Reading More Short Fiction

Every year I miss out on some amazing short fiction. Last year, I missed a lot. I am starting to fill out my Hugo Nomination ballot, and I’ve been reminded how much I have neglected the short fiction magazines and websites. Except for Tor.com, which I dropped into occasionally. Now the big question for me is whether I want to have a month long blitz to read some of 2020’s most recommended stories, or if I should instead start diving into some new magazines so I don’t run into the same problem next year.

Either way, I wanted to make this post to just so I can gush over Rocket Stack Rank. It’s a site I’ve used quite a few times over the years – especially this time of the year – and it’s a great place to find great short stories. The whole idea of Rocket Stack Rank is to allow casual SF fans to find and discuss original short fiction. Since RSR has been nominated for a Hugo Award multiple times in the past, I am probably preaching to the choir here, but considering just how useful this site is for finding good short fiction, I don’t want anyone to miss it.

Every month RSR makes a list of Novellas, Novelettes and Short Stories that have been well reviewed. Each story comes with a score, a synopsis, the publication it appeared in, length, and most conveniently, an estimation of how long it’ll take to read. If the story is available for free online, RSR will provide a link to the story. They also let you know if there is an audio version available, and you can change how it lists stories. Personally, I find the “Length/ΣScore” option best. Rocket Stack Rank is just a super handy site and I recommend it to anyone who’d like to read more short fiction.

Here’s a link to Rocket Stack Rank’s January 2021 page, if you are interested in some of the latest SF stories.

Here’s a link to Rocket Stack Rank’s Best of 2020 page if you, like me, are looking back to see what you missed.

I’ve been catching up on a few novelettes lately. Reading Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir led me to read Muir’s short story The Mysterious Study of Dr. Sex, which is set in the same world. I liked it, but I don’t know if it offers much for strangers to the series. I also enjoyed Rich Larson’s How Quini the Squid Misplaced His Klobučar, which is an action-packed cyberpunk heist, and G. V. Anderson’s haunting haunted house story Hearts in the Hard Ground, which I actually did read last year. Both of these are from Tor.com, which has lately become my go to source of free short stories.

Tor.com publish a lot of work by queer authors and POC authors, which leads to a huge range of characters, settings and themes in their stories. They also publish all genres of speculative fiction, from hard science fiction to swords and sorcery. They are more known for their novellas, which I am a huge fan of. I think I’ve only ever found one Tor.com novella to be ‘meh’, and as I said in my ‘to read in 2021‘ post, there are plenty more on the way. I guess if I did New Year’s Resolutions, I’d make one to spend more time on the Tor.com site.

Maybe not just Tor.com. There are a ton of excellent publishers of short fiction out there, and this year I want to read at least one issue (or ten stories) of each of the following:

All but the first three on this list are available free online. There are a lot more magazines and webzines out there, but I think this checklist is a good start. With this checklist challenge, I’m hoping to read a lot of amazing shorter fiction this year and I’d encourage everyone to check out a couple of these places.

I remember once having a conversation with a friend about movies, in particular fantasy and science fiction movies. She gave me the ‘nothing new under the sun’ quote and said that the reason there were so many remakes is because people are out of ideas. I maintain though that any lack of creativity on Hollywood’s part can be attributed more to risk aversion to humanity running out of ideas. I feel that the cheaper a work of art is to make, the more freedom the creator has to experiment. I feel that this principle applies to stories too. The shorter they are, the more room they have to get crazy. That’s one reason why I am really keen to read more short fiction this year.

Happy Reading,

~ Lauren

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