the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

miniatures_by_john_scalzi_500_780Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi

published Dec 31, 2016

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean!)




Wanna know the balm for doorstopper books and series that don’t have an end in sight? Super short stories that are super satisfying.  Stories that get in, make a point and maybe make you laugh, and get out. It’s like those delicious bite-sized Milky Way mini candy bars that (the best) people give out at Halloween.


Miniatures is John Scalzi’s new collection of very short stories.  Inspired by everything from travel boredom, the bureaucracy of superhero management, overly intelligent yogurt, a very bitter Pluto, the design limitations of twitter, people being idiots, how to be polite to aliens,  having some fun at Wil Wheaton’s expense and more, these mostly humorous and mostly ultra short stories are the bite sized milky way minis of spec fiction.  Covering 25 years of Scalzi’s long career in journalism, review writing, and fiction, this collection is a must-have for Scalzi fans. Oh, you’re not familiar with John Scalzi, but you like to laugh?  You’ll like this too!


A handful of the stories deal with interactions with aliens, but these aren’t “first contact” stories, not by a long shot. These are millionth contact stories, when interactions with aliens have become as commonplace as seeing a stick-figure family sticker on the back of a mini-van.  Two of my favorite stories in the collection are of this variety – “New Directives for Employee-Manxtse Interactions” and “Important Holidays on Gronghu”.  Both are presented as company wide memos, and both of these companies are about to be holding massive open interviews.  I’ve read “Important Holidays on Gronghu” probably four times and it gets funnier every time.

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central stationCentral Station, by Lavie Tidhar

published May 2016

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Tachyon!)


I’ve been reading Lavie Tidhar on and off since I started this blog. I really enjoyed The Tel Aviv Dossier, thought The Bookman was just OK, enjoyed some of his short fiction and the World Science Fiction anthologies he edited with Apex, and then I bounced pretty hard off of Osama. His work has won a lot of awards, and I constantly feel like I’m either not taking his work seriously enough, or taking it so seriously that I’m missing the point. With that background, it should surprise no one that this beautiful ARC of Central Station sat on my to-be-read shelf for as long as it did.

But . . good news! By the 2nd chapter of Central Station I was hooked, by the middle I was grinning every time I learned about another character’s back story, and on the morning of Memorial Day I had either the best timing in the world or the worst, as I read about the robotnik soldier beggars of the future.

I don’t know why, but I shy away from using the term “mosaic novel” to describe Central Station. Yes, the novel does fit the definition of a mosaic novel, and it also fits the definition of a “fix up” novel. . . and the problem is that both of those terms feel too flat and too small to encompass this book. Central Station has the overwhelming sensory overload of an Ian McDonald, the fantastical descriptions and bio-technology of a China Mieville, and the each story is a foundation of the next of Cat Valente’s Orphan’s Tales. With nods to scifi greats like Cordwainer Smith, Philip K. Dick, and Isaac Asimov (and was that a Burroughs reference I saw?), Tidhar touches on history, culture, and socio-economics to tell a story about how we’re all stuck together and should really make the best of things because these kids need a village to raise them. Reading this book was like being a bartender at bar frequented by locals – Everyone has a different story to tell, but all their stories are interrelated and interconnected. The further I got into this novel, the more I enjoyed myself.

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I’ve been elsewhere!

I hosted my first roundtable at Semiotic Standard, about books we didn’t finish.  The roundtable features Lynn of Lynn’s Books, Lavie Tidhar, Jacob of Red Star Reviews, Teresa Frohock, Mark Lawrence, Charlotte Ashley, and more!  Come on over to see these folks and their peers didn’t finish books, and why I might not finish the book I’m reading right now.


I’m also over at Apex Magazine, interviewing the incredible Mary Pletsch.  In the interview we talk about the song and music in her short story Folk Hero.  but first, a quick aside.  Ya’ll know what iambic pentameter is, right?  the super simple definition of Iambic pentameter is that it is poetry (or song lyrics) written so that each line has 10 syllables, with every other syllable being stressed.  If you get the rhythms just right,  it fits perfectly into 4/4 rock and folk music.  So, I’m reading Pletsch’s story, and there are song lyrics embedded in the story.  And my brain doesn’t come up with a melody, but it does come up with a rhythm. A rhythm that matches the hauntingly beautiful Age of Aggression, as covered by Malukah.  Yes, that is a video game song, and YES, you should listen to it while you are reading Pletsch’s Folk Hero. here, I’ll help:

Folk Hero, by Mary Pletsch

Age of Aggression cover, by Malukah

I read that story, and I hear her sandstone voice singing that song, and it’s beautiful and fitting, and perfect.

oh, you liked that Malukah song?  this one is better.


so, that should keep you out of trouble for a few days.  I’ve got a review of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station publishing in a few days, so stay tuned (btw, it was AWESOME)


Hernandez Quantum SanteriaThe Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria, by Carlos Hernandez

Published Feb 2016

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)










Along with C.S.E Cooney, Carlos Hernandez wrote one of my favorite short stories in Clockwork Phoenix Vol 5. And Cooney wrote some of my favorite short fiction from 2015, I’ve now read her Bone Swans collection cover to cover three times. So I should have known going into Hernandez’s collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria that these short stories were going to be amazing.


You know how you can know ahead of time that you’re going to love a certain movie, or a certain book? And then you go to the movie theater, or you finish the book, and it was even better than you thought it was going to be? That pretty much sums up my experience with Hernandez’s Quantum Santeria collection. I’ve read it cover to cover twice already (and gotten so much more out of the stories on the second read through!), and I see this is going to be one of those books that lives on my bedside table, so when I need something comforting to calm my mind down at bedtime the perfect thing is sitting there waiting for me.


With gorgeous writing, accessible storylines, emotional depths alongside sometimes laugh out loud dialog, Hernandez’s prose is marble that’s been carved expertly down until the ideal sculpture is revealed. If you’re a short story author, and you worry that your short story has too much fat and not enough meat, read this collection and pick these stories apart. They’ve got everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Without rushing or infodumping, Hernandez deftly includes swaths of character development, any necessary  worldbuilding, and chapters of plot in the course of 15 pages, with ideas and concepts that are easy to grab onto and so verdantly and gloriously alive.

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GeoffreyGirardPic1aGeoffrey Girard  published Tales of The Jersey Devil in 2005, and he’s never looked back.  After two more folklore based short story collections, he wrote Cain’s Blood and its companion novel  Project Cain, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. His over 60 sort stories have appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines, including Writers of the Future, Apex Horror and Science Fiction Digest, the Stoker nominated Dark Faith anthology, Dark Futures, Murky Depths, Mountain Dead, and many others.

His new short fiction collection, first communions, hits bookstore shelves later this week, and if you like spine tingling thrillers, this is a collection for you!  Sixteen stories to shock, entertain, and horrify you, from the curse of ancient evils to futuristic retirement homes where the dead still rule, haunted graveyards, planets of torture where all are equal, hockey-playing demon hunters, and dark sorcerers battling in Algeria.

You can learn more about Geoffrey and his work at his website,

Geoffrey was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology, his forthcoming novel Truthers, and his writing career. Let’s get to the interview!

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your upcoming collection, first communions! Which stories in this collection mean the most to you?
Geoffrey Girard: Thanks very much. And thanks for inviting me to chat. And, yikes, if I have to pick one: “Dark Harvest” will have to get that nod. It’s about a Ringwraith (basically) who crash lands in some Podunk village and the trouble that ensues. It’s the one I wrote first, the one that got me started back into creative writing after a fifteen-year break, the first story I ever got paid for, the one that led to my most-formative week as a writer (while out in Hollywood as part of Writers of the Future) and the one directly related to a childhood spent in Middle Earth, Pern, and Shannara.

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best of Apex Mag Antho

Isn’t that just some gorgeous cover art?


Want your favorite Apex Magazine stories bound in a dead-tree (or virtual dead-tree) volume?  Want one-stop-shopping for surreal, strange and shocking fiction?  Gotcha covered!


Best of Apex Magazine, Vol 1


Whether wandering down endless stairwells, searching for answers in the desert, or reaching out to the stars, for more than six years Apex Magazine has entertained readers with stories that are strange, beautiful, shocking, and surreal. Now, for the first time, editors Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are collecting the award winning and nominated stories, those chosen by readers as Story of the Year, and their own personal favorites into one anthology.


A Veil that wipes the experiences of war from soldiers’ memories. A witch who faces down both God and the devil to save a soul. A swaying dance that crosses the galaxy to transmit a message. A vampire caught in a web of politics and law by his responsibility to his family. Within this collection, you will find 21 stories that explore what it means to love, to regret, to be human.


With stories by Ursula Vernon, Ken Liu, Rachel Swirsky, Sarah Pinsker, Rich Larson, and more, Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 brings readers some of the best stories Apex Magazine has published so far.


Some of my favorite stories made it into this very special anthology, including “Remembery Day”, by Sarah Pinsker (seriously, my husband and I still talk about this story!), “Going Endo” by Rich Larson, and “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky.


And you can win a copy!  I’ve got one print copy to be given away to someone in the US, and a digital copy for anyone who lives on planet Earth (or at least has an e-mail address here).  This giveaway closes on midnight, Eastern Time, on Saturday Feb 20th.  All you need to do to enter the giveaway is, should I make you do something funny?  Leave a comment telling me something delicious you like to eat.  Make sure you leave me some way to get a hold of you (e-mail, twitter, etc), and let me know if you are the US or in a country that has a better tax system and better schools and probably better healthcare, so that I know to set you up with the print copy or the e-book copy of Best of Apex Magazine Vol 1.


the title of this post is a lie.

Letter writing is not a lost art. It happens all the time.

I hated writing letters as a child. I hated writing Thank You notes for birthday gifts, I hated writing out holiday cards.  I didn’t like addressing envelopes, I didn’t like pretty stationary.

Luckily, I grew out of that.  Way out.  These days I voluntarily write letters,  purchase fun cards and stationary,  go to Postcard expos, and I even enjoy addressing envelopes!  Did any of you hear on the radio the other day that the Post Office had good profits last year?  well, me and my letter writing friends go through a lot of postage.

It probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve come to really enjoy epilostery, epistoler, stories told through letter writing.  Characters writing letters back and forth? that sounds so cheesy! so old fashioned!!  but somehow,  I find this method of telling a story so much more effective than a bunch of characters wandering around doing things together. It’s strange, how the limits of letter writing flip themselves inside out to something infinite when used to tell a story.   Think about it – when you write a letter you only have so much space on the page.  It limits your space, so it limits what you can say (unless you want to send a 10 page letter, which is totally OK), so you have to prioritize what you want to say, and details may get left out. Letters also contain far less internal monologue, more inside jokes, the opportunity to add a doodle, misspelled words that may be crossed out, and handwriting that changes sizes or may be difficult to read.  Handwriting is a personal and non-verbal communication method all by itself.


So, anyway, I like those kinds of stories, and was lucky enough to run into three fantastic ones recently. Unfortunately, some of these aren’t available for public consumption yet, but they will be soon!

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.