Weekend Reading

I've been thinking about short fiction a lot recently. The truth is, after working on three Best American Fantasy anthologies, I was shellshocked from reading piles of short stories, and stayed away from them. I pretty much stopped writing them for a while, focusing instead on academic writing, film stuff, etc. Judging the Shirley Jackson Awards was fun and brought me back to short fiction, but again in such an overwhelming way that by the time it was done, I didn't want to read another short story for months. And I didn't.

I've gotten over that, finally. I've read a few short stories over the last month (and it's been a busy month, so reading a few of anything is an accomplishment!), and, just as importantly, for the first time in years I've gotten back to writing stories — two so far this year, one of which already sold (I'll reveal the details once I've signed the contract).

I've had plans to write more about short stories here, but the time for doing so has eluded me. But I've still been reading, and still want to share. I've decided to do so occasionally, probably on weekends. An offering of weekend reading. So here are 5 stories, all available online, that I think are worth at least the time it takes to read them:

"Heaven" by Alexander Chee (TriQuarterly)
He wants to at least tell him, he understands what he wanted. He always had. He just hated that anyone could tell.

"Understanding Human Behavior" by Thomas M. Disch (originally F&SF; here, Strange Horizons)
A lot of the time he couldn't suspend his disbelief in the real people around him, all their pushing and pulling, their weird fears and whopping lies, their endless urges to control other people's behavior, like the vegetarian cashier at the Stop-and-Shop or the manager at the convenience center. The lectures and demonstrations at the halfway house had laid out the basics, but without explaining any of it. Like harried parents, the Institute's staff had said, "Do this," and "Don't do that," and he'd not been in a position to argue. He did as he was bid, and his behavior fit as naturally as an old suit.

"Declaration by the Ghost of Emma Goldman" by Rick London (New American Writing)
I see now that the mind is occupied territory. Most likely, as long as we’re thinking the mind is under occupation. Despite our high ideals and surging rhetoric, we go on as if we were alone and adrift, seeking some small moment of advantage. Indeed, amid so much of the usual sectarian bickering you’d think we couldn’t see past our noses or had to close one eye to see out of the other. Will we ever pull aside the curtain on this hapless drama?

"Arbeitskraft" by Nick Mamatas (The Mammoth Book of Steampunk)
I was an old hand at organizing workers, though girls who consumed electricity rather than bread were a bit beyond my remit.

"Please Note That I Am Not Burt Reynolds*" by Sarah Sorensen (Identity Theory)
*Although I might be introduced to you as such a person. There was probably a point when I should have mentioned that I wasn’t actually Burt Reynolds. Of course, I’m not sure why she thought that I was Burt Reynolds to begin with. I don’t resemble Burt. Burt was never a portly woman in a pug t-shirt and skinny jeans.

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