| || |Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition submitted by FarragutCircle to Fantasy [link] [comments]
One of the rules of the Fantasy
Bingo Reading Challenge is that you can read an anthology or collection for any of the squares. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction, so I’ve occasionally used this rule to complete my Bingo Card (I used three collections outside of the Five Short Stories square last year, for example). When planning my card for the 2020 Bingo, I noticed that several of the squares fit quite well for some of the collections and anthologies I had (a Star Trek anthology for Exploration, books with colors or numbers in their names, etc.). “What if…” I wondered, “…I can do it for every
Thus, my project is born: Complete my Bingo card using only books of short stories
, following all the other rules of Bingo. I did not
repeat a single author from one square to another, and I even made sure not to repeat editors, either. Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
A brief aside before we start, some terms I use that some may not be familiar to some:
- Anthology: A book of short stories by multiple authors, usually assembled by an editor whose name is attached to the book (i.e. The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan)
- Collection: A book of short stories by a single author (i.e. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor)
- Short Story Cycle: A book of short stories that has its own narrative (i.e. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood). Some similarities with “interlinked collection,” “mosaic novel,” and “fix-up novel” (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury being a famous example of the latter).
- Reprint and Original: Many anthologies/collections reprint stories published previously (reprint) vs. originally written for the book in question (original). Some collections will mix it up (such as a reprint collection with one original story to encourage readers who have read the others to pick up the new book).
What did I hope to accomplish by doing this particular short fiction challenge? Some of my friends will complain about the Five Short Stories square (especially the hard mode requirement to read a book), and I wanted to spite them a little bit and also demonstrate that there’s a lot of different and interesting books out there to read in that format! Planning:
The hardest thing about this was the original planning, as several books I thought would be an easy match for the square didn’t work because another anthology I planned to use already included that author, so I had to dig a bit deeper to find something that didn’t repeat any authors. Also, in past Bingo Challenges, my cards are usually quite fluid as I shift books around throughout the year. Because of all the authors I was juggling, I couldn’t easily do that (though it was vastly easier to do with collections instead of anthologies, for obvious reasons). Numbers:
For this card, I officially read 32 books
for the 25 squares: One of those books was quite short, so I read an additional three to meet the length requirement. For the original Five Short Stories square, I decided to be obnoxious and read five collections. These 32 books included 1 short novel (included in one of the collections), 8 novellas, 106 novelettes, 498 short stories, and 3 poems
for a total of at least 2,739,975 words
(the rough equivalent of reading the first nine novels of The Wheel of Time
). I read 189 different authors
. In addition to the 32 books above, I read 15 “pre-Bingo” books—books I felt I needed to read to be able to read the anthology or collection I actually used for my Bingo Card. Fifteen of the 32 books were ones I already owned. Nine books I checked out from the library. Five books I bought specific for
Bingo, and three books were free (gifts or free online). 1. Novel Translated from Its Original Language: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (reprint collection)
2. Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold: Frozen Fairy Tales
- Reason: I couldn’t read my first choice so I looked through my TBR list to find another SF/F collection I thought would be a translation. It also won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.
- Favorite Story: “My Love” as I really liked how the characters grew apart and then back together again.
- Recommended: Only if you like short depressing literary fiction that mostly hinge on dreams and ghosts.
- Hard Mode: Yes, Pretrushevskaya is a woman.
- Other Options: I really wanted to read Xia Jia’s A Summer Beyond Your Reach, but she had a story in another anthology I read. I also considered one of Ken Liu’s Chinese SF/F anthologies (Invisible Planets or Broken Stars). I read Jurado & Lara’s Spanish Women of Wonder last year. Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever, or Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge also looked promising.
edited by Kate Wolford (original anthology)
3. Optimistic Spec Fic: Ingathering: The Complete People Stories
- Reason: I literally searched snow and anthology and this was one of the early options.
- Favorite Story: tie between “The Stolen Heart” by Christina Ruth Johnson and “Death in Winter” by Lissa Sloan; the first just felt great, and the second has this haunting feel I loved.
- Recommended: Yes; a good selection of fairy tale-inspired stories. Read during the summer, though, it felt really cold.
- Hard Mode: Yes, every story is in a snowy or cold setting.
- Other Options: I’m kind of mad that I didn’t come across Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World (edited by Clint Collins and Scott Woodward) until after I read my original choice. I like silly titles.
by Zenna Henderson (short story cycle, 1 original to this book)
4. Novel Featuring Necromancy: The Book of the Dead
- Reason: I’ve had a copy of this book for a couple years, and I needed an excuse to read it. It’s actually an omnibus of Henderson’s two People collections plus some previously uncollected stories. I’ve read the first People collection (Pilgrimage) several times people).
- Favorite Story: I’ll say “Ararat” here, but the first six stories (the original Pilgrimage collection) are amazingly wonderful and heartwarming.
- Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Zenna Henderson deserves more attention.
- Hard Mode: Yes. <3
- Other Options: If Henderson’s book hadn’t worked out, I considered Heiroglyph (edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer) and Salena Ulibarri’s two Glass and Gardens anthologies (Solarpunk Summers and Solarpunk Winters), but that would’ve required juggling my card.
edited by Jared Shurin (original anthology)
5. Ace/Aro Spec Fic: Life Within Parole, Volume 1
- Reason: I asked Jared Shurin (pornokitsch) if he knew of any anthologies with a necromantic theme, and he rattled off five or six options before remembering that he himself had edited an anthology about mummies. I don’t know how you forget something like that.
- Favorite Story: tie between “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore and “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill (non-SF/F)
- Recommended: Yes, but it’s out of print! Several of the stories were reprinted in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, including “Three Memories of Death.”
- Hard Mode: No, through several do have mummies as protagonists.
- Other Options: I was considering Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones since the description seemed rather death-magicky. At this point, the Paula Guran anthology above would probably be a good choice.
by RoAnna Sylver (collection, mix of reprint and original)
6. Novel Featuring a Ghost: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
- Reason: A friend found this on Claudie Arseneault’s asexual recommendations website, which was good, but I felt I needed to read her novel Chameleon Moon first to understand the collection. I’m glad I did.
- Favorite Story: Reluctantly “Phoenix Down” as it felt the most self-contained.
- Recommended: Only if you loved Chameleon Moon, which I only recommend if you like a sample of the writing. It’s amazingly diverse in representation, but my frustrations with the novel related more towards its pacing and worldbuilding. Plus I don’t like superheroes.
- Hard Mode: Yes, half the stories have an asexual or aromantic protagaonist.
- Other Options: My original choice was Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, a Kickstarter-funded book. However, due to the pandemic, the publication was pushed back, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I also seriously considered Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded in the Butt.
by M. R. James (collection, mix of reprint and original)
7. Novel Featuring Exploration: No Limits
- Reason: I just searched ghost anthology, and this was a top result. I have actually never heard of M. R. James before this year, but I gather he’s a huge influence since he’s written so many ghost stories.
- Favorite Story: “The Mezzotint” as it was the one that creeped me out the most.
- Recommended: Yes, but only if you realize that it’s got an older style to them (since this book came out in 1904), and that most of these stories won’t creep you out in the year 2020.
- Hard Mode: No, the ghosts are either antagonists or obstacles.
- Other Options: I actually don’t know, I stopped searching after I found the book. M. R. James does have 3 more collections of ghost stories, though (all of 4 of which have been gathered in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James).
edited by Peter David (original anthology)
8. Climate Fiction: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction
- Reason: I read the first few Star Trek: New Frontier novels back in the late 1990s, but never finished it, so I got all the books for a personal readthrough. Star Trek is by definition perfect for the exploration square, so I read the books. However, I was reading them in publication order, so I had to read the first 14 books before I could get to the anthology!
- Favorite Story: “Waiting for G’Doh, or, How I Learned to Stop Moving” is a rather funny story about the security officer Zak Kebron at the beginning of his career.
- Recommended: Yes, but only if you’ve read at least the first six Star Trek: New Frontier novels (all the stories are set before the first book, but most of the characters aren’t really established until you’ve read the first four).
- Hard Mode: Maybe, nearly all the stories feature exploration, but the plots are often about backstories for the main characters of the series.
- Other Options: I considered James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells (his novel Expendable is a perfect exploration book, so I was hoping the collection would work). Past anthologies that would probably work is Federations edited by John Joseph Adams, Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke, and maybe Alastair Reynolds’s Deep Navigation or Galactic North.
edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, & Joey Eschrich (original anthology)
9. Novel with a Color in the Title: The King in Yellow
- Reason: A friend recommended to me as this theme was getting difficult for me to find, as all my other options included stories by authors I had to read for other squares. This book was produced from a short story contest run by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University and judged in part by Kim Stanley Robinson.
- Favorite Story: “On Darwin Tides” by Shauna O’Meara, which follows a “sea gypsy” in Malaysia as she struggles in this new dystopian future.
- Recommended: Only if the topic appeals to you—because it was a contest, the stories are mostly from amateur writers and the quality mostly shows. It’s free online, though, and there’s a second book, Everything Change II, which I’ve been told is better.
- Hard Mode: No, most of them are apocalyptic or post-apocalypse.
- Other Options: My original choice was Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan, but there’s also Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by John Joseph Adams, and I imagine a lot of solarpunk-themed books could work for this, too.
by Robert W. Chambers (original collection)
10. Any Fantasy Book Club Book of the Month OR Fantasy Readalong Book: Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea
- Reason: I already had it (it’s available on Project Gutenberg)
- Favorite Story: “In the Court of the Dragon” which felt like one of the creepier stories to me.
- Recommended: Honestly, no. Only half the stories are SF/F, the other half are all stories about bohemian artists in Paris. This book is known for the stories involving “The King in Yellow” play, but they didn’t really work for me.
- Hard Mode: Yes.
- Other Options: I considered using Judith Tarr’s Nine White Horses, the anthology Blackguards, Jack Vance’s Wild Thyme, Green Magic, Walter Jon Williams’s The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow, or How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.
by Sarah Pinsker (reprint collection, 1 original to this book)
11. Self-Published Novel: In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic
- Reason: The Goodreads Book of the Month club picked it for June this year. I did own or read all the other options that were available at the time.
- Favorite Story: tie between “And Then There Were (N-One)” and “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind”
- Recommended: Yes! There’s only one story I would rate less than 4 stars in this book.
- Hard Mode: Yes, I actually led the discussion for the book in June.
- Other Options: We don’t read very many collections or anthologies for the Fantasy book clubs, so my only choices were Fritz Leiber’s Sword and Deviltry (Classics club, November 2017), Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (RAB, May 2018), and we currently have Daniel M. Lavery’s The Merry Spinster for FIF (September 2020). There’s also the Dresden Files read-along which did two of Butcher’s collections, and the Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy read-along (those would’ve been rereads for me, though).
by Bradley P. Beaulieu (mostly reprint collection)
12. Novel with Chapter Epigraphs: Not the End of the World
- Reason: I already owned this, it was basically the oldest self-published collection I had.
- Favorite Story: tie between “Flashed Forward” and “No Viviremos Como Presos” – both dealing with a lot of emotions.
- Recommended: Yes, the only other stories by Beaulieu I’ve read were 2 co-written novellas, and I felt this collection was better. I haven’t read his novels so I can’t compare.
- Hard Mode: Yes, at the time of this post, it has 18 ratings on Goodreads.
- Other Options: There are hundreds of options, but I could’ve read Lawrence M. Schoen’s recent collection The Rule of Three and Other Stories (his other collection, Buffalito Bundle, has stories featuring The Amazing Conroy and are lots of fun.)
by Kate Atkinson (short story cycle)
13. Novel Published in 2020: Shadows & Tall Trees 8
- Reason: This was another difficult square, as I knew a short story cycle had the best chance of having epigraphs before every story. I finally found this book by Kate Atkinson. (Ironically, I realized later that my Politics choice also had epigraphs.)
- Favorite Story: “The Cat Lover,” I guess.
- Recommended: No, unless you like literary magical realism where stories just kind of end.
- Hard Mode: No, all of the epigraphs are quotes from Latin or Shakespeare.
- Other Options: Apparently, Retief! by Keith Laumer would’ve worked from my options. It really is a difficult thing because in a collection some authors might have an epigraph for a story, but not all or most of them.
edited by Michael Kelly (original anthology)
14. Novel Set in a School or University: Sideways Stories from Wayside School
- Reason: I picked this off Locus Magazine’s forthcoming books list and bought it.
- Favorite Story: tie between “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” by Brian Evenson and “Child of Shower and Gleam” by Rebecca Campbell – the first is creepy as hell, and the second is strange and lovely.
- Recommended: Yes, if you’re comfortable with weird or darker fantasy stories.
- Hard Mode: No, Michael Kelly has edited several anthologies before.
- Other Options: I had planned to use The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, but I needed Liu for another square. I also considered A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell, and I had three anthologies from Joshua Palmatier I could’ve used (Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It is Getting Dark) but I needed another Palmatier anthology for another square. Any of the various “Best Science Fiction or Fantasy of the Year” type anthologies that came out in 2020 would’ve been appropriate as well (Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Bogi Takács, and Jared Shurin all edit “Year’s Best” or “Best of Year”-style anthologies).
; Wayside School is Falling Down
; Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger
; and Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom
by Louis Sachar (short story cycles)
15. Book About Books: Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore
- Reason: Strangely, one of the first books I thought of for this square. Plus, the most recent book had come out. I decided to read all four as each book is really short (only about 20,000 words per book). Only the first one or two was a reread.
- Favorite Story: None, they’re all funny and good.
- Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Maybe better for kids, but I smiled a lot while reading these.
- Hard Mode: Yes.
- Other Options: Witch High edited by Denise Little would’ve been good, but included a story by Esther M. Friesner whom I needed for another square. A Kickstarter-funded anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery edited by Michael M. Jones, would’ve worked, but it’s not out yet.
edited by Paula Guran (reprint anthology)
16. A Book That Made You Laugh: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories
- Reason: This was another difficult square because did you know that searching “book anthology” does not narrow things down at all?? I finally hit upon just searching “library anthology” which did the trick, but this one anthology predetermined at least 3 other squares because of its authors (I couldn’t use Ken Liu, Xia Jia, Amal El-Mohtar, and others because they were all in here).
- Favorite Story: tie between “In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages and “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu. Klages’s story about “feral librarians raising a child” is just wonderful, and Liu’s is very, very sweet.
- Recommended: Yes, absolutely. This also contains Scott Lynch’s excellent “In the Stacks” and I will never not say no to Kage Baker.
- Hard Mode: No, libraries are an integral part of most of the stories.
- Other Options: *gestures wildly* I don’t know!
by Alex Shvartsman (mostly reprint collection)
17. Five Short Stories:
- Reason: Alex Shvartsman edits an annual humorous SF/F anthology series called Unidentified Funny Objects (the 8th volume is out this fall), but even though I have them all, they all shared authors with other squares until I remember that I had two collections from Shvartsman, and this was one of them.
- Favorite Story: “Things We Leave Behind” is a semiautobiographical story about books. Absolutely lovely.
- Recommended: Yes, but I understand most won’t share his sense of humor. He also tends to write very short stories, so don’t read these for immersion.
- Hard Mode: Yes.
- Other Options: Books making you laugh is so subjective, so any author you like probably has something that could work (you only need one story to make you laugh after all). John Scalzi has a couple collections that could work, Connie Willis has a great sense of humor.
Not for Use in Navigation: Thirteen Stories
- Reason: To be obnoxious I decided to read five collections for this square (instead of just five short stories). I decided to read 5 that I already owned by women/non-binary people. I picked semi-randomly (Hand and McHugh), by older ones I owned (Wurts), and by a couple new ones I was excited about (Datt Sharma and Slatter).
by Iona Datt Sharma (reprint collection)
Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories
- Favorite Story: “Quarter Days” is a full third of this book, and it’s an interesting post-WWI setting with magic.
- Recommended: Yes, they have an interesting outlook, and one of the stories has an Indian wedding in space.
by Elizabeth Hand (reprint collection, 1 original)
After the Apocalypse
- Favorite Story: “The Least Trumps” should appeal to the booklover in every single one of us.
- Recommended: These are definitely interesting stories, but I’d only recommend for “The Least Trumps” and “Cleopatra Brimstone.” She’s got a poetic style here that didn't always work for me.
by Maureen F. McHugh (reprint collection, 2 original)
Sourdough and Other Stories
- Favorite Story: “Special Economics” which follows a Chinese girl trapped into working at a factory.
- Recommended: Yes, though it’s also one of the few themed collections (versus themed anthologies) that I’ve seen, with every story dealing with apocalypse in some way.
by Angela Slatter (mostly original collection/short story cycle)
That Ways Lies Camelot
- Favorite Story: “Gallowberries” which features Patience from the Tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such as a young woman.
- Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Every story is in the same setting, and they all interconnect with each other. I can’t wait to read more from Slatter (I already have The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings).
by Janny Wurts (mostly reprint collection)
- Favorite Story: tie between “Wayfinder” and “That Way Lies Camelot” – both are great stories, the first a coming of age, and the other is bittersweet.
- Recommended: Yes, definitely. In addition to the above, “Dreambridge” is also awesome. I wasn’t as fond of the three ElfQuest stories, but it was interesting to read Wurts’s 4 Fleet stories as I never realized she ever wrote anything close to straight science fiction.
18. Big Dumb Object: Alien Artifacts
- Hard Mode: … Yes?
- Other Options: This is the most open-ended square for this particular Bingo Card, especially since at the time of this post, I own 121 unread anthologies and collections.
edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (original anthology)
19. Feminist Novel: Skin Folk
- Reason: This was one of the books that made me realize I could do an all-short-story card. I thought the anthology’s theme would perfectly encapsulate the square.
- Favorite Story: “Me and Alice” by Angela Penrose – a kid finds a strange artifact while digging at a site.
- Recommended: Yes, though a few stories weren’t to my taste.
- Hard Mode: No, while the classical BDO is present in several stories, most would fall in the wider definition being used for Bingo.
- Other Options: I’m at a loss here, as I never looked for more after I found this.
by Nalo Hopkinson (collection, mix of reprint and original)
20. Novel by a Canadian Author: The Very Best of Charles de Lint
- Reason: I owned this already from a Humble Bundle.
- Favorite Story: “And the Lillies-Them A-Blow” – a woman is inspired to reconsider her life.
- Recommended: Yes.
- Hard Mode: Yes, Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian.
- Other Options: I had a few other books from the same Humble Bundle called Women of SFF. Most of them would’ve worked.
by Charles de Lint (reprint collection)
21. Novel with a Number in the Title: Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic
- Reason: It appears I picked this up in 2014 for some reason (I’ve never read de Lint before this year). But he’s Canadian!
- Favorite Story: There are honestly too many to say, but I’ll say “In the Pines” for now.
- Recommended: Yes, yes, yes. I basically added everything he’s written to my TBR.
- Hard Mode: Maybe, it was originally published in 2010 with Tachyon Publications, but in 2014 it was reprinted by de Lint’s Triskell Press (which is the copy I have), which would count.
- Other Options: A friend sent me an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien called Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, though I would’ve had to juggle square to get it to work. Nalo Hopkinson is Canadian, so Skin Folk would’ve worked, too. Jo Walton has a collection called Starlings.
by Judith Tarr (reprint collection)
22. Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales
- Reason: At the time, the only collection I had with a number that I could use.
- Favorite Story: “Classical Horses” – an absolutely lovely story that mixes real life and fantasy, and appeals to my Classics nerd background.
- Recommended: Yes! Tarr is a wonderful writer.
- Hard Mode: Yes.
- Other Options: I could’ve used The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman, Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty, and The Rule of Three and Other Stories by Lawrence M. Schoen.
published by Anthea Sharp (original anthology)
23. Novel with a Magical Pet: No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar
- Reason: My original first choice was a bust when I realized quickly that the stories involved love, but were not romance stories. This was an emergency backup as I was nearing the end of reading for this Bingo Challenge.
- Favorite Story: “The Bakers Grimm” by Hailey Edwards, which is a sweet little story about baking under pressure.
- Recommended: No. 99% of the stories are direct appeals to try to get you to buy their books. Many of the stories don’t even really feel like short stories. I had a friend who only read urban fantasy who was adamant that she hated reading short stories and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I do. Many of these read more like vignettes than proper short stories.
- Hard Mode: No, the HEA Club hasn’t done any anthologies or collections for me to participate in.
- Other Options: My backup would’ve been to find some paranormal romance series and look for a collection or anthology in that world, but it would’ve involved more prep reading.
edited by Mercedes Lackey (original anthology)
24. Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook/Audiodrama: Eerie Archives, Volume 1
- Reason: Valdemar is an easy setting to choose for this square, and even though I had stopped reading the yearly anthologies (they’re up to 13 or 14 now), I decided to grab the 8th anthology from the library.
- Favorite Story: “A Dream Reborn” by Dylan Birtolo, a beggar girl with a gift grows a conscience.
- Recommended: Only if you’re a Valdemar fan and you literally can’t get enough of the world (I’d recommend sticking with the novels up until the Collegium Chronicles).
- Hard Mode: Yes, Companions can usually speak telepathically with their Heralds and a select few others.
- Other Options: I’m sure there’s a themed anthology perfect for this, but I honestly don’t know offhand if there is one, since this was an easy choice for me.
edited by Archie Goodwin (original comic book anthology)
25. Novel Featuring Politics: Retief!
- Reason: I searched “comics anthology” into my library’s digital catalog. This showed up.
- Favorite Story: No real favorite, but I guess “Flame Fiend” by Eando Binder, about a man desperate to avoid fire.
- Recommended: Yes, if you’re interested in 1960s horror comics anthology magazines. Each story is about 6-10 pages long, but many felt like cheesy horror to my modern eyes.
- Hard Mode: Maybe, each story is standalone, but this book contained the first 5 issues of Eerie comics. I’m going with No because Eerie is a running series.
- Other Options: I considered The Escapist (inspired from Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), a Mouse Guard comics anthology, and Thrilling Adventure Hour before finding Eerie. I also though the Eisner Awards were a good source of finding potential comics anthologies, since that's a category.
by Keith Laumer (reprint collection)
- Reason: I knew the main character was a problem-solving diplomat, so this was an easy pick.
- Favorite Story: “Diplomat-at-Arms” which is a great story of following an experienced old man on a mission, and “Cultural Exchange,” a really funny bureaucratic tale (and this one is free on Project Gutenberg).
- Recommended: Yes, with reservations. They’re all stories from the 1960s, they’re bureaucratic galactic pulp fiction where Retief always knows better than his bumbling superiors and women only show up in secretarial or minor support roles. The stories also feel a bit repetitive as a whole, so if you read these, space it out.
- Hard Mode: No, several of the stories feature royalty.
- Other Options: I felt like this was a nebulous category, but offhand, I’d suggest Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner and Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey for two explicitly political anthologies, and maybe something like Harry Turtledove’s interlinked collection Agent of Byzantium for an alternate history take on a Byzantine special agent.
- Favorite collections: The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker, Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter, and Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr
- Favorite anthologies: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran and The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
- Favorite overall short stories: In addition to my favorite stories in the books above, I’d also give a special place to The Very Best of Charles de Lint (“In the Pines,” “In the House of My Enemy,” “A Wish Named Arnold,” “Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery,” “Pixel Pixies,” “The Badger in the Bag,” “Timeskip,” “Into the Green,” “Birds,” and “Pal o' Mine”) and to Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea (“And Then There Were (N-One),” “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” “Our Lady of the Open Road,” “Wind Will Rove,” and “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”).
- An Aside: My father died suddenly in the middle of my reading for this challenge. The books I read from Zenna Henderson and Charles de Lint really helped me during this time, with de Lint’s book making me cry multiple times (in a good way).
Sometime last year after touting one short story or another to my friends, I said, “Oh, I don’t think I read *that* much short fiction,” and they all looked at me funny for some reason.
Oh. Never mind. I get it now.
All joking aside, I’ve read SF/F magazines off and on growing up, and I always enjoyed the occasional Year’s Best Science Fiction
anthology from Gardner Dozois, and Robert Silverberg’s Legends
anthologies were rather formative to my growth as a fantasy reader (that’s where I read George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb for the first time). Some of my favorite writers have done amazing short stories (in fact, I think I like Alastair Reynolds better at the short length than the novel; witness my love for his story “Zima Blue”!). Even if you don’t read more than the usual five short stories for the Bingo Challenge, please consider branching out! I hope I’ve shown with my own card how much variety is out there.
If you’re not sure where to start, your favorite author may have some short stories of their own, either in an anthology or one of their own collections. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favorites, and I loved her collection Word Puppets
. If they’re prolific enough, they may have a “Best of” book, like The Best of Connie Willis
or The Very Best of Kate Elliott
. Trying one of the Year’s Best anthologies I mention under #13, Published in 2020
, is also a fun way to explore short fiction.
And even though I didn’t read any for my Bingo Challenge, there are tons of SF/F magazines out there to read from on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule. My personal recommendation is for Asimov’s SF
, and Fantasy & Science Fiction
for subscription-only options, and places like Clarkesworld
, and Tor.com
for free online stories. There are also some great magazines/sites like Beneath Ceaseless Skies
and Daily Science Fiction
Looking at award lists is a fun way to get started, as most of the major awards also have short fiction categories. Find out where they were published and try out a magazine issue or an anthology.
I’ll end this with the following:
- an interview by our own tctippens with Jonathan Strahan over at the Fantasy Inn Podcast where they discuss not only his new anthology The Book of Dragons, but reading short fiction in general.
- Editor Jared Shurin ( pornokitsch ) just came out with The Best of British Fantasy 2019 this past June: check it out!
- One of my favorite short story writers is John Wiswell, and I’d like to link two of his wonderful stories: "Tank!" follows a sentient tank attending its first SF convention, and "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a very sweet story about a haunted house trying to get sold to a new family. Both stories are quite short and you can read each in just a few minutes.
- And finally… this is what the internet should be: Naomi Kritzer's "Cat Pictures Please"