Until recently, I hated reading short fiction. Every time I had a choice between reading a novel or a collection of short stories, I almost always picked the novel.
If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would’ve rattled off a long list of problems I had with short stories: they refused to give me the sense of closure I looked for in my fiction, they were sometimes too experimental for my tastes, they didn’t give me time to fall in love with their characters and worlds, they omitted important context required to really understand what was going on. I could go on for days.
However, earlier this year, I decided I wanted to learn to enjoy reading short fiction. I figured that the only reason I didn’t find it as much fun as reading novels was that I hadn’t been exposed to enough short stories that moved me. My frustrations were born out of an unfamiliarity with the form, which had a simple fix in my eyes: just read a lot of short stories.
So I purchased recent issues of a few popular short fiction magazines from Weightless Books. I also bookmarked some of the freely available stories on the Internet and dusted off the anthologies I already had on my bookshelf.
Slowly over the past year, I’ve worked my way through all these story collections. The experience has been a mixed bag, fun on some days, frustrating on others. But one weekend in October, I found myself looking forward to spending my entire day exclusively reading short fiction!
It was gratifying to discover that my initial hunch was correct: to enjoy reading short fiction, I just had to expose myself to as much of it as possible. It was sort of like getting used to a new genre of music by listening to a lot of it for a few weeks.
Besides mere exposure, there were two shifts in my approach to reading that helped me appreciate short stories. First, I learned to be okay with not getting a sense of closure from everything I read. And second, I let go of the expectation that I’d enjoy or even tolerate every story in a collection. They can’t all be zingers.
I’m glad that I went through with this exercise. Reading short stories is a different kind of pleasure compared to novels, and I’m happy that I’m finally able to find joy in this form of storytelling as well.
Here are some of the stories I enjoyed reading this year:
- Pop Art by Joe Hill (from 20th Century Ghosts)
- Bridget Has Disappeared by Tamika Thompson (from Interzone 292-293)
- Over Moonlit Clouds by Coda Audeguy-Pegon (from Apex 136)
- Blood is Another Word for Hunger by Rivers Solomon (from Tor.com)
- The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin (from The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, also available on various university websites)
- Lena by qntm (from Valuable Humans in Transit and Other Stories)