I read one short story a day for 21 days and it went just as well as you might expect // wrap-up and discussion

discussion

Life stopped being normal a while ago for all of us, and I feel like everyone has done something weird or unusual since lockdown started. Got into a new hobby, completely rearranged their apartment, bought too many houseplants, done things without a reason other than just because.

I did some of those things too, but the weirdest thing I did so far was randomly deciding to get rid of a few short stories on my TBR by reading one a day until I was rid of the ones I had open in my tabs, then I extended it to the ones saved on goodreads. Long story short (AHAHAHAHAHAAH I just noticed the pun), somehow I ended up finding more and then it became this challenge to myself that I also thought would make for a fun post to write, so that led me to want to read more so I could finish on a nice number, until I got burned out and decided to finish it on three full weeks of short stories.

While I’m never going to do anything like this again unless someone pays me a considerable amount, I’m also glad that I did it! I feel like I learned a lot about what I like and what I don’t, and how to read (SFF) short fiction, and also that it’s very, very easy to get burned out doing something like this, especially once university stars again and you have to follow lessons all day and have no brain power left for the daily short story.

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What I learned

So, the first thing I learned is this: reading SFF short stories is not easy. Sure, there are some that are pretty linear and once you get into them then they flow really well and  you just click with them, but there are also a lot that will fight you every step of the way, and will require you to actually focus on the minor details, and even then what shape the story takes is mostly up to how you interpret the text and subtext.

I feel like short stories more than anything else are where a writer can use their writing style at the best of their potential, and that allows you to find authors whose writing really speaks to you, as well as ones that you don’t really click with. The writing style is not as diluted as it sometimes can be with longer fiction, and as with anything that comes in higher concentrations, it can be too much even if you don’t mind its taste in smaller amounts. But in any case: reading short stories is a great way to find new (to you) writers.

SFF short fiction seems to also be a place where a lot of diversity is not a big deal and easy to find. Of course I say this coming from a place of both seeking diverse stories and getting my recommendations from people I trust to read diversely, so it might also be a case of echo chamber, but I still feel like there is some truth in it, especially since some of these short stories are relatively older and were published when diverse fiction was really just starting to gain more traction (at least when it comes to novels).

Something that shocked me on the more practical side of things, as someone who had previously only read a few short stories from Tor.com, is that not all short stories come listed on goodreads individually unless they are from Tor.com itself, and you’ll instead have to search for the name of the magazine + issue number where they were published if you want to add them to your goodreads challenge.

There’s definitely more that I learned but it would be things I learned about myself and what I like in fiction, so I’ll say this instead: sometimes you’ll find an overly specific trope used in a short story and classify it into “absolutely yes” or “absolutely not”, and you can use this knowledge to then seek out fiction with that trope or know to avoid it at all costs.

I can’t possibly talk about every single story I’ve read and this post is already too long without it, but here I’m listing all of them as well as where you can read them and my review (if I wrote one).

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What I read

(favorites are marked with ✨)

An Explorer’s Cartography of Already Settled Lands by Fran Wilde | read here | review | no rating

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods by Maria Dahvana Headley | read here | review | ★★✩✩

Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee | read here | ★★★✩

The Egg by Andy Weir | read here | ★★★★

The Shape of my Name by Nino Cipri | read here | ★★★★✩

For He Can Creep by Siobhan Carroll | read here | ★★★★

Warm Up by Victoria Schwab | read here | ★★★★✩

The Water that Falls On You From Nowhere by John Chu | read here | review | ★★★★

Angel of the Blockade by Alex Wells | read here | ★★★★

St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk | read here | ★★★✩

The Library of Lost Things by Matthew Bright | read here | review | ★★★★

His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal | read here | review | ★★★★✩

So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer | read here | review | ★★★★✩

Cat pictures please by Naomi Kritzer | read here | review | ★★★★

The Trees of my Youth Grew Tall by Mimi Mondal | read here | ★★★✩

Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara | read here | review | ★★★★

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong | read here | ★★★★✩

Thirteen Steps in the Underworld by Su-Yee Lin | read here | ★★★★✩

A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone | read here | review | ★★★★

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong | read here | review | ★★★★✩

Men Who Wish to Drown by Elizabeth Fama | read here | review | ★★★✩

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As you can see I found a few stories that I would classify as favorites (7 out of 21 is a great number if you ask me!) and I’m really happy about this. Although I got kind of a bad start (I didn’t get the first one I read, I disliked the second one and found the third one okay but difficult to read) I also saw pretty early on that there were absolute gems for me to discover.

Short stories sometimes leave a lot of space for interpretation and that can need some getting used to or at the very least you need to be in the right headspace for it. I think it’s definitely nice to see how a story sparked a discussion in the comments, and even the most intricate story can make for a great buddy read with a friend, but otherwise it can be a frustrating experience.

There’s short stories you immediately get and speak to your soul, though, and those are worth trying to get into this sort of fiction even if you will hit a few bumps in the road.

In the future I look forward to read more short stories and I’ve definitely already added a bunch more to my TBR, but I don’t think I will ever challenge myself like I did here, and instead I will focus on reading the ones I really want to read in that moment.

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Do you read short stories? What are your favorites? Have you read any of these?

21 thoughts on “I read one short story a day for 21 days and it went just as well as you might expect // wrap-up and discussion

  1. I love this idea of reading so many short stories! I actually just started reading a short story collection last night, so this gave me some inspiration to keep at it. I totally agree with you that short stories often take a certain headspace because they can be so interpretive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is way braver than anything I’ve ever attempted with short SFF and I don’t know how you did it dfkhf

    I’ve read twelve of these and I think a pattern is emerging – I didn’t care about some enough to even mark them on goodreads because they were nice, straightforward stories and unless they’re absolutely amazing (For He Can Creep!) I almost immediately forget about those. I think I like short stories for the same reason I like certain kinds of adult SFF, by which I mean I like books that cause problems on purpose.

    About the diversity: the nice side effect of being the one format in which everyone is comfortable and kind of expected to take risks in (which is why so much of it is weird), and we know who is seen as a risk. Editors don’t have reasons to worry about the single story “not selling” the way one does with novels. I don’t think it’s an echo chamber effect, because all the magazines that usually get nominated for awards are all like that – so it’s a characteristic of the most prominent part of SFF & horror short fiction, at least.

    …and now I want to know what tropes you were “absolutely not” on because I’m Nosy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right about the diversity thing and I wanted to try and explore it more in my post but then decided it was already too long dshklshf but definitely the “not having to make money off it” is a big factor.

      ….afhdlhgsl since i didn’t find a lot of them really bad i also don’t have a list of “absolutely not” tropes, more like things that are confirmed not to be my favorite? genres like magical realism (the C.L. Polk story) and things that i wouldn’t know how to even sum up in a sentence but whatever the deal with the girlfriend’s guide to gods was. I did however DNF a short story and i didn’t talk about it here because I stopped after only one paragraph, i don’t remember its name but it had a lot to do with corpses and it was upsetting me so I think that’s an “absolutely not” dsghshskl

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Was it Kameron Hurley’s Elephants and Corpses? It’s the only corpse short story I remember the title of kdjfhgjk I don’t remember the story though, so it mustn’t have been so memorable

        Liked by 1 person

    1. ahhh thank you so much bb! i mostly had fun so i’m happy i did it and that i could write a wrap up that can be seen as a rec list. I hope you like the ones you end up reading if you decide to give them a go! ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a great idea Silvia! I can imagine reading so many short stories would be tiring, but good for you for reading so many! I’m definitely going to be looking into these stories, so you’ll probably see me adding these to my TBR haha 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Three of your favourites are also my favourites! For He Can Creep, The Library of Lost Things and His Footsteps. Seeing you mentioned these titles make me want to reread them all. The rest on this list I haven’t read yet and some I’ve never heard before so thank you for the recommendation!

    I enjoy reading short stories though not often. One way to enjoy reading when I get tired from focusing on those long books for days. I’m bad at keeping up with series because of the wait plus my goldfish memory, so there’s that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those were such good stories and I can totally see myself rereading them at some point in the future! I hope you find new favorites if you read other ones from the list 🙂

      Right, I love series but sometimes you just need something self-contained, that’s one of the reason why I’m really enjoying standalones lately, and short stories are that but you can read them in one sitting and sometimes that’s really all you need!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m gonna need to save this post for future reference then 😉

    And yes! Something you can read in just one sitting. That’s exactly it.

    Liked by 1 person

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