We Book Smugglers love short stories. (We love them so much, we published six of them this year.)
Novellas, novelettes, short fiction—these are immersive storytelling experiences that tell a complete story from beginning to end, but deliver that message in a short amount of space and time. And sometimes, especially in the manic flurry of holiday entertaining/travel/work, there isn’t time (or energy) to dive into that new 400-page hard-science-fiction doorstopper.
Friends, short stories are your salvation this holiday season.
Here are some favorites from 2014, worth checking out when you need a quick time-out.
Trading Rosemary by Octavia Cade: We’re slightly biased when it comes to Octavia Cade, as we love her writing so much that we published our own short story from her this fall (“The Mussel Eater”), but it all stems from this fantastic novella. Trading Rosemary is a story in a world in which memories are currency, and how far one will go to recover something lost.
The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin: Technically this is an older novella, originally published in 1980, but repackaged and re-released this year based on the popularity of GRRM. Set in the same world of A Song of Ice and Fire (HBO’s Game of Thrones), this is a delightful, illustrated fable about a girl and, yes, her dragon.
Bluecrowne by Kate Milford: Kate Milford is a criminally under-read and underappreciated author; her middle grade/YA novels The Boneshaker, The Broken Lands and this year’s Greenglass House are richly detailed historical fantasy-horror, all set in the same world. This particular novella, Bluecrowne, also unites her previous books, and is the story of a talented seafaring family that takes to land, and the dangers a girl and her family face from those who desire their abilities.
“Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre: Astrange (really strange) short story from Strange Horizon’s excellent original fiction roster, “Little Faces”is a different take on mating rituals. Alien mating rituals. And…well, just give it a try.
“As Good As New” by Charlie Jane Anders: As always, Tor.com has a lineup of truly amazing novelettes and short stories in 2014 and this was one of my favorites of the bunch. It’s the end of the world, and the last person in the world stumbles across a genie and has four wishes. What would you wish for after the apocalypse?
“A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade” by John Chu: Fresh from his Hugo win for the excellent “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere,” here is a science-fictional story that is grander in scope but just as powerful in terms of characterization. In this world, the barricade threatens to fail as Turbulence outside grows—it is up to Ritter to live up to the expectations of his famous father, and save civilization from collapse.
“Cold Wind” by Nicola Griffith: There needs to be at least ONE Christmas story on here, right? A tale of hunter and hunted, Nicola Griffith’s Cold Wind is also a fantastic dark fantasy/horror story (because horror and Christmas go together like Mogwai and mischief).
“A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap: Love is a complicated thing, and "A Cup of Salt Tears" is an elegiac story of love, grief and sacrifice. Makino’s husband is dying, and a kappa (a Japanese folkloric water demon) offers her solace, the possibility for her husband’s recovery, and love.
“The Circle” by Liu Cixin: A short story that appears in the recently released anthology Carbide Tipped Pens (science fiction stories about state-of-the-art inventions), Liu Cixin proves again to the American audience his gift for far-reaching, epic science fiction. If you’re a fan of The Three-Body Problem (probably the best science fiction novel of the year, in our humble opinion), you should absolutely check out The Circle.
There you go! Our recommended 2014 short reads for surviving the holidays. Any others you’ve got on your lists?