Despite what you may or may not have heard, and rumors of its demise to the contrary, short fiction is very much alive and kicking in the SFF genre and we are surrounded by short fiction on the highest quality.
Now, I can only talk about the experience of the reader here. Things may be tough for short story writers and certainly there are few markets for the novella, but as a reader – there’s a bounty out there.
Circulation may be dropping in the Big Four Asimov’s, Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy), but there is any number of places to go to find a good story. If you’re looking for print issues, you’ve got zines like Electric Velocipede, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and Shimmer. Weird Tales is in the middle of a renaissance and after winning the Hugo Award this year, people are starting to notice. I had the chance to read several issues published in 2008 and Weird Tales is publishing some outstanding fiction.
Now, all of those print publications cost money (and they’re worth it), but I understand that money is tight. Maybe you want to test the waters with some online publications but you don’t know what’s good. You can’t go wrong if you check out Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Fantasy Magazine, Chiaroscuro or Subterranean
This is the tip of the iceberg, folks, and is just the stuff that I’m familiar enough with to give a recommendation.
What we’re missing here is the absolute wealth of quality fiction coming out of original and reprint anthologies. The names you should be looking for are John Joseph Adams, Jonathan Strahan, Lou Anders, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Ellen Datlow, Rich Horton, and Gardner Dozois. Find those names and you’ll do okay. Don’t ignore the rest or you might miss Ekaterina Sedia’s World Fantasy Award winning Paper Cities anthology, but they’ll do for starters.
What you get from these names are the excellent JJA anthologies like Wastelands, The Living Dead, and Federations. From Strahan you’ll discover this outstanding Eclipse anthology series. Lou Anders has published two volumes of Fast Forward and the world cries out for a third. Anders and Strahan have joined forces to form a super-team of editing awesomeness and publish Swords and Dark Magic, a forthcoming swords & sorcery anthology featuring the biggest names in the business.
My cup runneth over with short stories and as a reader, I have no lack of goodness still to discover.
If you’re not tired of a not nearly exhaustive list of great places to find good short fiction, let me give you one last one: Shadow Unit. I describe Shadow Unit as a blend of Criminal Minds and The X-Files, only the monsters are all human. Written by Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Will Shetterly, Leah Bobet, Amanda Downum, and Holly Black, Shadow Unit is structured like a television show. There are seasons each containing eight episodes (novella length with the season one finale as long as a short novel), and like any good TV show, there are DVD extras to be found. Shadow Unit can be as interactive as you want it to be. There are character livejournals taking place in real time, the various episodes and extras, and an active message board frequented by the SU creators. Professional quality science fiction written and given away entirely for free (donations welcome). I’m, uh, a little passionate about Shadow Unit, but seriously, check it out. The second of five planned seasons has only recently been completed. Season Three starts up in February, so you’ve got plenty of time to get caught up.
There’s a lot of great stuff out there. Check some of it out.
Joe Sherry lives in Minnesota and delights in the changing of the seasons. His reviews and non-fiction have appeared in the Sacramento Book Review and Fantasy Magazine. He blogs at Adventures in Reading.