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Short Story, Long Influence

April 30, 2008

I don’t talk about them much, but I do read them. My general rule of thumb when reading is that a novel has one page to pull me in. A short story has one paragraph. My short story reading mirrors my novel reading in that SF, fantasy and speculative fiction are what I generally seek out. I guess the non-fiction equivalent of a short story is the in-depth article, and I get my fix of those from The Economist, New Scientist, or the Financial Review.

Most short stories don’t get past the skim with me, but there are a few that really resonate. I don’t remember any of the novels I was obliged to read at school but I remember the short stories.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. Even today, to have the phrase ‘Walter Mitty’ directed at you can be a death sentence. Sometimes literally.

The Bright Spade by George Mackay Brown – winters in Scotland are harsh

The Machine Stops by EM Forster, I think this was my first exposure to SF. Thanks EM.

Boule de Suif by Guy de Maupassant, everything you need to know about hypocrisy.

A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury, other time travel stories sit in the shade of this one

To that list I can only add one from recent years – Singing My Sister Down by Margo Lanagan, which deserves to be required reading for every sentient being. Except I’m more in favour of encouraged reading over ‘required’ reading. Subtle, but important difference.

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