I am very, very picky about short stories. I have to be really excited about an author or anthology concept to not instantly drop a book once I realize it’s a collection of short stories. But they are an essential part of the science fiction genre, so I’ve invited a true fan to share her recommendations with you. Dr. Teika Bellamy is founder and editor-in-chief of Mother’s Milk Books, a small press publishing books that normalize breastfeeding and celebrate femininity and empathy. She is also an author, poet, and artist, and the kind of person who creates support networks for those working in small presses and publications. You can follow Teika on Twitter at @MarijaSmits and @MothersMilkBks.
Although lamentations of the death of the literary short story seem to come (and go) in a fairly regular cycle, short stories have always been a popular staple of the science fiction genre.
Of course there are your “big” magazines and publishers, from whom you can get your fix of contemporary sci-fi stories, but, in my opinion, it’s the small indie presses that are doing the really interesting things. So… here are five indie publishers who are doing exciting things with the short story form.
1) Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is the much-loved zine of the excellent Small Beer Press (based in the US). Printed on recycled paper, LCRW isn’t a glossy “look at me” kind of magazine, but it is one that’s packed full of original and imaginative speculative stories, as well as poetry. Go grab a copy (or download an e-version). You’ll be seriously impressed.
2) Another magazine packed full of high-quality short stories is Shoreline of Infinity, (edited by Noel Chidwick who’s based in Edinburgh, Scotland). As the title suggests, the published stories lean towards the “harder” side of sci-fi, but equally, these stories are full of heart (and humanity). Thought-provoking articles, a comic strip, interviews, reviews and illustrations accompany the stories, making for a well-rounded and eminently readable magazine.
3) When You Lived Inside The Walls, by Krishan Coupland is a collection of 3 speculative stories (a “thumbprint”) published by Stonewood Press in the UK. The design of the slim booklet is stunning (the small, though highly detailed, illustrations within are excellent), as are the words. Krishan is an exceptional writer, and being an editor too (of Neon Books, in the UK) it’s clear that he knows how to craft a successful (and utterly engaging) short story.
4) So, okay, I’m biased when it comes to A Practical Guide to the Resurrected (I have a short story within it) but I can honestly say that the short stories within are of an exceptionally high calibre. And it also happens to include a story from one of my favourite authors: Adam Roberts. His short story is incredible – I went from thinking I was reading an authentic piece of legalese to then getting very angry about the evilness of pharmaceutical companies to then completely changing my mind, finally coming to the conclusion that actually, they’re pretty wonderful. For an author to sway the reader in such a manner takes immense skill. But then again, when it comes to literary sci-fi Roberts really is a master of the genre. Sadly, the indie press behind the anthology, Freight Books, is not doing so great… So whether or not A Practical Guide to the Resurrected will ever be publicly available is another matter entirely. But if any other publisher were to pick up the book, I’m absolutely sure they wouldn’t regret it.
5) 2084. I won’t say too much about this because, happily enough, I’m officially reviewing this for Shoreline of Infinity, but I will say this: 20 talented speculative fiction authors imagine the year 2084. And the anthology is published by the innovative and very cool Unsung Stories. What’s not to like?!
I hope that the above list inspires some readers to explore the offerings of these small presses. I found it incredibly difficult to pick just 5 books/presses (I also wanted to mention Comma Press and a whole host of other publishers and magazines) but I just had the 5! Maybe I can come back another time with more recommendations…