Sometimes life is so busy that it’s easier to dip into a book of short stories than to plough through a novel, and a number of readers have delved into short story collections over the past three months. As with the previous roundup, the largest proportion of these were in the genre of speculative fiction. Tsana, AWW’s speculative fiction editor, has mused that as so much speculative fiction revolves around new ideas (for example, technology, science or magic) and settings, the short story is a good medium through which to try these out. Historically, too, the genre of science fiction as we know it was initially published in pulp magazines and mostly consisted of short stories. Some of these magazines are still around today, such as Analog in the US, which was started in 1930.
In Australia, there are a few magazines such as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and publishing houses such as Twelfth Planet Press, which like to publish anthologies and collections of short stories. One of the books from the latter, Asymmetry, was reviewed by Mark Webb, who admired Thoraiya Dyer’s ‘thematic exploration of power imbalances’ across her four stories, and thought the book was a ‘great way to get exposed to one of Australia’s most talented writers in the short form.’ This book was also reviewed by Dave Versace, who was similarly impressed with it.
Also published by Twelfth Planet Press is a volume of two novellas: Thoraiya Dyer’s The Company Articles of Edward Teach, and The Angælien Apocalypse by Matthew Chrulew. Tsana loved Dyer’s story of two disaffected teenagers who are transported into pirate bodies, but found that Chrulew’s novella about the end of days ‘was severely not my sort of thing’, possibly because of thematic fatigue ‘over stories which riff off biblical ideas’.
Tsana also reviewed One Small Step: an anthology of discoveries edited by Tehani Wessely, which is the first all-female Aussie speculative fiction anthology. Tsana provided brief notes on each story in her review, and highly recommends the volume to ‘fans of the genre or to anyone looking to sample a variety of spec fic authors’.
Other speculative fiction collections included Felicity Dowker’s Bread and Circuses, reviewed by Narelle Harris. Narelle prepares her readers to be ‘creeped out, disturbed, challenged and thoroughly (if sometimes unwillingly) captivated’ by these stories that, ‘imbued with a sense of female power’, feature urban settings, domestic violence, love and revenge.
Maree Kimberly reviewed Angela Slatter’s The Girl with no Hands on GoodReads, describing her writing as ‘sumptuous’. She ends with the recommendation: ‘If you’re a lover of fairy-tales, beautiful writing and stories that take you to worlds beyond our own, you’ll love The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales.’ Angela has just won a Queensland Writers Fellowship, so more work will be coming to her fans soon!
There were a handful of reviews in the romance genre. Brenda of GoodReads recommended Margaret Lynette Sharp’s 25 Stories of Life and Love in Australia ‘to to lovers of short stories, romance and the light easy read’, while Lauren reviewed Memories of Love, the third novella by Jenny Schwartz, describing it as ‘a sweet, short story about two people who have many fears that find a way to overcome this together.’
In the genre of literary fiction, Erin Golding reviewed Amanda Curtin’s Inherited. Erin found the stories, which ‘are about what matters most in life, of what we leave behind when we die, of the longing that can ruin us, of regrets and desires and choices, and questions that may never get answered’, were infused with a ‘deep sense of loss and melancholy’ that made them difficult for her to read. Yet despite this, she thought the writing beautiful.
James Tierny reviewed Jennifer Mills’ The Rest is Weight, noting its themes of centre and margin. Mills, he writes, ‘is concerned with characters at the edge of things, whose actions and thoughts make them central’, and these characters ‘loop around a centre’, which might be ‘an idea, a family, a crime, or the idea of more.’ In terms of her plotting, he comments, ‘the through line on many of these stories is taut until relief snaps or slackens it’, while the stories in the collection as a whole ‘fall across the page in unexpected patterns like a rope suddenly cut loose.’ The overall impression of Mills’ stories after reading James’ review is one of tension: between inside and outside, tiny and large, spoken and unspoken, and taut and slack – a wide range which mirrors the titles covered in this roundup.
With a wealth of diverse stories out there, it should be easy to find something to pick up while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. I look forward to seeing what else readers discover over the next few months.
I’m Jessica White, a writer and researcher. I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012). My short stories have been published in Overland, Southerly, Island and the Review of Australian Fiction. You can find more information about me at my website. I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.