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Short Thoughts on Short Fiction: October 2020

Short Thoughts on Short Fiction is a new monthly column that will focus on short stories. Each month we will review a small selection of short stories from anthologies, collections, and zines, both old and new. We want to acknowledge some of the great short fiction that’s out there, shine a light on emerging writers, and point readers in the direction of great fiction.

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“Cycle of the eternal witness” by Adelehin Ijasan from Omenana Issue 15 (issue is available online).

What if, through the power of science, in the far future, you got to meet God. But they weren’t who you were expecting them to be and the burden of the job is Sisyphean in nature. The story touches on ancestral knowledge, the burden of power, and the balance of good and bad, plus a little bit of time-travel KFC 🙂 There’s also something to say, maybe, about colonization when you consider that the characters locked in eternal struggle are Black and the history that gets talked about being preserved is European. But that may be a reach on my part. Putting that to the side, “Cycle of the eternal witness” is a compelling story that marches toward a fateful ending.


“Mr. Staples” by Brenna Harvey from Night Frights Issue #1

When a mysterious figure shows up at school using an industrial strength stapler to staple hurtful messages to students, It’s up to Noelle, the only person who can see the apparition, to figure out what’s happening. This is a story that makes you think. The man with the staples is a creepy character that is suitably weird. There are different interpretations to the messages and how to deal with them that cover online discourse, the hidden trauma that people carry around with them, and the actions that stem from that trauma. Ultimately the question being asked is how do you bridge the gap and make a meaningful connection with those around you.

Highly Recommended

“Desiccant” by Craig Laurance Gidney from Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire

In the introduction to the anthology the editor, Nicole Givens Kurtz, wrote, “We came to SLAY the popular, European trope.” This is the opening story in the collection and I like to imagine that when Gidney was asked, “What European vampire tropes do you want to get rid of?” He simply said, “Yes.” The main character is trans, the building may be what’s killing people, and the “vampire” is not what you expect. It even goes so far as to ponder if the negligent absentee landlords aren’t the real monsters. Great start to the anthology.


“Special Makeup” by Kevin J Anderson from It Came from the Multiplex: 80’s Midnight Chillers

Some of the greatest practical special effects in horror movies are werewolf transformations. It takes a lot of work to show every stage of the transformation and, frankly, it can be long and tedious work. Special Makeup takes the Lon Chaney style of transformation and leans into that tedium, by having the actor be impatient and wanting all the glory of the finished product without having to put in the work. It needs to be noted that, because this story is inspired by the Lon Chaney version of The Werewolf, there is also a “gypsy” character and a “gypsy” curse. The outcome of the curse is quite humorous and original but the usage of that word should be noted. A fun story


“Her Voice, Unmasked” by Suzan Palumbo from Weird Horror magazine issue #1

Justine is an automaton opera singer created by The Maestro. This is a story about how she finds her own voice, learns to use it in artistic expression, and gains independence from a controlling creator. This is a touching story with a lot of thematic undercurrents. Readers will identify and sympathize with Justine and root for her success.

Highly Recommended

“The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders in The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020

Lilyn sez:

A well-written story set in a sadly believable time when California has seceded from the United States. The premise is simple enough, with the action taking place in and around a bookstore that has two entrances (one for California, one for America), and is told through the eyes of the owner. Anderson does a good job exaggerating the ridiculousness on both sides while somehow managing to tell the story through the lens of someone who falls farther to the right than the left without making the reader want to punch them. An entertaining story, but one that felt oddly anticlimactic, like it begged to be more than just a short.


What short stories did you read and love in October?

Published inShort StoriesUncategorized

One Comment

  1. Read Slay recently, enjoyed it! Desiccant was definitely a strong start.

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