The 2020 Short-Story Reading Challenge

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Chris P

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And back the 2020 Pushcart Prize.


49. "The effect of heat on poor people," by Farah Ali

Saba and Kamil feel the strain of a Karachi heat wave on their marriage, which was not very good to begin with.


50. "New bees," by Claire Luchette

A group of nuns drive to buy bees for their hives from an eccentric apiarist.
 
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Tocotin

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I... I'm here, too. I'm sorry for joining so late. I don't know how many stories I will be able to read this year, so I won't set any specific goal like I did last year (and failed miserably).


First, I'm going to try and finish all the anthologies I started last year. I finished Great Short Stories by American Women first; I read the following.

1. The Stones of the Village by Alice Dunbar-Nelson. It was a solid story about a Black man passing for White. I must say that I pretty much trembled the whole time, and rooted for the hero even though his actions were full-on questionable. It did make me want to read more by this author.

2. A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell was superb. It's beautifully structured, full of suspense and of compassion, and it has a good ending! It's about three women, one of them, Minnie, is temporarily in jail, because she's suspected to have murdered her husband, and the other two are "just women" (one is the sheriff's wife, one is Minnie's childhood friend) brought in to take some things Minnie might need in jail, and to answer the condescending questions from the men, who just can't be arsed to listen to those women properly, and so they lose without even knowing they did. From the looks of it, Minnie will be acquitted. (Is that a spoiler?)

3. Smoke by Djuna Barnes. Ha! I sort of knew what I was getting into, even though I hadn't read Djuna Barnes before. And I really did my best to understand, but I'm afraid I didn't do too well... there were some interesting, let's say, turns of phrase, but as a whole the meaning of the story eluded me.

4. Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston. This story was OK. I did feel bad for the main character, but there was some serious fat shaming going on, and to be honest I also felt bad and anxious for the snake. Also, I don't know why, but the use of the dialect in dialogue only was distracting; I didn't have the same problem with Their Eyes Were Watching God, though. Hmm.

5. Sanctuary by Nella Larsen. This one was short and powerful. It's about the strength and solidarity of the Black community in face of a tragedy. Can't really say more because I don't want to spoil it.

To sum it up, I am glad that I read this anthology. It introduced me to so many new authors! My favorite stories were A Jury of Her Peers, Paul's Case, The Storm and A White Heron – the latter possibly the favorite.


:troll

Please stay safe!
 

Chris P

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51. "Bad northern women," by Erin Singer

Four girls are caught between their insular homebody mother and ever-wandering father as summer approaches their Saskatchewan town. To the north lies freedom and its dangers, while in town lie the comforts of home and their dangers.


I'll be taking a break from short fiction for a bit. Perhaps this simply isn't the best year for the Pushcart Prize, or maybe I'm getting bored and overfed on the medium. I'll be back, though. I always am! :)
 

DanielSTJ

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I'm jumping in for this. I read short fiction daily and dropped out last year. I want to read, let's say, 250 stories this year. It's a high number, and I'll try to give mini reviews on each one- that seems to be the best way.

Looking forward to it! :D
 

Chris P

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Two more from Pushcart.


52. "Flour," by Joy Williams

I'm sure I've read others of hers, but I can't recall which ones. Anyway, a woman and a driver go on a road trip. This shorter than most story seems to somehow focus on a story from the extra-biblical Gospel of Thomas in which a woman carries flour in a broken jar. After reading the original story, I don't get this one.


53. "Stay there," by Leslie Pietrzyk

Judgemental and self-absorbed art professor Lexie and her much younger and former-student boyfriend Tay endure the inane chatter of an art show opening when she learns her high-level politician father has been stabbed and is not expected to live.


Neither of these stories did much for me. I think I need more time away from shorts to appreciate them again.
 

Chris P

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Back to Wendell Berry briefly.


54. "The Solemn Boy," by Wendell Berry

Tol Proudfoot meets a man and his son, neither dressed appropriately for the cold early winter day, on the road back home from harvesting his corn. The wanderers reluctantly accept Tol's hospitality, and remain stoic and nearly unresponsive until Tol pulls out all the stops to clown a reaction from the boy. As evidenced by an allusion to a Bible story, this is a very loose retelling of the angels visiting Abraham and Sarah to prophesy that Sarah will conceive.


55. "A Jonquil for Mary Penn," by Wendell Berry

A cute and pretty piece of writing. Mary Penn has taken ill with a cold, huddles up on the couch and reflects on her young life, her young marriage, and her place in the world while her husband Elton goes off to work.


56. "Turn back the bed," by Wendell Berry

Tol Proudfoot recalls a family get together from his childhood, where one thing leads to another in a series of increasingly whacky events.
 
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Lakey

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Look, I read a story! Another from the noir anthology.

20. “Il Grifone,” Valerie Martin, in Cutting Edge (2020)
A woman is confronted with the mysterious death 20 years before of a horrible, creepy, predatory, man whom she detested. I rather liked this one. The narrator has a nice natural, personable voice, and she is very sympathetic -- it's pretty ragemaking the way her husband dismisses/downplays/gaslights her complaints about the creepy man, and you can hardly blame her for taking matters into her own hands.

20/100 read, 15/50 from the last five years.

:e2coffee:
 

Lakey

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A really amazing deal today for short-story fans, everyone: 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Lorrie Moore, on sale in the Kindle store for $2.99. (I don’t know if it’s available outside the U.S.)

I obviously couldn’t resist this one. I have a ridiculous backlog of books — in general, but also of short-story books in particular; I’ve read some of these stories; I have others waiting already in other anthologies; but it was too good a deal to pass up, 40 great stories for three bucks.

Okay, back to my reading! Just a couple left in the noir anthology.

21. “Miss Martin,” Sheila Kohler, in Cutting Edge (2020)
A young girl and her stepmother form a surprising bond over the strong personality of her father. I liked the voice of this one and it built some interesting suspense, but I found the ending fizzled.

21/100 read, 16/50 from the last five years.

:e2coffee:
 
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Lakey

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I started another writing workshop this week, and the first assignment included:

22. “Brownies,” ZZ Packer (2003)
An absolutely lovely story about cruelty, kindness, punching up and punching down. A group of black Brownies (junior girl scouts) picks a fight with a group of white Brownies at a campsite. The dynamics within the group of black girls are fascinating and complex. I was happy to find a link to this story to share with all of you -- I recommend it.

22/100 read, 16/50 from the last five years.

:e2coffee:
 

Chris P

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I finished the 2020 Pushcart Prize anthology. Not the best year for this collection; I give it a "meh" overall.


57. "Bon voyage, Charlie," by Dan Pope

A newspaper reporter/photographer covers the deployment party of a group of fresh Marine recruits on their way to Iraq, then years later is contacted by the wife of one of the soldiers to do a followup on those wounded in combat.


58. "Chinko," by Samantha Libby

An international development worker spends a few days in the lawless bush town of Chinko in the eastern Central African Republic, and literally faces her inner beasts. I really connected with this psych/magical story, although I'm not sure I understand all of the elements. I'm pretty sure this is (very well done) creative non-fiction, but has enough fiction elements that I included it here.


59. "In that time," by Richard Bausch

I gave up on this one. The narrator, as a teen, has a conversation with Hemingway. I really dislike stories in which the main point is a fictionalized encounter or description of a historical figure. This is a shame, as I'm sure many of them are very well done. But to me most of these stories would have been just fine without the real-person connection, or come across as wish fulfillment on the part of the write to meet their hero or humiliate their villain.


60. "Infidels," by Joanna Scott

A man in Paris in the late 1880s suddenly loses his ability to read, but this allows him to see and interact with ghosts, including that of Victor Hugo. Set amid a fictional case study and fictional journal article references, the point of the story seems to be what we will lose as language becomes simplified and people become functionally illiterate.


61. "Oasis," by Deborah Forbes

The lonely housewife of an NGO worker in Lusaka, Zambia embraces an affair to escape the reality of where she is and what's going on around her. I struggled with this story. I have no right to tell a writer what they need to write about, there is a very solid place for stories about expat "helpers" remaining isolated from and clueless about the people they are professing to "help." This one, however, missed the mark for me.
 

Lakey

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ChrisP -- glad you finished the collection; sorry it didn't excite you this year. Though I get so much FOMO anxiety from all the story-reading you do -- it's comforting to know I don't have to feel bad about skipping that anthology. :D

Meanwhile, a couple of stories came up in discussions in my workshop, including:

23. “The Dinner Party,” Joshua Ferris, in The New Yorker (2018)
A couple gets stood up by old friends they have invited for dinner; after some worrying about them, the man goes to their apartment to make sure they are okay, and learns some unpleasant truths about the friendship. It's quite a gut punch of a story, and a superb example of building character through dialogue. The use of dialogue as the primary tool makes the story move very quickly and snappily; you get almost lulled by the witty repartee because it's so entertaining; then the story reminds you that there are humans on the receiving end of these verbal barbs, and they do draw blood.

23/100 read, 17/50 from the last five years.

:e2coffee:
 

Chris P

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The FOMO is all mine! You're at least writing :)
 

Lakey

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The FOMO is all mine! You're at least writing :)

Heh! It takes a workshop with a deadline to get me to do it.

I finished the last story in the noir anthology, and read another assignment for class.

24. “Assassin,” Joyce Carol Oates, in Cutting Edge (2020)
JCO saved her own story for last, and one has the sense that she had a great deal of fun writing this one, a vividly-voiced story about a bitter, delusional woman who murders the Prime Minister of Canada.

25. “A Temporary Matter,” Jhumpa Lahiri, in Interpreter of Maladies (1991)
This is a poignant story about grief that eats away at a marriage. Just when you think the story is veering toward a sweet hopeful ending, uh, it doesn't.

I am sure I read Interpreter of Maladies in the 90s. I might have thought that the stories in it would be at least vaguely familiar but I might as well have been reading this one for the first time. I wish I had a better memory. I feel like anything I read before 2010 I may as well not have read at all, unless I read it more than once. Even some of the things I have read more recently I can only vaguely remember. That's part of the reason I try to write something here about each story I read, and something on Goodreads about each book.

25/100 read, 18/50 from the last five years.

:e2coffee:
 

Tocotin

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I've been reading Lu Xün's "Call to Arms", and I read 3 more stories.


6. A Storm in a Teacup – it's a sort-of funny story about a boatman who has cut his queue after the fall of the Qing dynasty, and who, upon hearing the news of the restoration of Pu Yi to the throne, is afraid that he'd be executed. His family members are outright panicking. The writing itself is funny, but the situation is anything but.


7. Hometown – I loved this one. It's probably autobiographical, about a guy who returns briefly to his ancestral home before it is sold, and meets his childhood friend with whom he shares his most beautiful childhood memories, but who is poor and of a low social standing, and who now acts all scared and subservient. They succeed in overcoming their class differences (not without the help of the main character's mother) and having a brief, honest talk together, but then have to part again. Very touching and sad.


8. The True Story of Ah Q – wow. This is the most famous of Lu Xün's stories, and I can see why. It is very long, more a novella than a short story, and describes the life of the eponymous hero in a series of episodes. I purposely avoided learning anything about this story prior to reading it, but still I was able to tell almost straight away that it was meant as a huge general allegory of Chinese national character. It's full of anger and love at the same time; the main character is a thoroughly despicable person and yet my heart ached for him at the end. And I love how alive it is today, how certain elements and names from it are used in political satire and internet commentary.

:troll
 

Lakey

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At this rate it's going to take me a while to catch up to my goal pace. But, here was this week's assignment for class:

26. “Sonny's Blues,” James Baldwin
An absolutely lyrical and beautiful story that made my eyes sting several times. A man tries to reconnect with his brother, a jazz musician struggling with a heroin addiction. The way Baldwin paints the evolving relationship over their lives, the way he paints their mother in a few strokes, so much beauty in this story. Here is a passage that caught my breath:

James Baldwin said:
All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void an imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.

I often struggle with this kind of broad philosophizing in a story, without direct connection to a character or an action. (I'm struggling with it in Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping right now -- she's a wonderful writer, but there's an awful lot of it, and while it's very lyrical, it takes effort to comprehend, and I find my mind drifting until the characters reappear and the story resumes. It makes me feel like a philistine but there it is.) Baldwin here doesn't do too much of it, and it's just beautiful and right.

Anyway I highly recommend the Baldwin story. He also does marvelous things with narrative time -- if I could, I would print it out and study it further to mark all the time transitions and figure out how they work. (Unfortunately there is no printer in the place I'm hunkered down for the apocalypse.)

26/100 read, 18/50 from the last five years.

:e2coffee:
 
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Tocotin

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More Lu Xün – the last five stories in Call to Arms.

9. The Double Fifth Festival – this was supposedly autobiographical, but the main character was, in my opinion, a caricature of an aloof, apolitical Chinese scholar rather than the compassionate intellectual from Hometown. The story describes his troubles with the Republican government withdrawing payment to public officials, amongst them teachers; the main character does nothing, leaving actual protesting and finding money to his colleagues and his long-suffering wife. I must say that reading about his situation was a bit too close to home for me right now...

10. The White Light – it was a sad story about an old teacher from a once well-to-do family who has been trying, year after year, to pass government exams, and fails for the 16th time. When he returns home, he suddenly remembers an old family legend about a huge silver treasure which had been hidden somewhere by his ancestors – maybe on the premises, maybe somewhere else... No spoilers, but Lu Xün being the author, the story does not have a happy ending. (Apparently the main character Chen Shicheng was based on Lu Xün's uncle's tragic life story.)

11. Some Rabbits and a Cat – this was a simple story about a family of rabbits which the author's sister-in-law kept under the mulberry tree, and about the black cat who was suspected of murder by everyone, including the author. I read this with a lot of anticipation, and while there was no direct cruelty to animals described, I did not like the ending (frankly, I hope it was a joke).

12. A Comedy of Ducks – an extremely short, autobiographical story about a blind Russian poet Eroshenko's visit in Lu Xün's home in Beijing. Eroshenko loves animals and complains that unlike in other countries he's visited, he cannot hear any animals in Beijing at all. To make his friend happy, Lu Xün starts raising tadpoles in his lotus pond, and Eroshenko buys chicks for Lu Xün's sister in law. One day a lady selling ducklings comes to the house, Eroshenko can't resist the ducklings... This was a simple, cute story.

13. The last story – A Village Opera. What can I say, I loved this story, it's one of my favorites, or maybe *the* favorite of this author. Before reading this, I'd had Lu Xün pegged as a total pessimist, but now I am not so sure. A Village Opera is autobiographical, like a few of the previous stories, but it is not sad at all; it deals with a childhood memory of watching a village opera from the boat with friends and then sailing back home during a summer night – a memory that is beautiful through and through, and is contrasted with the feeling of boredom and reluctance the grown-up narrator feels whenever his acquaintances try to make him watch Peking opera in the city. The descriptions of his enforced encounters with Peking opera actually made me laugh out loud.

I'm happy I read this collection, but it wasn't the easiest to read, I'm happy I finished, I'm ready to move on to another one...

:troll
 

Lakey

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Tocotin, congratulations on finishing that collection. It bears repeating that you are reading those in Chinese, aren't you? That's so fantastic.

This week's reading assignment for class:

27. “The Night Rhonda Ferguson Was Killed,” Edward P Jones, in Lost in the City (1992)
A sad and tragic story about an orphaned girl drifting around among her friends and what's left of her family in Washington, DC. It's a good example of story structure mirroring story content -- there is a rambling, coincidental flavor to the events in it that mirrors the unmoored, itinerant nature of the narrator Cassandra's life. And then the story, like Cassandra's life, is interrupted by the lightning-strike of tragedy. Cassandra's tough-girl act, her efforts to harden herself and own her independence to the point that she even lashes out at her friends from time to time, is very moving. The story captures so well the bravado of a vulnerable teenager forced to grow up before she is ready.

27/100 read, 18/50 from the last five years.

I've fallen far off my pace. To fix it, I'll reach for some story collections as the next books I read. I usually have at least two books going at one time; one audiobook, and one "eyeball book," which might mean kindle or print. I have short-story collections to hand in each of these media, so as soon as I finish the books I'm reading now, expect me to start turning up here more frequently!

:e2coffee:
 

Chris P

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At this rate it's going to take me a while to catch up to my goal pace. But, here was this week's assignment for class:

26. “Sonny's Blues,” James Baldwin
An absolutely lyrical and beautiful story that made my eyes sting several times. A man tries to reconnect with his brother, a jazz musician struggling with a heroin addiction. The way Baldwin paints the evolving relationship over their lives, the way he paints their mother in a few strokes, so much beauty in this story. Here is a passage that caught my breath:



I often struggle with this kind of broad philosophizing in a story, without direct connection to a character or an action. (I'm struggling with it in Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping right now -- she's a wonderful writer, but there's an awful lot of it, and while it's very lyrical, it takes effort to comprehend, and I find my mind drifting until the characters reappear and the story resumes. It makes me feel like a philistine but there it is.) Baldwin here doesn't do too much of it, and it's just beautiful and right.

Anyway I highly recommend the Baldwin story. He also does marvelous things with narrative time -- if I could, I would print it out and study it further to mark all the time transitions and figure out how they work. (Unfortunately there is no printer in the place I'm hunkered down for the apocalypse.)

26/100 read, 18/50 from the last five years.

:e2coffee:

I read the Sonny's Blues story last year in the challenge, and I think I was too fascinated by the sociology to notice the writing (perhaps being able to present it in a fascinating way without calling attention to the writing is a sign of good writing). I think what a lot of "greater society" can't wrap its mind around is how two people could come up in the same environment yet have such different courses in life. Add the race aspect, as Baldwin did not shy from doing, and the societal expectations change. "He got out, why can't he?" As stories like this tell us, there's more to it than a desire or not to seize on opportunity, or equal access to opportunity even with similar circumstances. It's just not like that for many, many people.
 

Lakey

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I read the Sonny's Blues story last year in the challenge, and I think I was too fascinated by the sociology to notice the writing (perhaps being able to present it in a fascinating way without calling attention to the writing is a sign of good writing). I think what a lot of "greater society" can't wrap its mind around is how two people could come up in the same environment yet have such different courses in life. Add the race aspect, as Baldwin did not shy from doing, and the societal expectations change. "He got out, why can't he?" As stories like this tell us, there's more to it than a desire or not to seize on opportunity, or equal access to opportunity even with similar circumstances. It's just not like that for many, many people.

This is absolutely true, Chris, and absolutely what this story is about -- it comes through in the narrator's frustration with his brother and his brother's path. The narrator is repulsed by his brother's old friend, who he sees as part of the dead-end life that he escaped from. But he also sees his brother's jazz music as of a piece with it -- Sonny is just a lazy dreamer and look at the trouble it got him into, etc. -- until he hears his brother play and understands that there is something incredibly special in there that is being squelched by his brother's heroin addiction, and just by his being stuck in place without a way to escape. It's heartbreaking. What a story.

:e2coffee:
 

Chris P

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Still working through Wendell Berry.


62. "A Burden," by Wendell Berry

Uncle Peach is back, with his tall tales and whisky jug. This character/situation study details how old Peach was always trouble, and was passed around from one family member to another until falling into young lawyer Wheeler Catlett's reluctant care.


63. "A Desirable Woman," by Wendell Berry.

Newly married Laura Milby and her preacher husband arrive in the river town of Sycamore to pastor a church. The pressures of small-town scrutiny and the need for strict adherence to the most rigorous interpretations of the Gospel stifle the God-given urge for desire and wonder. Young and newly independent Tom Coulter arrives to work on a local farm, and the desire cannot be denied. Not quite as scandalous a story as it sounds, but very real and a strong example of Berry's talent for clever playfulness at wording and apt symbolism.


64. "Misery," by Wendell Berry

Andy Catlett narrates early memories of his grandparents' marriage, which was not a happy one. The two were simply too different, and the initial exoticism that attracted them in their younger years became a wedge as they struggle to cope in a changing world they didn't really understand.


65. "Andy Catlett: Early Education," by Wendell Berry

Young scamp Andy is incurably curious, frustrating his mother who has little time to keep the young man in line. Investigating questions regarding The Night Before Christmas leads to investigating the chimney, and learning Santa has not shot at floating up the chimney, nor keeping his white beard its pristine color.
 
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Lakey

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More stories! I finished both my audiobook and my latest eyeball book and so I'm going to go on a wee story binge.

First, a fantastic assignment for class:

28. “St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves,” Karen Russell (2005)
Oh WOW. I wish I had a link to this story to share with you all. I immediately put the collection it came from (same title) on my wish list. In the world of the story, a community of werewolves lives on the fringes of society. Lycanthropy skips a generation, so these werewolves have entirely human children -- genetically human, that is. Behaviorally, they are entirely lupine; they are raised by wolves, after all. The wolf-parents send these children to a human-run charity that aims to socialize them, and wacky hijinks ensue.

Now I am not in any way a paranormal fantasy reader -- my raving about this story transcends its subject matter, so if you're thinking "oh, that kind of story really isn't my thing," well, it isn't mine either. It's an astonishing piece of craft. It's crafted with magnificent humor -- the situation lends itself to humor and Russell doesn't take herself too seriously to use it. It's told from the truly alien POV of one of the girls. And it contains such fantastic tension between the girls' desire to assimilate and their terror of it... There's a story ChrisP and I read in last year's thread, "Come on, Silver," by Ann Glaviano, about a summer camp for girls, which I read as a rich metaphor for the socialization of girls and women, and it's pretty clear to me that there's something similar going on in "St Lucy's Home." For instance, the pack is alarmed by a girl who is failing to assimilate, but at the same time rather bitter toward a girl who assimilates too well. If that's not a metaphor for the contradictions and ever-shifting demands of patriarchy I don't know what is!

Just a fabulous story all around.

--

Next, I started a science fiction anthology (also not my usual genre) that I picked up in an Audible daily deal some weeks back. It's edited by Blake Crouch and contains stories by Crouch, NK Jemisin, Andy Weir, and a few others. The stories are a bit long, but I'll still call them short stories rather than novellas. The first story is:

29. “Ark,” Veronica Roth, in Forward (2019)
This is a lovely, satisfying story. A young woman works as a horticulturist in the last laboratory on Earth -- a huge asteroid is on its way, the rest of the planet has been evacuated, and Samantha and a handful of others are rushing to catalogue samples of plant and animal life to stow on what will be the final ships to leave. It's a pretty classic sci-fi premise, and it's the substrate for a tender story about human connection and what makes life worth living. It's beautifully written and very touching.

29/100 read, 19/50 from the last five years.


:e2coffee:
 
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Lakey

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The next story in the Sci Fi anthology is really more a novelette than a short story, but I will count it here anyway (it's my challenge! and I would not have read it except for the challenge).

30. “Summer Frost,” Blake Crouch, in Forward (2019)
Eh ... This is a pretty by-the-numbers AI story; it hits all the usual AI tropes. I'm not even a big reader in the genre and all felt pretty predictable and tropey to me. The writing isn't good enough to make up for that; it's flabby, a little cliche-laden, and told in a very irritating, distracting first-person present. That last is the biggest mistake of all, I think; if it has to be in present tense, close third-person present would have been better. On the other hand, maybe even that is just another way in which the writing isn't all that good; for instance, I might wonder why a first-person present narrator is giving detailed descriptions of her surroundings in the middle of a chase scene, but that's not really a first-person present problem -- it's a failure to correctly pace a chase scene problem. So, yeah, meh.

PS: The story is concerned with an idea called "Roko's Basilisk," which you can read about here -- it sounds to me like a bunch of laughable self-important tech-bro navel gazing, so I suppose it's not surprising that the story didn't affect me all that much.

30/100 read, 20/50 from the last five years.

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Lakey

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Zipping on through the Sci Fi anthology. I spent a lot of time doing chores today which meant a lot of audiobook time!

31. “Emergency Skin,” NK Jemisin, in Forward (2019)
This was cute -- a bit of a polemic, but clever and fun. Some years in the future, after a group of colonists have left Earth for ecologically ruined and established a highly elitist, racist, sexist colony, they send an operative back to collect samples of the HeLa cells that they need for their own genetically engineered way of life. What he finds is not the backward, destroyed planet he was led to expect, but a highly developed, friendly, egalitarian society that rather intrigues him. What's most interesting about this story is the way it is told -- the principal narrator is a jingoistic AI embedded in the operative's brain. So what you read is mostly the constant commentary of this AI addressed to the operative, mixed in with the dialogue of the people the operative encounters on Earth. You don't directly get any of the operative's interiority or anything he says to others.

32. “You Have Arrived at Your Destination,” Amor Towles, in Forward (2019)
Meh, this story fell completely flat for me. A man visits a fertility lab that is "contouring" the life of his as-yet-unborn son. What he learns there shakes his worldview. He then gets drunk and makes an ass of himself.

33. “The Last Conversation,” Paul Tremblay, in Forward (2019)
I almost pulled the plug on this second-person story that seemed incredibly pretentious and incomprehensible in its first few minutes. I'm glad I stuck with it because it rather grew on me. A man awakens after an indeterminate long sleep -- a coma? stasis? -- and is slowly coached back into his memories by a doctor whom he suspects is not being completely honest with him about who or where he is. This one, incidentally, has a pandemic angle that is considerably more chilling today than when it was published last year.

Just one more story to go in this collection, an Andy Weir story about quantum computing that so far is proving to be a ton of fun. I'll finish it tonight, most likely.

33/100 read, 23/50 from the last five years.

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Lakey

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Aaaaand as promised the last story in the wee sci-fi collection.

34. “Randomize,” Andy Weir, in Forward (2019)
This is a very cute heist story, despite a couple of vast, gaping plot holes. I like heist stories, I enjoyed that the instrument of the heist is a quantum computer with entangled memory bits, and I like that the mastermind is a woman genius from India. So it is an enjoyable story, notwithstanding the plotting problems.

If any of these stories sound enjoyable to you, I should mention that they are all available individually on Amazon as well as in the full collection. I think the prices include both the kindle version and the audiobook narrations (which were quite good). Here's the Amazon page about them.

34/100 read, 24/50 from the last five years.

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