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Old 07-31-2008, 09:59 PM
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Default Great Short Stories

I love short stories just as much as I love novels, but good discussion or even recommendations of short stories seems much rarer than the equivalent for novels. I guess this is me trying to counter that a little, by discussing some of my favorites from a number of genres.

Jorge Luis Borges
Not only my favorite short story author but one of my top 3 authors period. Probably Argentina's most famous writer. Some of his stories are metaphysical or philosophical horror stories, and he seems to have had a underlying fear of mirrors and the concept of infinity (in many incarnations, be it infinite life, infinite space, or even just the abstract concept). In contrast many of his stories concern rural and gaucho lifestyles in Argentina, complete with bandits, revolutionaries and plenty of knife fights. Borges loved to play with literary form and presentation and while he himself is classified as a modernist some of his work in this area certainly presages postmodernism (example: he never wrote any novels, but sometimes when he had an idea for a novel he would pretend it was already written and write either a review or a literary criticism of it). Some personal favorites:

Tlon Uqbar: Orbis Tertius: A epistemological horror story concerning the idealism of Berkeley.

The Immortal: A story concerning the implications of immortality.

Library of Babel: http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscor..._of_babel.html I'll let the story speak for itself, its quite short (the above isn't my favorite translation, but its not bad).

The Garden of Forking Paths: A story thats central concept is strikingly similar to the many worlds theory of quantum mechanics, even though it predates that by a number of years.


G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton wrote everything from novels to poetry to essays on all the topics of his day but what we are concerned with here is his Father Brown stories. I am generally not a big fan of mystery fiction (well unless its really noir-ish or melded with another genre) but I make a major exception for the Father Brown stories, they are so fucking fantastic. The stories are full of wit, humor, beautiful prose and extremely well crafted mystery. I'm not gonna list any specifics but instead will link to the Project Gutenberg version of the first collection if Father Brown stories: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/204


Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe is a science fiction/fantasy writer best known for his The Book of the New Sun series. His writings very commonly have major themes dealing with personal identity and the nature of memory. While Wolfe's work is perfectly satisfying to read strictly on the surface level there are usually enigmas and depths to explore. Wolfe plays fair, he gives you the information to put things together. What he doesn't do is coddle you, he's probably only going to say something once. Some favorites:

Golden City Far: Won a Locus award. In many ways a parallel of Wolfe's Wizard Knight pair of novels (although not in any way directly connected). A coming of age story, with swords and stuff.

A Solar Labyrinth: A story concerning a labyrinth of a most unusual construction.

Parkroads: A rather Borgesian story, in the form of a movie review.

Redwood Coast Roamer: A set of four extremely short stories (one and a half pages each or so), the first of which is my probably my favorite thing Wolfe has written.


James Joyce
Not really gonna say much on Joyce, there is certainly no lack of writing about the man's work. I will say that the final short story in Dubliners, The Dead, is one of my all time favorite short stories; mainly due to its ending.


Samuel Delany
Another great science fiction author. Often deals with language and human sexuality. I strongly recommend Empire Star, at around 90 pages I guess its a novella and not a short story but oh well. Empire Star reminds me of a Celtic knot in structure, zoomed in so close that you can't see the knot, you can only follow the strand of the knot you are on. Near the end of it the focus pulls back, and you can see the knot as a whole, and how it weaves into itself over and over.

I am looking forward for recommendations of other good short fiction.

Last edited by ravinoff; 07-31-2008 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 07-31-2008, 10:17 PM
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Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."
No details. Just read it. The less you know, the better.
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Old 07-31-2008, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."
No details. Just read it. The less you know, the better.
i had to read this in class. i liked it a lot. i was then known as the effed up kid.
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Old 07-31-2008, 10:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."
No details. Just read it. The less you know, the better.
That is a great story. I need to reread it, its been probably 10 years or more since the last time I did
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:06 PM
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ernest hemingway. say what you will about the man's novels; his short stories are among the best in the language.
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:15 PM
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Ray Bradbury is probably my favorite short story author. Of the collections I've read I'd recommend the Illustrated Man because it contains my favorite short story ever, "Kaleidoscope." Though you can't really go wrong when you're reading Bradbury.

I'd also recommend "A Study in Emerald," by Neil Gaiman. It's Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft crossover fiction and it is awesome.
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:30 PM
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shivam: While I have mixed feelings about his novels (liked Old Man and the Sea, didn't care for the Sun Also Rises) I have never read his short fiction, I shall rectify that.

Figure Four: A Study In Emerald is a great story, Gaiman's short stories in general are very entertaining. Another Gaiman story with ties to Lovecraft's mythos is Shoggoth's Old Peculiar.

shivam's suggestion of Hemingway reminds me of another truly exceptional author of short fiction, Herman Melville. Melville's short fiction contain most of his strengths and very few of his weaknesses. Anyone who tried to read Moby Dick and enjoyed the prose but got bored with the story, or the pacing of the story I strongly suggest looking into Melville's short stories and novellas.
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:34 PM
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I can't help noticing this thread lacks H.P. Lovecraft as anything but a comparison. I suggest reading the man himself. If you haven't already.
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Old 08-01-2008, 12:38 AM
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"On Meeting the 100% Perfect Woman" by Haruki Murakami
(title might be slightly different, but you'll know it when you see it)

This is the best short story ever.

Other than that, Hemingway's stuff.
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Old 08-01-2008, 12:52 AM
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Isaac Asimov's The Last Question.
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Old 08-01-2008, 01:05 AM
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"A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease" by Jonathan Safran Foer was a really good one we read in class. Kind of experimental but it works.
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Old 08-01-2008, 01:06 AM
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Cordwainer Smith. You can get it all in the combined volume The Rediscovery of Man. Check your library, or just order it straight. In particular:

Mark Elf
Scanners Live in Vain
The Lady Who Sailed The Soul
Think Blue, Count Two
The Game of Rat and Dragon
The Dead Lady of Clown Town
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Old 08-01-2008, 01:22 AM
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Most everything by Akutagawa Ryunosuke.

I've been reading a lot of him recently, and I've been really impressed by almost all of it. They're also almost all really, really short, so you have no excuse not to read read him. They range from bizarre supernatural/mythological stuff to crime dramas to original fairy tales to fables to fairly straightforward realism and everything in between, so there's something for everyone.

If you're a Japanese speaker, you can even read him for free on Aozora Bunko).

If you only read one, try "In a Grove (藪の中)," which was the basis for the movie Rashomon. (His story "Rashomon" was, fairly obviously, also another source for the movie, but "In a Grove" is actually where most of the plot and the structure comes from.) I don't want to say anything about this if somehow you've both managed to never read this story or see Rashomon, because the basic premise is fun enough that it's best not to spoil it.
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Old 08-01-2008, 03:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IssunBug View Post
I can't help noticing this thread lacks H.P. Lovecraft as anything but a comparison. I suggest reading the man himself. If you haven't already.
And if anyone needs something more specific than that, I'd have to recommend "The Rats in the Walls." Definitely my favorite Lovecraft story, and not just because one of the chapters of Eternal Darkness is clearly heavily influenced by it.

In 7th grade-ish, I remember reading a Vonnegut short story that left a pretty big impression on me. I can't remember the title, but it was about a future where the talented and gifted are handicapped so that everyone in society is equal. This sound familiar to anyone?
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Old 08-01-2008, 03:30 AM
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My favorite short story is Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:03 AM
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Great short stories? Ender's Game comes to mind, does that count?
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosencrantz View Post
My favorite short story is Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.
There was a super low-budget Canadian movie adaptation of Harrison Bergeron. A family friend had a bit part in it.
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dhroo View Post
In 7th grade-ish, I remember reading a Vonnegut short story that left a pretty big impression on me. I can't remember the title, but it was about a future where the talented and gifted are handicapped so that everyone in society is equal. This sound familiar to anyone?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosencrantz
My favorite short story is Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.
I had to read Harrison Bergeron for a college English class, it was pretty good.

I was always fond of Ursula Le Guin's One Who Walks Away from Omelas.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brian is a pretty good Vietnam War short story as well, from what I remember.

Last edited by kaisel; 08-01-2008 at 07:12 AM.
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:04 AM
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"The Interlopers" by Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) is one of my favorites. Actually, any of his short stories are pretty solid.
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:18 AM
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Sam Shepard has a couple of short story collections out that I like a lot- Cruising Paradise and Great Dream of Heaven, with the former being the better of the two. They're like the distilled essence of his plays, if you're familiar with them.
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shivam View Post
ernest hemingway. say what you will about the man's novels; his short stories are among the best in the language.
Yeah, this. "Nothing happens" is a terrible concept for a novel but a delicious concept for a short story.
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Old 08-01-2008, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
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Ray Bradbury is probably my favorite short story author. Of the collections I've read I'd recommend the Illustrated Man because it contains my favorite short story ever, "Kaleidoscope." Though you can't really go wrong when you're reading Bradbury.
Much as I like The Martian Chronicles and parts of The Illustrated Man, I think you absolutely can go wrong with Bradbury if you're reading most of the stuff in I Sing The Body Electric, which I hated.

As far as Lovecraft, my favourites are The Colour Out of Space and The Whisperer In Darkness, though they may be a bit too long to qualify as short stories, and I'm not starting a novellas thread. Oh, also, The Statement of Randolph Carter still creeps me out.

As for my favourite short story author, I might go with Franz Kafka. The Complete Stories is an amazing book.
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Old 08-01-2008, 10:46 AM
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Not mentioned yet:

I recently read a collection of Robert Zelazny's short stories and they were some of the best Sci-Fi stuff I had read in short form.
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Old 08-01-2008, 10:56 AM
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I was given a collection of Hemingway's short stories for Christmas, and boy are they boring. Tales of hunting, gambling, fishing, cooking, fur skinning and other outdoors stuff with maybe some drama about a pregnancy or a man disagreeing with his wife on something. I can't recall all of it accurately now, but I must have received all of Hemingway's more boring stories that I wouldn't want to read and labor through again. They were written when he was really young, so that might be it.

I'm trying to remember that Flannery O'Conner story where the family gets murdered by a God-worshipping hitchhiker.
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:12 AM
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estragon: Rashomon and In a Grove are the only two Akutagawa Ryunosuke stories I have read, they were both in a little booklet that came with the Criterion DVD of Rashomon. I have always intended on reading more because those were two excellent stories.

ajr82: I can't believe I forgot Kafka in my initial post, holy crap are his stories mind searingly fantastic. He is truly one of the masters of the short story format.

dizzy: I think the Flannery O'Connor story you are referring to might be A Good Man is Hard to Find, except I don't remember the murderer being a hitchhiker or a god worshiper, so maybe not. I find the pervading nihilism present in O'Connor's writing interesting considering she was a devout Catholic.
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:23 AM
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Hemingway is a man's man, and writes about manly things. Yes, they don't really talk about much, but his artistry is evident. One of my favorite stories by him, for instance, features a scene where the hero slices into an onion and makes it into a sandwich. yes, it seems ridiculously mundane, but man, it was a super evocative scene.

also, Joyce's Arabesque is my favorite by him.
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:37 AM
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Edgar Allan Poe -- particularly his seminal work in detective fiction, which usually gets overshadowed by his horror stuff. If you didn't already read it in high school, check out "The Murders of the Rue Morgue."
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:48 AM
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Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch are both masters of the format.
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:54 AM
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Ray Bradbury's All Summer In a Day is one of my favorites. Please read it if you have yet to, it's very short, only about 4 pages long.

Also, if you've been heard a reference to "hunting the most dangerous game....MAN!!" in a movie or show (like The Simpsons), they can all be traced back to this story: The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell. It's not great, but it's an interesting concept. My 8th grade teacher said once we read it, we'd never forget it, and I haven't, but only because I keep seeing it show up in pop culture every now and then.

I can't find a link to it, but I really enjoyed Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream".
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kishi View Post
Edgar Allan Poe -- particularly his seminal work in detective fiction, which usually gets overshadowed by his horror stuff. If you didn't already read it in high school, check out "The Murders of the Rue Morgue."
I don't know, Rue Morgue is pretty good, but I don't see any reason why anyone would ever want to read "The Mystery of Marie Roget".
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