A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick – a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart. –Neil Gaiman
Short stories are an infinitely flexible and powerful literary form. Reading shorts is an excellent way to experiment with different genres and authors. It's also a great way to jumpstart a reading habit and expand your reading repertoire. Here's a roundup of some staff favorite short stories and story collections!
Veldt by Ray Bradbury
My favorite short story is Veldt by Ray Bradbury. I love Veldt as a short story as I love to feel unnerved by my reads, and Ray Bradbury is clearly a master of building dread as demonstrated in this science fiction/horror short story. From the get-go readers know something is awry, and the feeling only intensifies as the story progresses quickly to it's climax. The story is available in The Young Oxford Book of Nasty Endings and online.
I’ll read anything with dragons in it, and this anthology more than meets that requirement. I was initially drawn by the many heavy hitting authors such as R.F. Kuang, Peter S. Beagle, Ken Liu, Daniel Abraham (aka James S.A. Corey), Ann Leckie, and Scott Lynch, but discovered several new-to-me authors as well. While I find most anthologies tend to be more than half made up of stories that don’t meet my tastes, almost every story in this work was fantastic. I particularly enjoyed "Hoard" by Seanan McGuire, in which a dragon takes on the role of foster parent for her hoard of children.
Be sure to check the similarly titled Dragon Book, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, available as an ebook.
Button, Button by Richard Matheson
Choosing just one favorite short story is very difficult, if not impossible! But there's one short story that's been on my mind quite a bit in the COVID era: Button, Button by Richard Matheson. It was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode in 1986 and the movie The Box in 2009. In the story, a stranger gives a financially struggling couple a box with a button on it. If they push the button, they will receive $50,000, and someone they don't know will die. For me, it reverberates at a time when we've had to make choices between our personal desires and the well-being of other people, even if they are strangers.
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
One of my favorite short stories is "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. The surprise of it all is what I love about this story! At the beginning, the reader doesn't understand what's going on. A community of believers pick straws for an event. No one protests, but at the end the winner protests when she discovers the true importance of winning.
My favorite short story collection is The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. This collection includes some of the creepiest and most original horror and science fiction stories from over the past 110 years or so. I would especially recommend “The Hospice” by Robert Aickman, “Sandkings” by George R. R. Martin, and “The Man in the Black Suit” by Stephen King.
A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman
One of my favorite short stories is Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald. I first read it in his short story collection Fragile Things and again in 2018 when it was made into a graphic novel by Rafael Albuquerque.
A Study in Emerald is based off and is an homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, A Study in Scarlet. This London is in a very different universe where things are not as they seem, yet mirror A Study in Scarlet just enough to seem like a Star Trek mirror universe episode. For anyone who is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and wants to see an eerie and dark twist, I highly recommend this short story.
Another favorite of mine is from the same book titled Other People. Somewhat theological, it is also one of his shorter, short stories, but still quite potent. It's a re-imagining of purgatory and the concept of penance. One of the best things about Neil Gaiman's work is the food for thought they provide. In my book, short stories provide the best delivery for quick bursts of creative inspiration that will keep you thinking a long while afterwards.
Gianni by Robert Silverberg
One of my longtime favorite short stories is the 1982 story Gianni by Robert Silverberg. This is a time-travel story in which 18th century Italian composer Giovanni Pergolesi time slips to near future Los Angeles. Pergolesi sets out to conquer the modern music business at any cost, joins a pop band, and falls into the familiar patterns that led to his premature death nearly three hundred years earlier.
More Staff Favorites
Fall into Fiction Short Story Contest
We're in the final week of our Fall into Fiction Short Story Contest. Everyone has a story to tell, and we'd love to read yours! Submit by 11:59 PM on September 30, 2022. Prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third place entries in each age category and entries will be available in digital collections on the Short Edition and Biblioboard platforms.
Short Story Book Club
The Short Story Book Club hosted by Bascom Branch meets over zoom at 5:00 PM on the second and fourth Thursday of the month.