchett’s Theatre of Cruelty
http://www.classicreader.com/read.php/sid.6/bookid.1317/ – The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell. Predictable but enjoyable.
There are more links in the thread on the forums, I’m not just going to copy/paste them all here – it’s a forum, the thread will grow. Hopefully, the area of the forums that the thread resides on is still publicly available.
Hopefully, this will help you expand your own reading collection. If you don’t already read short stories, give them a go. Short stories are especially handy if you just want a ‘quick fix’ or have limited time. Toilet reading, I often call them. If you know what I mean, and I’m sure that you do 🙂