Category Archives: Saturday Shorts

Squee! To Die for Moonlight by Sarah Monette

A short post, entirely to mention something I apparently missed when it was released: There’s a new Kyle Murchison Booth story! To Die for Moonlight, published by the wonderful folks at Apex Magazine.

If you haven’t read any Booth before, you’re in for a treat. I reviewed “White Charles” last year (still my favorite of the Booth stories) but I really don’t think you can go wrong with this, not at all.

And now, I’ll be off to read it. Good night, good night, and happy hauntings.

Saturday Shorts: The 2012 Hugo Nominees

With the announcement of the 2012 Hugo Nominees this afternoon, I have a lot of short story reading to catch up on, and so do you. So here’s a collection of the short fiction nominees, with links where I can find them:

Best Novella

Note: 6 nominees due to tie for final position.

Best Novelette

Best Short Story

Saturday Short – “An Inside Job” by Neil C. Miller

“They’ll never come,” says Billy, as he carelessly lights a cigarette.
 “That’s what they said about prohibition,” I counters.
A real period offering, “An Inside Job” (PDF link) was published by Black Mask Magazine in 1927 and is offered by them now online. I had a bit of an urge to re-watch High Sierra yesterday afternoon, and since my job frowns on taking a couple of hours off to watch Bogart movies, I had to settle for reading this. It’s a pretty fair substitute, actually.
One of my favorite things about 1920s gangster stories is how literate they are – or at the least, how literate they expect their readers to be. Thrown into jail, the narrator kills some time by “shaking the bars like old Monte Cristo used to do.” Not exactly the kind of not-so-pop culture reference you’d see in most modern stories. Plus, I just love gangster slang, and no matter how hard modern writers try to replicate it, they never seem to manage. Something about the density of it; it’s almost a dialect of its own.
“An Inside Job” is a fun twist on the usual detective story, though – the gangster as detective’s assistant. I gotta say, if there were a whole series of Billy Hearn and Jimmy Black stories, I’d read them all.

Saturday Shorts: “The Mezzotint” by M.R. James

Today I went to see The Woman in Black, so you get a ghost story. Isn’t it nice how this works out?

For the first time I feature a story I haven’t actually read yet, but that a friend of mine insists is much creepier than it should be. Like The Woman in Black (the movie at least, I can’t speak for the book), it isn’t necessarily the originality of the story but the way it’s told that makes it scary. Of course, M.R. James is one of the early horror writers, and clichés weren’t necessarily cliché yet when he wrote “The Mezzotint.”

To say too much more about it would be to give it all away – it’s quite a short story – or possibly there’s nothing to give away, because it’s all in the atmosphere. Still, if you’re in the mood for a quick creepy thrill, you could do much worse.

Saturday Shorts: Exhalation by Ted Chiang

It’s been a while since I did one of these, hasn’t it? But the book I finished over lunch today – The Brief History of the Dead – reminded me of this story, and I knew it was available online, so it seemed perfect.

If you haven’t read Ted Chiang’s stories, you are in for an amazing treat. If you have – well, you’re probably appreciating a chance to read it again, aren’t you? This is a story to savor; make yourself a cup of tea and settle in. Don’t expect it to be over too quickly. It isn’t that long, but it’s very full.
Exhalation” is the story of a very small world. At least, it seems small by our standards; I suppose if you lived in it it would seem the size of the world. And it’s a story about the end of the world, too. It’s almost a classic Golden Age science fiction story, since the whole point of it is for the reader to explore this world run entirely on air pressure in much the same way that ours is run on sunlight. But Golden Age sf stories always seem a little dry to me, mostly because they don’t have any real people in them. The narrator of “Exhalation” is most definitely a real person, and it is a joy to meet him.

Saturday Shorts: A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel by Yoon Ha Lee

Science fiction is a huge genre – it covers everything from military adventures to small, introspective pieces, future history, alternate history, space travel, telepathy, cyberpunk… A little bit of everything. But one of the things that holds it together is the exploration of the alien, whether that means literal aliens or just things that do not exist in our current daily lives.

In this wonderful, poetic short story, Yoon Ha Lee explores the truly alien – literal aliens this time, but some of the most non-human aliens I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about.After all, humans are not at all consistent in their reasons for doing things – it stands to reason that not all aliens would invent interstellar travel for the same reasons.

On this chilly winter weekend, enjoy “A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel” by Yoon Ha Lee.

Saturday Short: Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear

While I’m still limping along, trying to put my online life back together after nearly a month disconnected (sob!), one of my favorite short stories for you this fine, rainy Saturday evening.

It’s really not news to any horror fan to say that H.P. Lovecraft was kind of very racist. I mean, he was a product of the late nineteenth century, of course he was racist. In “Shoggoths in Bloom,” Elizabeth Bear takes the Cthulu mythos and applies a modern point of view to it – which is not to say that Professor Harding is a modern character, but that he is a character that H.P. Lovecraft would never have considered using as the point of view.

Professor Harding is a veteran of the Great War, a naturalist, and the grandson of an African-born slave. He’s researching the shoggoths, and what he finds, and what he does with that knowledge – well. It’s not a long story, do go find out. It is quite wonderful.

Saturday Shorts: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

Hey, you didn’t think I could get all the way through October without a single Poe story, did you?

The Fall of the House of Usher” has always been my favorite Edgar Allen Poe story, despite the rather awkward “analytical” readings of it we had to do in high school English classes. Yes, yes, the house symbolizes the family, the downfall of the aristocracy, blah blah blah. What I love about it is the house itself. I’ve always wanted to live in a haunted house. I grew up in a Victorian-era house that had been disappointingly remodeled until all the interesting bits were gone, and I always longed for a proper house full of secret passages and mysterious corners.

Of course, there is also the family Usher, never really explained but obscurely hinted at. The joy of stories like that is that it’s just as disturbing as whatever you bring to it (and believe me, I can make these stories pretty damn disturbing).

Enjoy this horror classic as we head into Hallowe’en weekend – some of my favorite books are coming up!


the first annual october extravaganza

Saturday Shorts: The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

I have something rather embarrassing to admit. I’ve never actually read any Lovecraft before reading this story for today. I’ve read lots of Lovecraftian stories, and I’m relatively familiar with the mythos, but this is the first time I’ve read something by the man himself. Lovecraft stories have a reputation for being overwritten, but I didn’t find “The Colour Out of Space” any more overdone than any other fiction of the period, and much less than some.

The plot is simple – a meteor falls from the sky, wreaks havoc, and leaves. Or does it? The story itself is told, like all the best urban legends, at a couple of removes – the nameless narrator is relating to us the story of a local family that he heard from a local farmer. After hearing the horrible tale of how the family went mad, turned into horrific things, and then died (yes, in that order), the narrator promptly announces that he will not be staying in Arkham and will certainly never be drinking the water out of the reservoir that is being built over the old, dead farm.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t find this story nearly as scary as the Machen or Blackwood I wrote about earlier this month. A bit unnerving, perhaps, but nothing that’s going to keep me looking over my shoulder for too long. Still, it was good to finally get a sense of where all this is coming from. I will certainly be reading more Lovecraft in the future.

(And you, dear reader? You will be getting a barrage of Lovecraft mythos in the next few days. Enjoy!)


the first annual october extravaganza

Saturday Shorts: The Novel of the Black Seal by Arthur Machen

Time for one of my absolute favorite horror stories of all time, Arthur Machen’s “Novel of the Black Seal”. Machen was a Welsh writer of the same period as Algernon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft – and, more to the point, Aleistair Crowley, who was a great fan of Machen’s. (Machen did not return the favor, which honestly says something rather flattering about him.)

Despite the title, “The Novel of the Black Seal” is actually a short story, a part of Machen’s larger collection entitled The Three Impostors. In The Three Impostors, a group of men, all members of a secret society, search for “the young man with the spectacles” (for what purpose it is probably better not to know) and in the course of their searches acquire and share a number of short, horrifying tales, of which “Black Seal” is one.

“The Novel of the Black Seal” is another horror story in the same vein as “The Willows,” which I used to kick off my October Extravaganza series. Unlike “The Willows,” though, the threat in “Black Seal” is is much more present, and undeniably real – no falling back on psychological explanations this time. It’s just as mysterious, though, and just as inexplicable. And to me, that makes it even more awful – it’s real, but no one will ever believe you if you try to tell them about it, and you’ll never be able to stop it. *shivers*

Enjoy this delightful little slice of terror for your weekend, folks.


the first annual october extravaganza