Monday, March 24, 2008

Reviewing Short Fiction

So I finally realized that I do actually like short fiction. For years I'd told myself that I prefer novels, but I have to face the facts. I'm keeping up with subscriptions to: F&SF, Analog, Asimov's Baen's Universe and Interzone. Obviously, short fiction and I have been getting along just fine. So since I'm reading so much of the stuff, I thought I'd start reviewing it here, both the good stuff and the ones I skip.

I'd usually enjoyed single-author collections by authors whose novels I'd enjoyed. The thing is, I tend not to have the same taste as say, Gardner Dozois. So the Year's Best-type collections tend not to have the things I like. So instead I decided to go straight to the source. That way I can read (and nominate for awards) what I like, without anyone else's filter.

Now, to keep up with all of these subscriptions I have to skim, and in my case skimming = skipping. I start every story with the default intention of finishing it, but usually at a certain point I ask myself "is it worth it to finish this story?" Often if I have to ask the question at all, the answer is No. If it's a really good story I will be so immersed in it that I never stop to ask the question.

Some things that make me skip a story: wandering openings that give no indication where the story is going; cliched-seeming plots that make me suspect I know what the ending will be; characters I really don't care about; and awkward prose. Now, there are exceptions to all these, and other stories I'll skip for other reasons. I'm hoping to examine in at least a few of my blog posts on the subject just what it is that causes me to skip some stories and finish others. My tastes will be as idiosyncratic as the next reviewer's, of course, but some may find it useful, and it may help clarify my own thinking.

Over the weekend I was at ICFA, I finally gave in to the reality of my joy of short fiction, and picked up some anthologies that I'd been avoiding: Feeling Very Strange (ed. Jim Kelly and John Kessel), Rewired (ed. Jim Kelly and John Kessel), and The New Weird (ed. Jeff & Ann VanderMeer). I'll also probably actually read the copy of Logorhea (ed. John Klima) that I had wound up with. So look for more short fiction reviews in this space. I'm still going to try to keep up with one novel review per week, but we'll see how it goes.

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