Thursday 16 February 2017

Brief Thoughts On Short Stories And Essays

I used to consider myself to be a big fan of short stories, and somehow drifted away from reading them over the past couple of years. Trying to rectify that, I launched my Shorts on Sunday piece a few months ago, with the idea of showcasing some of my favourite shorts with brief recommendations. Before starting it, I made a list of 100 shorts that I was planning on featuring.

Then I tore the list up.

(Okay, it was an electronic list, so I deleted it, but somehow that sounds way less dramatic.)

I realised that with a few exceptions (Zen Cho's The Terracotta Bride, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, and a couple from various anthologies over the last 10 years) nearly ALL of my list was by a handful of authors. Arthur Conan Doyle, PG Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Lawrence Block and Roald Dahl have been particular favourites of mine for years. So my list unsurprisingly consisted mainly of those five. I don't think it was an awful list, to be honest. I would stand by every story I chose on it. But it was, to be blunt, monotonous. (And also super-white!) So I made a conscious effort to seek out more shorts to read so that I could feature them, and have been blown away by the amount of great stuff I've found. (I also shifted things slightly to include non-fiction as well as fiction, which has definitely been eye-opening as well - I've read so few collections of non-fiction up until now!)

Reading such a variety has reminded me that one of the main things I love about short stories and essays - as well as the impact of the pieces themselves - is the way I can find so many new authors, and go on to seek out more of their work. Since reading shorts by them I've bought, pre-ordered, or borrowed books by a host of people this year, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Amy Alward, Sita Brahmachari and Jamila Gavin. And there are others - like Kelly J Baptist, whose debut short story was included in Flying Lessons and Other Stories - who haven't published much yet but who I can't wait to read more by!

I will be including lots of things over the next months which I've read recently, so I don't want to go into detail about individual stories, but a few places I've found amazingly good short stories or essays.

Short story anthologies I've finished or am currently reading (I tend to jump around a lot)

Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh (Crown in the US, no UK publisher but available on Wordery) - brilliant anthology edited by the cofounder of We Need Diverse Books and containing an amazing set of authors, some of whom aren't yet published in the UK but who I'm confident people will LOVE!

Winter Magiccurated by Abi Elphinstone (Simon & Schuster) - gorgeous MG anthology of winter-set stories; brilliant mix of authors.

I'll Be Home For Christmas (Stripes Publishing) - fabulous UKYA collection of stories on the theme of home, with a huge amount of variety.

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology edited by Hope Nicholson (Bedside Press) - This is another I picked up due to the lack of #ownvoices Native rep that I'd actually read; however this is a really high standard overall for the stories (I haven't finished, but everything I've read has been great, with  "The Boys Who Became the Hummingbirds" by Daniel Heath Justice perhaps being my absolute favourite short read so far this year.)

Fiyah Magazine #1 - I'm only 2 stories into the first issue of Fiyah, a literary magazine of Black speculative fiction, but would already definitely recommend! I thought Long Time Lurker, First Time Bomber by Malon Edwards was very good, while Brent Lambert's Police Magic - which I talked about last Sunday - was superb!

Non-fiction I've finished or am currently reading 

The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound) - Superb collection of essays from BAME writers; I especially loved my friend Wei Ming Kam's piece, and Daniel York Loh's Kendo Nagasaki and Me.

Nasty Women (404 Ink) I'm not that far into this but it's an incredible collection of essays on what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. Really outstanding; looking forward to sharing my thoughts on Katie Muriel's incredible opening piece this coming Sunday.

Upcoming books I'm hugely anticipating 

A Change Is Gonna Come (Stripes Publishing) - This YA anthology of BAME authors, coming in August, already includes some favourites of mine like Catherine Johnson, Irfan Master, Patrice Lawrence and Ayisha Malik. There's an open submission for stories from unagented and unpublished BAME authors which closes in 12 days - if you haven't seen it, check out details here

Slay In Your Lane - I don't know many details of this book - coming next year and described in the Twitter bio as The Black Girl Bible - but their Twitter feed is BRILLIANT so I'm definitely excited for it!

Rife: Twenty Stories from Britain's Youth (Unbound) - after the success of The Good Immigrant, it's great to see Nikesh Shukla - with Sammy Jones - looking at essays from young people. The wonderful Rosalind Jana, and superstar blogger Amber Kirk-Ford, are just two of the authors on board for this one and I'm sure it will be incredible. It's currently crowdfunding - details here!  

The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward (Simon & Schuster) - this is on my list to buy, with the paperback coming out in June. A response to James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, published in 1963, this sees contemporary writers reflecting on the past, present and future of race in America and sounds incredible. 

And a special mention to The Book Smugglers, who branched out from being ridiculously great bloggers to being ridiculously great bloggers who are ALSO phenomenal publishers! The short stories they publish are also must reads, whether they're by established authors like Kate Elliott, ones I was already a fan of like SL Huang, or newcomers like Jessica Lack. I'm excited for Isabel Yap's interconnected Hurricane Heels, high on my TBR!

1 comment:

  1. *flails over being called an author* I'm excited too! Thank you for the mention :)