Recommended short fiction on Medium—2

The stories I’ve included in my newsletter, January to June 2018

In June 2017, I started to send out a weekly newsletter recommending the best short fiction I’d been able to find on Medium. The newsletter is distributed by Tinyletter and echoed in a GooglePlus collection. In January 2018, I stopped updating a Medium post in which I listed in alphabetical order all the stories recommended to date. This is a continuation of that post for the first half of 2018. I’ll update this page each week to include the stories in that week’s newsletter.

As of 30 June 2018 this page is no longer being updated. For more recent recommendations see:

Alphabetical list of recommendations from January to 30 June 2018

Stevie Adler, “A Trick of the Light”
Stevie Adler specializes in microfiction or flash. This story is about 500 words long — highly appropriate for a tale that shows life to be at once heart-wrenchingly short and almost endlessly continuous.

Zak Alvarez, “When We Were Poor”
A man who “got out” revisits a bar in his old neighbourhood and feels nostalgic for the time when he was poor. A dispassionately written story which allows us to see the attraction of the narrator’s point of view, without disguising its self-indulgent quality.

Dave Araki, “Cover Up”
A roller does not apply the paint evenly, it’s better to use a brush. Except, of course, when painting over the reminders of a boy’s first crush. A nicely judged story, written in response to a Weekly Knob prompt.

Tracy Aston, “They Say”
Another story with something in common with this week’s first, in that they’re both, in their very different ways, about the end of life. This one is more realistic, even though the narrator describes hallucinations, dreams and imagined memories, but it’s every bit as moving.

Julia Belozersky, “Swimming Lanes”
A dismaying vision of a self-inflicted terrestrial hell in which the narrator wonders whether “we tend to choose travel destinations based on how good the pictures will look in our Instagram grids?”

Margie K. Berry, “Sarcasm”
This story is tagged “Creative Nonfiction” which strictly speaking disqualifies it from inclusion in this newsletter but I’d already decided that it was going in before I reached the end and saw that tag. It reads like fiction (and very good fiction, too.) Another moving tale about being trapped in a marriage, loss, guilt and grief, and changing relationships.

Kay Bolden, “Objection, Your Honor”
A second appearance in the newsletter for Kay Bolden, making her (if my count is right) the thirteenth author to have more than one story included. This is a first-person narrative from a trial lawyer whose ideal client is a one-time, guilty killer. The discussion in the comments is worth following, too.

Kay Bolden, “Waterlust”
A love story told from the point of view of a woman who always runs back to the sea when she’s scared or angry or miserable. It’s about what it feels like “when all your relationships have been underwater”.

Karen Booth, “The Interlopers”
Time travel and rejuvenation at a millionaire’s Gatsby-themed party, where the things that happen are not real and actions no longer have consequences. But does that go for the after-party too?

Jonathan Carroll, “Nothing to Declare”
This story is much longer than the previous one that I included by Jonathan Carroll; it’s a very substantial tale of an atypical romance which begins when a sleep-deprived man tells an accidental, wholly unintentional lie to a waitress.

Trystan Carter, “Will”
A man, estranged from his father since childhood, acts as executor of the latter’s will. An economically effective piece of flash fiction about grief and how parent-child relationships can go permanently wrong. The author appears to be a prolific writer of flash and microfiction who somehow managed to escape my attention till now.

Classical Sass, “How Was Your Day?”
Classical Sass first appeared in issue 3 of the newsletter — nearly a full year ago. I’ve been looking forward to her reappearance almost since then. Cassie, a perceptive storyteller with an eye for conflict, has always entertained her family with vivid tales from school. But recently she’s started to insist that the teachers and students are undergoing a mysterious change. This is a members-only story.

Savannah Cordova, “Perspective”
At the centre of this story is the delivery of a baby by caesarean section. Before, the mother, Martha, has been viewing her father’s videotaped recollections of her own childhood and reflecting on the lost memories of her mother. Afterwards … well, the perspective has shifted.

Tapojoy Das, “Mysterious Concupiscence”
There’s another kind? I wasn’t sure whether this piece complies with my self-imposed rules for inclusion in the newsletter. Till now (with just one exception I can think of), I’ve restricted myself to single-part completed stories. This one ends “To be continued”. Whether that’s a tease or a promise I couldn’t say. But it clearly fits the description “short fiction”, so it’s in.

Sally Davies, “Owed”
A dodgy businessman with a lot of unpaid debts cheers up a bit when he unexpectedly runs into an old rugby-playing friend. Oddly enough, he doesn’t remember “Jono” at all, though Jono clearly knows all about him. This one is Members Only (non-members are limited to 3 such stories a month).

DiAmaya Dawn, “Finding Home”
This is the first members-only story I’ve (knowingly) included. Since more stories are being locked behind the paywall, I’m going to allow myself to recommend one per week in future. (You can read 3 members-only stories a month without subscribing.) This one is about a couple in love. Both are pianists, both living in France though not from there. He’s a jazz pianist who wants to go home to Japan, she plays a wider range of music but is wary of improvisation.

Josh DeFriez, “The Choice to Stay”
A subtle and deeply affecting story about leaving or deciding to stay, and whether your deepest attachment is to a place or to the people you’ve found there.

Kris Gage, “The Delicate Art of Deciding”
I’ve been reading and enjoying Kris Gage’s posts for a while now but this is the first one I’ve seen that can be categorized as fiction. It’s in part about letting go of the past even though it’s not perfect.

K C Healy, “Memento”
Another story from the same Weekly Knob prompt about a fishhook getting caught in somebody’s skin; this is a charming, bittersweet story about memory and loss.

Elizabeth Helmich, “Black Betty”
A relationship counsellor has seen (just about) everything. Maybe it’s time to retire. A story based on a prompt from The Weekly Knob.

Ernio Hernandez, “I Noticed You Unfriended Me”
This is a members-only story, described by the author as “relationship fiction”. It’s about breakups and displacement and fleeting connection.

Ernio Hernandez, “The Last Thing Grandpa Told Me”
A poignant story about an old man preparing his grandson for the day he’ll no longer be there. The grandfather is by no means a sage or a fount of wisdom, but he’s wise enough for this task. This Ernio Hernandez’s second appearance in the newsletter and it’s is a story for members only.

Valerie Hilal, “Ghost Story”
This is story about how a mother’s concern for her son’s peace of mind outweighs even the “promise of a surprise ending”.

Valerie Hilal, “Moroccan Rains”
An evocative story about memory, childhood, friendship, poverty, exile and class division.

Fiona Hyde, “A Regular”
A short, deceptively whimsical, meditation about people we notice and who notice us but without getting to know each other — whether our absence registers when we stop turning up. It’s set in a part of Dublin where I stopped turning up many years ago and where there have since been some major changes (internet cafés) and some reliable constants (pizza).

J M Jackson, “The Flippist”
A short, enigmatic story about a man who advises the people who consult him based on the flip of a coin — leaving the decision to chance. It’s one way to live; though, as Arthur reflects, flippists rarely finished their lives happy. Of course, there’s a lot more to life than how it ends.

Edd Jennings, “Time of the Bloodroots”
People have been saying to me for months that I must include a story by Edd Jennings in the newsletter. This one is set in a cold, dangerous, Northern wilderness where the threat of imminent death changes a man fundamentally — while leaving his gait recognizable at a thousand yards to former neighbours who haven’t seen him for many years. Sorry, this one is for members only.

Jack Preston King, “Recurring”
Jack Preston King is another well known writer of fiction on Medium whose appearance in this newsletter has been too long delayed. This 500-word story is about unexpected death — and even more unexpected … but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Jack Preston King, “What We Lie About When We Lie About Mars”
This is the second appearance in the newsletter of Jack Preston King, here using 400 words very effectively to lay bare the relationship between war, truth and propaganda. A story for members only.

Adam Knight, “Little Me, Big Me”
An exercise in high school English class opens of a channel of communication between two versions of the same man in different timelines. A moving exploration of loss, alternatives and (sometimes unrealized) potential stretching across 20 years of a young man’s life. From Arcturus, a publication whose stories I’ve recommeded before.

S Lynn Knight, “The Hour in Question”
“She asked me to help her”. The devastating story of a perceptive but isolated 10-year-old accompanying his uncommunicative stepfather to the scene of a nighttime road accident. I’ve been meaning for some time to include a story by S Lynn Knight. I’m glad I waited for this one.

Rachel V Knox, “Red Devil”
She’d changed, her husband told her, after she’d taken up rose-gardening. He’d been right. An economically told story with a sharp point.

Kristin, “One Perfect Storm”
That book a friend or family member pressed on you ages ago, telling you that you absolutely had to read it. And that you definitely meant to read but somehow … The one that makes you look sheepish now, every time you meet the friend or family member. This is why you should be grateful for it.

Terri Kue, “These Writers Should’ve Stayed Home”
A serio-comic fantasy about the vulnerability and evanescence of stories, and authors’ responsibility to them, to keep them alive. An unusually engaging piece of “writing about writing”.

Jeffrey Kulik, “I’m Here to Kill the Band”
A satire about celebrity, fandom and the probable near-future of the music business, from Arcturus, a publication whose stories are consistently impressive.

edh lamport, “Lightning”
A refreshingly unsentimental love story. “This is not a crush.” But it could easily be crushing. Featuring the voice as an instrument of nonverbal communication.

Stephen Leatherdale, “Three of a (kind of) Kind”
A story about friendship — how we end up with the friends we have and how, as the years pass, we find we know them intimately in some respects and hardly at all in others.

Amber Lee, “A Love Letter to Lady Dior”
A billet-doux addressed to a handbag. Being inanimate, it tends not to be argumentative or recalcitrant, and yet the relationship isn’t quite perfect.

Georgia Lewitt, “Chocolate egg”
A funny and bittersweet story about motherhood and changed plans. This one is members only.

Little Fears, “Computer Virus”
I’ve been enjoying Little Fears’ stories for many months now, but fighting the temptation to include them in the newsletter because they’re all very short and I didn’t want you to think I was giving you short measure. My resistance has been worn down. If you enjoy this very short tale, click on the author’s profile and read some more.

Nick Maccarone, “Lost Loves and Old Movie Houses”
Another love story. In this one, the movies provide the connection between people who can’t — or won’t — otherwise connect.

Róisín McLiam, “First Time”
Neat little story about a young man’s first date — with anybody. Luckily he chose the right person to ask out. (I considered a handful of tales by this author but picked this one to avoid having two members-only stories in the same issue. Her other stories are worth your while too.)

A Maguire, “Can You See Me Now?”
A woman whose “face is her fortune” comes to see it as something separate and baleful, and as no longer belonging to her. As she attends a glamorous, glittering party where to smile is part of the job, one kind of horror gives way to another. This is A Maguire’s (unfairly delayed) second appearance in the newsletter.

A Maguire, “Inside My Skin”
I’m taken aback to find that I don’t seem to have recommended a story by A Maguire before now. I know I meant to, but I must have put it aside to include at a later date and lost track of it. In this one, a woman’s mother-in-law urges her not to “act rashly” in rushing into a divorce — after twelve miserable years of marriage in which her capacity for trust has been destroyed.

Paul S Markle, “Accidents Will Happen”
A members-only story based on a prompt from the Weekly Knob. A confrontation in an Urgent Care Centre waiting room where a father tries to protect his 5-year-old son (who has a fishhook stuck in his ear) in the middle of a flurry of suspicions and half-accusations.

E. D. Martin, “Personal Responsibility”
More satire, heavy with irony. A sharply-observed portrait of a middle-aged man, caught somewhere between mild disability and unemployment, who takes refuge in anti-immigrant rhetoric, macho posturing and outright racism.

Michelle Matthews, “Your Things — Flash Fiction”
A grieving mother lists the things her son left behind and the much shorter list of things he took with him. A powerful tale of loss and grief, told in very controlled, precise prose.

Flannery Meehan, “When a Mobster Saved My Life”
A criminal evading the authorities in a psychiatric ward helps a suicidal woman. I’ve no idea whether I have the right end of the stick with this story but to me it reads like a badly needed corrective to Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Lizzie Merrill, “Piano Practice”
This really is microfiction, so I’m a little worried that you’ll think I’ve shortchanged you. And it’s members-only. But it’s a little slice of perfection, it made me laugh a lot — and I read it a second time to make sure I’d correctly understood the last line.

Inge Moore, “Pride”
A beautiful story about being 17 in the 1960s and how the things we know at that age about ourselves and our relation to the world remain true even if reality somehow diverges from them. And horses.

Abby Norman, “Fall on Your Knees”
Silence has a sound. A couple listen to the snow falling silently, as one of them grieves for her mother who has died since the previous Christmas.

Alyssa Peterson, “A Strange Kind of Warmth — Short Story”
A woman finds her way through a strange city (Chicago). At first, the story seems to be using the techniques of defamiliarization to describe the everyday. But some of the things the woman observes really are unfamiliar.

Ryan Riley, “The Change”
Very well written story set in the near future whose themes are evolution, climate change, adolescence, human rights and national security. Also teenagers with superpowers (“aptitudes”). That’s quite a lot for one short story, don’t you think? Ryan Riley fits them together surprisingly neatly.

Chris Scott, “Just a 20-Minute Walk”
An 18-year-old young woman walking home from a party gets badly spooked when all the houses on her way home are brightly lit up at 2.30 in the morning. There’s no sign of human life but she has the sensation of being watched. I had trouble choosing between this and another of Scott’s stories for inclusion. Members-only story.

Snippets, “A Reason to Write”
A sad, ironic, devastating love story. This is the second piece that I’ve included by Snippets (aka Hengtee Lim). If you like it, read some more of his Tokyo-based stories.

Mariam Soliman, “How can you listen to music while you read?”
A very short story (microfiction) about preconceptions (such as that the music one listens to on a train must have words), which are often both necessary and a bit of a nuisance.

Jeff Suwak, “A Bag of Snakes”
Kafka meets Camus in a wetland habitat that smells like a swamp where, as the narrator reflects, “everything in life means something, even if if’s absurd.” A members-only story.

Galina Tulovsky, “Lost Girl”
I haven’t usually recommended fantasy but I liked the idea of the lost girl who doesn’t fully trust being lost and disobeys Peter Pan by leaving a light on so that she might, perhaps, be able to find her way home. Nobody wants to be lost forever, do they?

Matt J. Weber, “Keep Your New Year’s Resolution at the Quantum Level”
Teleportation wasn’t the big hit that its developers expected. Not until someone had the bright idea of using it for a very different purpose from its intended one. This is a decidedly explainy story. In fact, you could say that it consists entirely of exposition. But it’s an appealing idea, and — once you’ve made allowances for the sci-fi premise — oddly plausible. I was grinning all the way through and didn’t mind at all having everything explained to me. Perhaps you won’t either.

Miles White, “Roulette Chinoise”
The seductive, often addictive quality of gambling, of flirting with the possibility of catastrophic loss, has been a recurring theme in fiction and film. It’s still a compelling one and Miles White manages to look at it in a new light.

Lorraine Wilson, “We Have Always Been Here”
A haunting and evocative story about the presence of the past, silence and whispers, having things taken away from you, and the juxtaposition of modernity with the ancients. Zoe, a travel writer and photographer, visits the ruins of an ancient, buried city, where there have been rumours of ghosts.

Lisa Wilton, “Connected”
Social media, the internet, messaging apps and email — so much connection! — are starting to feel more and more like a nightmare from which we can’t wake up. I really thought I’d included this story before — I certainly intended to — but apparently I didn’t, so here it is.

Shelly Woods, “The Interlude”
Engaging and moving story about reaching a place where it’s too late for regrets and recriminations.

I’ll delete Medium profile end June 2021, then these posts will move to my own site: https://www.artkavanagh.ie |Newsletter: https://talkaboutbooks.substack.com

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