Snab a Short Story · 10 May 2011
Snab – To snatch, to grab
I've been reading quite a few short stories lately, in search of techniques that work well in short format fiction, and thought I'd share a few that caught my attention. All of these are available free (gratis) on the internet and they're the kind of read that you can sneak in on a quick break.
Sleeping with Bears by Theodora Goss - via Strange Horizons
I love the structure of this piece. Goss takes the familiar elements of a wedding: the invitation, the ceremony, the reception, et cetera and uses them to introduce a world in which a human girl can marry a bear.
Bit by bit we learn about the couple through snapshots of their wedding day as observed by our narrator, the bride's sister. She's the perfect mouthpiece for this story. She doesn't understand why her sister would choose a bear bridegroom and her exploration of this question becomes the reader's discovery of how little the exterior package matters as long as society is willing to treat your husband like a man.
Thanks to Becky over at A Book a Week for linking to this one.
Shards by Leah Thomas - via Daily Science Fiction
In this piece, perspective is the entry point to the story. Thomas examines a tragedy, its immediate aftermath, and its long-term consequences through the eyes of three different protagonists. It's only through experiencing the internal dialog of the first two characters that we can appreciate the irony of the last.
I particularly like how Thomas chooses to have the first character be mute by design and the second mute by choice. In using these techniques, the story makes the point that silence (no matter its origins) will fester into misunderstanding without addressing the theme explicitly. In a work this short, economy of words is particularly important, and I think this technique for introducing depth without taking away from the pacing of the story worked quite well.
Study for Solo Piano by Genevieve Valentine – via Fantasy Magazine (audio also available)
This is a longer work, leaving the author room to develop themes through repetition. The tone, like the subject matter, is lyrical, and Valentine uses asides like accents to break the gentle sway of the narration and bring the reader's attention to the harsh reality of her dystopian world.
"He thought he was used to knowing that there would be no music that did not come from him, from the brass barrel of his body and the spindly silver lengths of his arms, from the bellows on one side and the keys on the other that make him useless for work.
He thought it would please him, to have power like that. (You think a lot of strange things, before the truth sinks in.)"
The imagery syncopates between the steampunk and the fleshy elements of the characters, focusing both on what they've gained and what they've lost by choosing to survive. In this work, what I most liked about the style is the continuous touches on the themes of beauty and regret by having different characters provide their own definitions of them.
I thought the threat to the piano at the end could have been set up a better and a bit of foreshadowing in the story seems misplaced, but this story certainly whet my appetite for Valentine's recently released Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti set in the same world.
Though I missed the Monday recommendation, these short stories are part of my ongoing participation in The One Upon a Time Challenge