Recommend short fiction


We’re in a golden age of short speculative fiction. Great ideas, beautiful prose, compelling characters—there’s no shortage of good shit.

What have you read and loved recently?

To start, I want to recommend Sara Saab’s “Suddenwall” from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #220.

“Suddenwall” is about what happens after the war is over and all the soldiers—some of whom did terrible things during the fight—must go home and try to resume their normal lives. Saab deftly sketches the world and her characters in just a few thousand words, and her sentence-level writing is a true pleasure to read. I don’t want to give too much away, but the central conceit in this story is a brilliant metaphor for isolation and alienation. Strong recommend.

(eta: a link to the story)


When I used to teach English, I used this short story to inspire my pupils for their folio work- it’s so short, it’s written in second person, and the final line is so lyrical.

“Accident” by Dave Eggers -


I mentioned it somewhere else on the forums but “Northeast Regional” by Emma Cline is fantastic short story. She also wrote a book called “The Girls” a year or two ago that I"m reading right now.


As mentioned in the Watcha Reading thread, been reading The Books of Blood recenetly - and In the Hills, the Cities really stands out to me for just being so absolutely bizarre. The descriptions of the people being mangled as the flesh titans move sent shivers down my spine. Also the first story of Book 2, Dread, is the first story I’ve read in a long, long time to scare me.

I’ve also been reading some Robert W. Chambers - A Vintage From Atlantis is a really good story.


Collateral, by Peter Watts →


I recently finished George Saunders’ newest short story collection, Tenth of December and there is some really good stuff there.


Escape from spiderhead

Honestly, they’re all really good but those are the ones I enjoyed the most.

Additionally, Love by Grace Paley is an amazing story told about love in roughly 1000 words.
It’s read by Saunders in this podcast

I’ve been studying short stories recently so I have so many in my mind.


Might be pushing the definition of “speculative” but Heinrich Boll’s “Action Will Be Taken” is far and away my favorite short story of all time.


Admittedly, I’ve read most of these over the last few years, but they’ve also stuck with me, especially Jackalope Wives and The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere.

Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon

A Long Spoon by Jonathan L Howard

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu


I’ve been working my way through an the anthology “Invisible Planets”. It’s a collection of recently translated Chinese SF with some essays as well.


stories of your life! it’s a collection of sf short stories by Ted chiang, one of which is what the movie arrival is based on. every single one of those stories were incredibly imaginative and mindblowing.


The short story that pushed me to change to an English major in college (and unearthed some kind of unholy desire to be a writer) was Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Sort of a dark coming-of-age tale with the lightest dash of magical realism thrown in.

Also Ken Liu (…who is like the [relatively] new hotness. No, this guy is so good, do not sleep on him) put out a short story collection last year called The Paper Menagerie. I could easily pick out a story at random from that and recommend it but the first two stories: “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” and “State Change” are notable standouts. There’s also this wonderful transhumanism story called “The Waves.” So much good stuff in there.


kelly link’s ‘the game of smash and recovery’ is one of the most astonishing things i’ve ever read:

her story ‘the tomorrow people’ is wonderful also. honestly most of her work is.

my other favourite short fiction writer is sofia samatar, who is just… astonishing and beautiful and painful and funny by turns. full of empathy & understanding for everything that is small but feels big. or the other way around. she has a new book of stories out called ‘tender’ and i recommend it. here’s a story:

how do you find stories to read, new writers, etc.? are there particular magazines you subscribe to, people you follow on twitter or w/e who have good recs?


We read a story called A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings back in my college literature class, and it remains one of my favorite short stories to this day. I like the idea that, like in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, surreal and vaguely supernatural shit can just happen for no reason and with no explanation at all. Imogene’s Antlers is another story that does this, albeit for children. Magic realism is one of my favorite genres.


Not a shot work of fiction, but ‘Bacacay’ by Witold Gombrowicz is a fantastic and under appreciated collection of short stories (I say that like I’d know, but I am a dullard).


I usually just pick through the gatekeeper institutions honestly, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, McSweeny’s. I would also love to know where to get great writing without these major literary establishments.


Two really spooky stories. First is Procession of the Black Sloth, by Laird Barron. The ending made me wince!

The second is Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass, by Bruno Schulz. I think it’s better in this case that you read it without knowing what you’re getting into. Not that there’s a twist: it’s just very hard to describe.

James Tiptree (Alice Sheldon) is very good too! And I’d second Kelly Link and Ted Chiang, they’re great.


Sam Alden’s Haunter is one of the coolest short comics i’ve ever read


There’s some great podcasts that relelease old-timey radio dramas, usually half-hour or so long. There’s Relic Radio that releases Sci-Fi stuff and The Horror which does, uhhh, horror. Get past the occasional bad audio quality and they’re some of my favorite podcasts out there.

Most of my short story reading takes place in a larger contexts of a world. The Amber Monolith and Tales from the Ninth World by Monte Cook are a short story and a collection respectively. They take place in the tabletop RPG setting Numnera which is this really cool crazy depiction of Earth 10 billion years from now, playing with the concept of civilizations that have risen and fallen literally millions of times and the idea of immortality on such a ridiculous scale. It’s fun.


Ted Chiang’s collected short stories in Story of Your Life and Others, though specifically that titular story, which is what the movie Arrival was based on. Each of the stories are evocative and thought provoking. He bounces from biblical stories to scifi tropes and knocks both of them out of the park. He does such a good job of couching the narrative of what’s happening within his character’s perspectives that it’s sort of maddening. It feels like reading a magic trick.


Jorge Luis Borges