2014: My Favorite Short Stories

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! (If you don’t celebrate, Merry Wednesday!)

Earlier this week, I made a list of my favorite songs of 2014. You may have noticed that not all of these songs actually came out in (or anywhere near) 2014. Consider this par for the course for all my lists — I usually go by when I encountered a creative work, not when said creative work was made/released.

Today, I have a list of my favorite short stories I read in 2014, along with a number of awesome quotes from these stories. (There will also be quotes from other stories that didn’t quite hit my top ten because, while I liked them, there is just TOO MUCH GOOD WORK OUT THERE.) I’m kind of a quote junkie, and I like to highlight quotes on my blog because they’re great way to quickly capture the writer’s voice and attract readers. That being said, if any author sees a quote from their work here and wants it taken down, let me know and I will do so immediately.

Now. I tried to pick one absolute favorite short story of the year . . . and just couldn’t. Therefore I picked two absolute favorites and eight honorable mentions.

FAVORITE SHORT STORY

The Earth and Everything Under” – K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer)

Hunting Monsters” – S.L. Huang (The Book Smugglers) 

“The Earth and Everything Under” is basically the embodiment of everything I love about country magic stories. The imagery is stunning, and I really like the quiet relationship between the narrator and the sheriff. The entire story is surreal, elegant, and gorgeous.

Also gorgeous: “Hunting Monsters,” a lovely and subversive blend of several fairy tales. I really like all the women in this story — particularly Auntie Rosa, who is just the best — and I love how Huang has managed to build something that’s new and entirely her own while examining these classic stories.

I highly recommend checking out both “The Earth and Everything Under” and “Hunting Monsters” when you have the opportunity. If you’re looking for more recommendations, here are the rest of my favorites that I read this year.

The Final Girl” – Shira Lipkin (Strange Horizons)
Becca at the End of the World” – Shira Lipkin (Apex)
This is the Way I Die” – Damien Angelica Walters (Nightmare)
Chapter Six” – Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com)
The Great Detective” – Sarah Brooks (Strange Horizons)
A Whisper in the Weld” – Alix E. Harrow (Shimmer)
Mrs. Yaga” – Michal Wojcik (The Book Smugglers)
Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)” – Holly Black (Lightspeed)

And because picking Favorite Short Story isn’t hard enough, I will now choose my Favorite Short Story Quote. Keep in mind that the listed quotes could have SPOILERS (though I don’t think too many of them do).

FAVORITE SHORT STORY QUOTE:

“They were eighty miles from campus, if miles still mattered.
It had been Dr. Ormon’s idea.
Dr. Ormon was Crain’s dissertation director. If dissertations still mattered.
They probably didn’t.
Zombies. Zombies were the main thing that mattered these days.”
– “Chapter Six” – Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com)

Admittedly, Stephen Graham Jones was once a teacher of mine at Clarion West, so there could be bias. Also, zombies. I definitely have a zombie bias. But there’s something about this quote that is so simple and so perfect to me. I admire a certain sense of minimalism in prose, and no one quite turns a minimalistic sentence like Stephen Graham Jones.

Finally, here are the rest of the many, many quotes I enjoyed reading. I have included links for all stories that were not already linked to above.

Honorable Mentions:

“In a fairy tale, the story would now be over. But in the attic, something broods, waiting.” – “The Correspondence Between the Governess and the Attic” – Siobhan Carroll (Lightspeed)

“She is befriended by Helen Burns, a girl with a saintly smile and a red cough that will martyr her before the story is even underway. Burns counsels the embrace of suffering, and dies (beautifully) to illustrate her point.
The changeling is not convinced. She scratches the walls of her prison, searching for a way out. A kind ancestral fairy drops the solution on her pillow: She will become a governess.”
– “The Correspondence Between the Governess and the Attic” – Siobhan Carroll (Lightspeed)

“Rochester is furious. He would kill Mason if he could, but this is England, and the wedding guests would be positively shocked.”
– “The Correspondence Between the Governess and the Attic” – Siobhan Carroll (Lightspeed)

“The final girl is a poor actuary due to skewed data, always predicting the possibility of mass murder at 100%.”
– “The Final Girl” – Shira Lipkin (Strange Horizons)

“There is a sharp divide between Final Girls who kill their attackers and those whose attacker escapes. It comes out in group, in conversations, in subtle positioning. This is the hierarchy of Final Girls: if you have killed the monster, you are more-than. If your monster is still out there, you are less-than, flinches-at-shadows, cowering thing, girl-who-did-not-fight-hard-enough. Your lack of control of this is immaterial. The victims who themselves became killers, who took up the ax or the gun or the knife . . . they cast their shadows.”
– “The Final Girl” – Shira Lipkin (Strange Horizons)

“The first marriage proposal is a gem: I FEEL like I know you 4EVER. Your eyes, the smile, plz say yes. I know you’re daddy will luv ME.
I delete it. Proper usage of the apostrophe is hard, but still.”
– “The Serial Killer’s Astronaut Daughter” – Damien Angelica Walters (Strange Horizons)

“I miss the way you smelled of witchcraft.”
– “The Earth and Everything Under” – K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer)

“For a long time, when Peter went into the ground, she had not eaten. It had been hard to swallow, hard to chew; hard even to take the knives from their drawers, to knead the bread, measure coffee to brew. This was not a widow’s grief, or not all of it; green onions, when she touched them, sprouted anew, and eggs cracked, and the yolks crawled out on the counter. Potatoes sent out new roots. A leg of lamb once pulsed with blood. She feared what her hands might do, while something in her reached for resurrection. It was easier not to touch food.”
– “The Earth and Everything Under” – K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer)

“Wolves, she thought, had simple thoughts. Hunger, not-hunger, and sometimes the moon.”
– “The Earth and Everything Under” – K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer)

“Hope didn’t wake you. Harvest good. Need to talk re: plague of birds. Will swing by later this wk.”
– “The Earth and Everything Under” – K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer)

“I didn’t let Rob finish. “I’ve got a rhythm.”
Rob didn’t take his eyes off the road as he called back, “You’ve got what?!?”
“He’s alive,” I said.
And that’s when the asshole sat up and bit me.”
– “Jane” – Margaret Dunlap (Shimmer)

“It isn’t easy, having the Great Detective in the family. Social occasions are sometimes strained.”
– “The Great Detective” – Sarah Brooks (Strange Horizons)

“Once upon a time she met an alien and it gave her superpowers, thinks Mayumi, but she doesn’t say it out loud, because Kenji finds jokes disconcerting.”
– “The Great Detective” – Sarah Brooks (Strange Horizons)

“He also turns out to be a smuggler. Grudgingly, you have to admit that your parents might not be wrong about everything.”
– “Ten Rules For Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)” – Holly Black (Lightspeed)

“If your ship gets raided by space pirates, don’t hide in the cargo hold, because everybody wants what’s in the cargo hold.”
– “Ten  Rules For Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)” – Holly Black (Lightspeed)

“What happened to their ship?” you ask, because he hasn’t killed you so maybe he’ll keep on not killing you.
– “Ten  Rules For Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)” – Holly Black (Lightspeed)

“In the last picture, I’m dead.”
– “Selfies” – Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com)

“She paused, lost in the past, her hands tight on her mug of tea, before she said softly, “He made a deal to sell your mother to a grundwirgen prince. She was ten years old.”
My breath felt too thick. “I don’t understand,” I said.
“Yes, you do.”
– “Hunting Monsters” – S.L. Huang (The Book Smugglers)

“Did my mother kill him?” I asked.
“She escaped,” said Auntie Rosa. She stared into the fire, and her voice dropped to barely a whisper. “She escaped. Isn’t that the important part?”
– “Hunting Monsters” – S.L. Huang (The Book Smugglers)

“I didn’t know whether my mother would be better off saying she’d killed the grundwirgen prince to escape, or whether she should continue to claim her innocence. I didn’t know that either would save her. Everyone who mattered had decided her guilt before she was arrested, and by law the grundwirgen prince had been her husband—you don’t escape from a husband.”
– “Hunting Monsters” – S.L. Huang (The Book Smugglers)

“He sat in her palm and told himself not to urinate upon her. One did not urinate upon one’s empress, especially when one was a gentleman frog.”
– “Once, Upon a Lime” – E. Catherine Tobler (Strange Horizons)

“All he has to do is bypass the gatekeeper of the thrice-tenth kingdom and bring me a fern flower, a dragon’s heart, and a rusałka’s lock of hair. Easy.”
– “Mrs. Yaga” – Michal Wojcik (The Book Smugglers)

“Sometimes strangers would come from afar asking for private audience, promising countless rewards, but if Mrs. Yaga decided to aid them she seldom asked for cash. Instead she requested less tangible things: a stray dream caught in a web, a bundle of love letters exchanged before the First World War, their soft pencilled marks long faded into illegibility, the soul of a firstborn son. These she all kept in a great iron chest that doubled as a coffee table, until she had need of them.”
– “Mrs. Yaga” – Michal Wojcik (The Book Smugglers)

“Why do they always listen to Mrs. Yaga? Are they so afraid, that they’d rather chance the
thrice-tenth kingdom than whisk me away themselves? Do they think I’m someone they can own, something they can barter for? Aren’t I prize enough without a quest attached?
And lastly: A fucking mix tape?
– “Mrs. Yaga” – Michal Wojcik (The Book Smugglers)

“Ghosts don’t linger, much. A few days of strolling through the world, which is much too loud and bright, then the dirt calls them down to trickle amongst the low, burrowing things to lose the boundaries of themselves in the rich smell of rot. Some stay, in the name of love or vengeance, but most people are pragmatists at heart, and lay themselves down to rest.
Isa lingered.”
– “A Whisper in the Weld” – Alix E. Harrow (Shimmer)

“They were nothing more or less than our dead children.”
– “A Moon for the Unborn” – Indrapramit Das (Strange Horizons)

“I came to rescue you from my capricious brother,” she said over her shoulder as she worked. “But you seem to have things well in hand. I’m impressed. So is he.”
Minka snorted and gripped her father’s telescope tighter. “I didn’t come out here to impress either of you. I came out to see a comet.”
– “The Astronomer Who Met the North Wind” – Kate Hall (The Book Smugglers)

“Char is about to pull the ring when she spies a tag stuck to it which reads Do Not Pull String! in small, tight, handwritten script. Char fingers the ring, wondering what The Drawstring Detective’s voice sounds like. She wonders what it would say if she was the kind of person who willfully ignored adamant handwritten instructions.”
– “The Drawstring Detective” – Nik Houser (Lightspeed)

“Dear Future Me:
I haven’t been myself lately and neither have you.”
– “Unfair Exchange” – Pat Cadigan (Nightmare)

“We used to be special. Now we’re grown-ups, and this is what you learn. Special children turn into fucked up adults.”
– “Who Is Your Executioner?” – Maria Dahvana Headley (Nightmare)

That’s it for now. Check out the blog next week for my 2014 Book Superlatives and (hopefully) 2014 Movie Superlatives.

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