Recommended short fiction on Medium
The stories I’ve included in my newsletter from June to December 2017, in alphabetical order
For 6 months now, I’ve been sending out a weekly newsletter in which I recommend the best short fiction I’d found on Medium. The newsletter is distributed by Tinyletter and echoed in a Google+ collection. I’ve also pinned all the recommended stories to a board on Pinterest. The newsletter archive and the Google+ collection are organized by newsletter, so you can’t see the story titles without opening the relevant issue. Therefore, I thought it would be useful also to have a full list of the recommended stories, to make it easier to view the full range and to find any particular story. So, here they are, in alphabetical order by author surname, if known.
@ladyspinster, “Waiting to hear ‘I like you too’”
A painful, sharp tale about the embarrassments and indignities of dating which (to judge by the comments) clearly struck a chord with its readers.
Alyssa Alvarez, “Thunk”
A gruesome tale within a gruesome tale about frightening children. Horribly well done.
Alex Aronovich, “The Story’s Not about You, I Swear”
I had previously recommended “Misha the Polyglot”, which I believe is the work of Alex Aronovich, though posted under the name Jazzmatic. This tale, then, is my first recommendation from an author who had already featured in the newsletter. It will resonate with any writers who have, or used to have, friends.
Owen Banner, “The Runner: A Short Story from the Rio Olympics”
Are you willing to pay the full cost of your dream? The author also published a series of two-sentence horror stories daily during October. If you like horror (it’s not his normal genre), follow the link to his profile and treat yourself.
Rachel B. Baxter, “Sunday”
I haven’t tended to recommended much flash fiction, though there’s plenty of it on Medium, to which it’s ideally suited. This is a short piece with a lot of impact. I’m looking forward to reading some more stories by Rachel B Baxter.
Dan Belmont, “Let Them Eat Cake”
The mischievously ironic story of how “a healthily unhappy family” experiments (briefly?) with being a bit less unhappy. I’d already decided to include this story before I read Belmont’s excellent “A Modern Man”. I decided to stick with my original choice because I’ve already recommended several stories from The Weekly Knob and I feel I should look further afield. The two stories together show how well Belmont writes about siblings.
Dan Belmont, “The Small Ceremony”
A story which tells you a lot more about the relationship between two women friends than its short length would seem to allow for. It also evokes a surprising range of emotions from smug amusement, through pity, foreboding and finally a kind of nasty (if tempered) satisfaction at the way things are resolved. As in his earlier story, “Let Them Eat Cake”, Belmont delivers an assured and impressive performance. He writes in a variety of styles and genres on Medium. For my money, he’s at his best when writing fiction.
Eric Beversluis, “Dead Fish”
Eric Beversluis writes regularly on The Weekly Knob in response to writing prompts. This is a neat little detective story, featuring two characters whom I think are regulars of his.
Harlow Black, “Trick or Treat”
Very nicely balanced between creepy horror and a moving tale of grief at the disappearance of a child. I was very tempted by the same author’s “How Could You Not Read My Diary” but it’s clearly tagged “nonfiction”.
Hugh Blackthorne, “Skeleton Key”
An impressionistic (i.e. fewer verbs than sentences) love story, centred on Edinburgh.
Tania Braukamper, “The Puncher”
“He takes care of people. He is the best at what he does.” The Puncher is a man who takes pride in his work. Clearly the right man to make it clear to one cheating husband that he is going to suffer, and he is going to die.
Anna Breslin, “Life-Hacking Isabel”
An unnerving tale which reminds us how easy it is to deceive ourselves, even when we’re not fooling anybody else.
Anna Breslin “Sideways into the Light”
A kinder, gentler story from Anna Breslin, with consolations for the bereaved, fairies and the suggestion of the possibility of eternal youth. Not my usual kind of thing, in other words, though there’s no doubt that Breslin handles it very well.
Annie Caldwell, “Driving Hoffa”
The truth — or something like it — about Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance.
Mary Jo Campbell, “Obsession”
At once horrifying and understated, this is short, but very powerful.
A J Cannon, “The Mirror Frame”
Another spooky one (I suppose we’re getting near Hallowe’en and this story dates from that time last year). This story seemed to be going in a fairly sentimental direction and then, well, see for yourself.
Jonathan Carroll “A Day in the Life of Their Lie”
If you’re feeling short-changed by the length of this piece (or even if you’re not), click the author’s name to find some more of his economically effective writing.
Alexandro Chen, “Ink Black Eye”
The second time I’ve recommended a story by Alexandro Chen. In this one, a man decides to act when a work colleague suffers a black eye or similar injury regularly every two weeks, and her explanations are less than convincing.
Alexandro Chen “One-Sided Marriage”
The narrator’s husband has stopped speaking to her. Will she never again hear him telling her about the day he’s had?
b. cherub, “Banker’s Son, World Builder”
A simple, wistful aubade-style love story. It’s not only in dystopian science fiction that one finds collapsing worlds.
Flora Cistoldi, “Miroir”
A woman studies her husband of five years through the one-way mirror in a police station. But what does a one-way mirror reflect? (In French)
Classical Sass, “[Wk5] Rise and Shine”
A coffee-centred story from an author named by Medium as a top writer in Fiction and Short Story categories.
Remy DeJoseph, “In Moments”
A very short piece of flash fiction about … well, moments.
Laura Dorwart, “Ohio”
The mother of a two-month-old baby trapped in a flat patio home in a little town in Ohio all day long. This is how horror films begin. And many other kinds of story. But maybe nothing will happen.
Jen Durbent, “The Wrong Hand of God”
I hope you won’t be put off if I describe this as a kind of fable, with stock types — the King, the Queen, the councillors and attendants — rather than recognizable individual characters who develop. Character development would be a distraction from the events of the narrative, which explores how an accommodation between conflicting religions, introduced originally to promote peace and contain conflict, can over time become a rigid, oppressive orthodoxy. An unusual and impressive performance. I found it very powerful and was moved by the fate of the Prince (and his servant/guards!) though they weren’t written as realistic characters.
Sara Eatherton-Goff, “It’s All Immaterial — A Short Story”
I’m often suspicious of stories written in the present tense about things that have already happened. If often seems to be a way to add an unearned immediacy. In a story about what goes though a man’s head immediately after a visit to his neurologist, on the other hand, it’s entirely appropriate. This is a three-months-to-live tale which takes off in an unexpected direction.
Stacy-Ann Ellis, “If I Hadn’t Seen It …”
A poignant tale about an argument between two people who are probably going to marry each other but maybe shouldn’t.
Tom Farr, “Myrra’s Blindness”
Stories written in response to writing prompts can sometimes seem contrived or forced. This tale, by Tom Farr, another prolific Medium fiction-writer, avoids that trap.
Mark Farragher, “The Prank”
A Steven Moffat-like riff on the deceptive nature of reality (complete with retcon), derived from a writing prompt about a cellphone discovered in a sealed Egyptian tomb.
Sam Frybyte, “Lacunae”
Continuing this week’s (accidental) dystopian science fiction theme, a piece which wonders whether a species can learn from its mistakes when its memory of those mistakes is full of gaps
Sarah Goldsmith, “Mr Dickman’s Secret”
A second recommendation for Sarah Goldsmith, one of whose stories was included in the very first issue of the newsletter. It was only a matter of time before she reappeared. This story captures some of the anxieties of childhood, with a very neat twist.
Sarah Goldsmith, “Mummy Knows Best”
From what I’ve read of her stories so far, I’ve concluded that Sarah Goldsmith usually writes short tales with twisty endings, often in response to writing prompts from publications such as The Weekly Knob. This one’s quite chilling.
gibson grand, “Tree of Heaven”
Short, sad and poignant, without a word wasted, from the publication Misplaced Identities, which has featured in this newsletter before.
Ellie Guzman, “Almost Salsa Hookers”
I’m not totally sure that this one’s fiction but it is tagged “Short Story”, so I’m going to take a chance. And it is funny and entertaining, which is a definite achievement considering how little really happens in it.
Kate Holly-Clark, “herenothere (flash fiction)”
The previous time I recommended a story described as “flash fiction” it was three times more popular than either of my other recommendations that week. This is, by definition, a very short piece but quite haunting.
Stuart James, “Rule Zero”
This piece is very short and at first reading comes across more as a theological pensée than as an actual story, but I’m impressed by the implication that simple rules lead very quickly to mind-bending complexity.
Pranit Jankoli, “Why Go”
Atmospheric very short piece that will give you the shivers.
Jazzmatic, “Misha the Polyglot”
Jazzmatic (from what I’ve seen so far) writes short stories from the point of view of a slightly unsympathetic first-person narrator, who often has a Russian background. His bio on Medium reads “Stories about lives improvised.” That, along with the “Jazz” in his moniker, must be what drew my attention.
Amanda Kabak, “The Republic of Kansas”
Published in Arcturus, an online literary magazine from the Chicago Review of Books, specializing in new perspectives in fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. This is a story of love across a politico-religious divide, speculating about a near-future loosening of the union between the States. I expect to be looking at more fiction from Arcturus in the future.
Gwen Lawson, “Adult Fairy Tales for Millennials”
Three short present-day takes on familiar fairy tales. It was the middle one, Hansel and Gretel, that hooked me.
walkerjo lee, “swEEtNess. II”
This story’s got coffee and intergenerational conflict. Refreshingly, the conflict is between the protagonist and her grandmother, with the mother playing a conciliatory role. I’ve started to explore some of the author’s other stories but this (the first I read) is the one I’m recommending, because of the coffee.
Tre L Loadholt, “The Day I Lost Myself — and Found My Worth”
Another story written in response to a writing prompt in The Weekly Knob. This is a tale of betrayal, loss and strength.
Adam Longname, “Three Balaclavas”
Bloody, violent tale told by a narrator who doesn’t manage to be quite so unreliable as he’d like.
Mary Mattingly, “Applying Myself Again”
This story starts as a comically inept job application but takes a sudden (and neatly executed) turn into something more serious and moving. This is the second story I’ve included from Arcturus, an online imprint of the Chicago Review of Books. There’ll probably be more.
Geraldine McCarthy, “In Her Head”
Two contrasting sisters, their lives in counterpoint, two miles apart. Flash fiction by an Irish writer who is new to me and a welcome discovery.
Joey McKeown, “Dylan, Whose Ex Wrote a Tell All Memoir”
A humorous tale of the effects secrets can have on a relationship, and the destruction of trust. But, after all, we all have secrets.
Juliette van der Molen, “Final Violation”
No one listens to the person in the coffin. But when did they ever listen, really? Misunderstandings can be as hurtful as deliberate cruelty.
Dan Moore, “In Memory of a Woman I Loved: the moment she saved my life”
Dan Moore has been an editor of the publication P.S. I Love You and this is one of his own stories published there. It gives a good idea of his aims for that publication.
Dan Moore, “Sexless in the City”
A story about dating which takes an unexpected (but, when you think about it, not remotely implausible) turn. I previously recommended another story from Dan Moore, “In Memory of a Woman I Loved …” but it had been a toss-up between that one and this.
Scott Muska, “First Lines from Novels I Will (Almost Definitely) Never Write”
This is a bit of cheat, in that it’s not a real story, having many beginnings but no middles or ends. On the other hand, it’s funny and true, as anyone can tell you who’s woken up at 4 in the morning with a killer first line in mind, but no idea where the story’s going to go from there.
Poorna Narasimhan, “One More Page”
You might call this metafiction — a written story about stories, books and reading. I have to admit it took me longer than it should have to recognize the series of books on which the tale revolves. The story captures very well the excitement of a young child who has just discovered books.
Chloe Paul, “Decent”
A story written by Pierce Wilcox, with an illustration by Chloe Paul, both of the Perpetual Must Project. We manage to forgive ourselves for the behaviour we’re only vaguely aware of most of the time (becoming fully conscious just one night a month, like a reverse werewolf). But in the end, we get “a few little things wrong”.
emma poe, “You Never Know”
Another very moving story dealing with parenthood, siblings, loss guilt and grief. This one’s about not wishing to tempt fate.
Lizella Prescott, “Little Gods”
Lizella Prescott becomes the third author to have a second story recommended in my newsletter. In this beautifully judged story, she captures perfectly the balancing act between self-assurance on the one hand and consciousness of threat on the other, which constitute the performance (the showing off) of parenthood.
Lizella Prescott, “The Penultimate Gasp”
Lizella Prescott is one of the undisputed stars of short fiction on Medium. This is a recent story of hers which delivers a strong punch.
Michael Ramsburg, “There’s a ’Coon in the Cupboard”
Engaging, chld’s-eye point of view, Appalachian tale about culture clash, in which a husband reacts badly to the visit of his wife’s childhood best friend.
Indira Reddy, “Embroidered Armour”
At exactly 4 pm every day, a woman arrives at a restaurant and takes away a heavy tiffin-carrier full of leftover food. Her face is always covered by a one of a number of colourful scarves, which she alternates. The narrator, an older woman whose husband is a drunk, is consumed by curiosity …
Gerald Reid, “Cornered”
A writing prompt story from The Weekly Knob. It’s a bit whimsical, in that it features a man who discovers that he has an apparently paranormal ability, but it’s compelling as a character study of the protagonist.
Amanda Roman, “Two Lives Entwined”
I’m not sure if this really counts as a story; it’s more like an introductory chapter where two contrasting characters are brought together as the setup to a series of adventures. (And, in fact, I hope we have a series of adventures to look forward to.) But the characters are well drawn and I find it interesting that they originated in role-playing games, as personae that the author adopted.
Stephen Ross, “The Man from the Future”
A fresh and surprising take on the well worn theme of the time travel paradox, with more than a nod to Douglas Adams’s Campaign for Real Time. It’s exhilarating to see a writer derive something new and amusing from such familiar ideas.
Erika Sauter, “I’m Not That Girl Anymore”
I’ve been following Erika Sauter on Medium since I signed up. She writes prolifically but she hasn’t featured in this newsletter before because I haven’t seen much fiction from her. This short piece is a new twist on the mean girls in school theme.
Snippets, “Have You Ever Read ‘The Outsider’?”
“Fragments of the everyday in Tokyo, as written by Hengtee Lim.” The story of Joe, who works in a Tokyo bookshop, thinks he might like to meet a woman some day and has three imaginary friends — a mouse, a racoon and a small dog — whose advice he never listens to.
Maria Solarev, “Girlhood”
The young narrator of this strange, haunting tale is the antithesis of her aunt Connie, who is “a robust and strong woman”. She finds a sparkling valuable stone on the sea bed, which not only saves her life, but changes it.
Starkey, “Angels and Idiots”
About a year ago, it struck me that the Faustian bargain is a recurring theme in my own writing. Here’s a very different take on the Faust story, with a protagonist in whom ingenuity and idiocy meet. The result isn’t pretty.
Felicia C. Sullivan, “Blue Ruin”
Felicia C. Sullivan has written some of the most compelling fiction I’ve so far come across on Medium. Some of it consists of extracts from her longer work, but this is a self-contained story which repays repeated reading. (If you get it all first time, you’re a more attentive reader than I am.)
Felicia C. Sullivan, “Watching Soap Operas with the Repo Men”
Felicia Sullivan only the second author from whom I’ve recommended more than one story and her work is one of the reasons I felt that I couldn’t continue to exclude authors simply because I’d already recommended a previous story of theirs. This is a devastating story about how adult failures impinge on children’s lives.
George Talin, “An Unexpected Homecoming”
A short, simple but emotionally very powerful story about loss and loneliness.
Swathy Tantry, “Nature? No thanks”
A dystopian science-fictiony tale with a quirkily perverse attitude to nature, appropriate to a time when the earth has been poisoned.
Ankur Thakkar, “Swipe”
A love story located precisely in the relatively short period between the election of Obama and the debut of Tinder. I didn’t notice till I reached the end that this tale is tagged “Short Story” and I’d rather assumed it was nonfiction/memoir. I’m still not sure, but it could be fiction.
A J Thompson, “Backfire”
Beautifully told story about how families at once deflect and perpetuate conflict with half-intentionally aggressive “jokes”. Thompson is a writer who is new to me. From what I’ve read so far, her other stories are worth your time too.
Stephen M Tomic, “Deserted”
Survival (for the moment, as it always is) in an inhospitable landscape may not be pretty but it’s something to be going on with. Tomic is somebody I’ve been looking at closely for a few weeks now but this is the first piece of his that I’ve included.
Stephen M Tomic, “The Watcher at the Window”
This is a second (and overdue) appearance in the newsletter for Stephen M Tomic. Following an accident, a once-great composer and conductor watches the world from his well appointed window. The view is beautiful and peaceful. But the tranquility is misleading …
Gillian Webster, “Families”
The difficult relationship between a narcissistic father and his older daughter, who has recently moved across the ocean to a new job and life.
Hannah Whiteoak, “Beyond the Sea”
I’m not going to say much about this story because the things I thought about saying would be spoilers. It’s a story of childhood, told from the point of view of an 8-year-old, and it’s both funny and extremely sad.
Hannah Whiteoak, “Rewrite”
A superb, very moving story about a lost sibling, guilt and grief. This is one you really shouldn’t miss.
Nicole Willson, “Colin Throws a Curveball”
I’m following Nicole Willson on Medium, even though dark fantasy doesn’t usually appeal to me. She does it very well.
Aura Wilming, “Nor Hell a Fury Like a Woman Scorned”
Aura Wilming is one of the most prolific and versatile authors of fiction you’ll find on Medium. It was inevitable that I was going to include one of her stories sooner rather than later, but I had some difficulty choosing. No sooner had I settled on this whodunnit than the author published her selection of her personal favourites among her own stories. “Nor Hell a Fury …” isn’t included in her list but there’s plenty more there for you to explore.
Aura Wilming, “The Unsolicited Solicitor’s Free Advice”
I previously recommended Aura Wilming’s story “Nor Hell a Fury …”. This is completely different. I’m not hugely enthusiastic about science fiction but I make an exception when it’s mixed with an element of legal thriller, as here.
Emme Wright, “I Have a Secret”
A very short story about motes and beams. Do “criminals have a tendency to believe … their behavior is different from everyone else’s”?
Yonatan Zunger, “The Parable of the Paperclip Maximizer”
This is not what I expected to be recommending when I started this newsletter. The author worked for Google till recently and he comments very learnedly on all kinds of socio-political questions of urgency. As far as I know, he doesn’t usually write fiction (I can’t imagine where he’d get the time). But this story is an allegory, one which works on several levels. Despite the subtitle, “(A story that’s not actually about AI)”, it has been read by some as having useful things to say on the topic of Artificial Intelligence. But, at a more fundamental level, it’s a critique of the socio-economic organization of the world we live in. If Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress can get on “Origin of the Novel” course, “The Parable of the Paperclip Maximizer” deserves a place in my short fiction recommendations. It’s much more a fun read than Bunyan is.
Finally, a plug for myself, on the ground that, if I’ve managed to hold your attention so far, I’ve earned it. I’ve published the first part of a three-part short story, “Purpose of Amendment”. The second part can be expected before the end of January 2018.
This post is now complete. I’ve started a new, similar one for stories I’ll be recommending in the first 6 months of 2018. (Updated 11 January 2018)