Guest Blog: Author/Editor Victoria Hooper on Her #StoryEachNight Experience
Victoria Hooper is a writer and editor living in Nottingham (U.K.) with her husband and imaginary panther. (Ha! My imaginary lemur will kick her imaginary panther’s hiney any day! But I digress…) She is the editor of Polluto, a Spectrum Fantastic Art award winning magazine that publishes speculative, bizarro, weird, surreal and counter-cultural fiction. She is passionate about books and stories of all genres, but holds a special place in her heart for anything science fiction or fantasy. Victoria graciously volunteered to offer her own two cents about #storyeachnight, and came prepared with a list of stories she particularly enjoyed and recommends to readers of Laughing at the Abyss.
Anyone who likes short stories knows that they can often be overlooked, or else considered a kind of ‘proving ground’ or foundation for writers before moving on to novels. This isn’t entirely untrue; many of the skills that will aid an author of novels can be learned through writing and submitting short stories – writing skill, structure, characters, originality, voice, and, most importantly, how to deal with constant rejection and criticism in a constructive way.
The thing is, all of those skills can also be learned through writing novels. Short stories themselves are not the answer to gaining a fabulous career as a writer, though they probably won’t hurt. Not all authors are very good at writing shorts, either. And, believe it or not, there are plenty of writers who only write short stories, as well as a lot of readers who enjoy the short for what it is, not for what it could help the author to become. So to talk about short stories in terms of their worth to novel writers is to ignore everything else that a short story can be.
This is one of the things that I have particularly enjoyed about #storyeachnight. Story Each Night is a challenge started by Nicole Cushing, based on the advice of Ray Bradbury, to read one short story every day and tweet about it with the hashtag #storyeachnight. There are no rules or enforcers – if you miss nights, it doesn’t matter – just a group of people enjoying short stories and sharing what they have read with each other. Reading those tweets is a great reminder of how much short stories can affect people, how fun they can be, or how moving, how scary or disturbing, and how brave or genre-breaking. …Or how awful; there are certainly some bad short stories out there too!
Participating in #storyeachnight has also pushed me to find new sources of short stories, so that I’m not reading the same authors every time. One of the things that I’ve noticed is how much easier it is to find a diverse mix of writers when reading short stories than it seems to be when reading novels – writers from many different countries and cultures, male and female, LGBTQ. These stories show the world from a perspective that is often lost or ignored in other media, sometimes opening up new ideas or rejecting old rules of genre, sometimes simply telling a very good story.
I’ve been joining in with #storyeachnight since the beginning of this summer, and already I’ve read so many fantastic stories. It’s actually quite rare that I read a bad one; perhaps short story standards are extremely high in general, or perhaps I’ve just been looking in the right places! Reading short stories is a great way to discover new authors, and since I’ve started this challenge my TBR pile has grown to spectacular heights (as if I needed to add any more to it). It would be hard to pick one favourite from the list I’ve read so far, so I decided I would share ten of the best, which can all be read for free online, instead. So, in no particular order:
The Paper Menagerie, by Ken Liu. This story won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. It’s hardly surprising. The story is so well written, moving, and heartbreaking.
Reflection, by Jessica E. Kaiser. One of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read, from an unusual but ingenious perspective. A very well told story that plays with gender expectations, and beautifully examines the human motivations behind the fairy story.
You Were She Who Abode, by E. Catherine Tobler. I can’t actually say much about this without giving too much away. A very clever and incredibly emotional story.
Immersion, by Aliette de Bodard. This is a story about globalisation, race, image, and the harmful ways in which one culture can be drowned out or dismissed by another. It’s extremely effective, and very well written. I had a hard time choosing which of Aliette de Bodard’s stories to recommend as I’ve read a few as part of #storyeachnight and have loved them all. I’d also very much recommend her stories set in the Xuya universe – try Shipbirth, The Shipmaker, and Scattered Along the River of Heaven.
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/de_bodard_01_12/ (Scattered Along the River of Heaven)
http://ttapress.com/downloads/the-shipmaker.pdf (The Shipmaker)
Electric Sonalika, by Samit Basu. A really fun and creative retelling of a traditional fairy story, with a science fiction flavour. The fairytale references are subtle throughout most of the story, kicking in at the end with a nice twist.
Sexagesimal, by Katharine E. K. Duckett. A beautiful story with a very original depiction of the afterlife.
The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees, by E. Lily Yu. This story was nominated for a Hugo Award this year, and although it didn’t win, the author did win an award for Best New Writer. It’s easy to see why. This story is so imaginative and different, and beautifully written.
Tiger Stripes, by Nghi Vo. This story is so different from anything I’ve ever read before. It has a folklore-ish feel to it, and it builds the relationship of the central characters so believably despite their unusual situation.
Honey Bear, by Sofia Samatar. An intriguing story that slowly unravels into something incredibly sad, and more than a little sinister. Great twist on a traditional fantasy element.
Zero Bar, by Tom Greene. A powerfully told story about race and prejudice. This is hard-hitting and moving.
Thanks for the recommendations, Victoria!
Tomorrow, the #storyeachnight blog series concludes with a guest post from author Michael Haynes.