You may have noticed that I've been talking about short stories a lot lately. I've mentioned that I refocused to increase my short story output. That involves reading a lot of them, and thinking about them a lot. And I've been thinking about sort of the quintessential list of short stories. Or at least my list of quintessential short stories. Some of them are new, a lot of them are old, and they're not in any quantifiable order. I just wanted to put them out in the world for people to see. And there's only five, because I would have been here all day if I didn't give myself some kind of limit. There are obviously many, many more stories out there worth the time to read.
1: Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
This is one that still haunts me with its… everything. It's a brilliant piece of magical realism that really deserves to be read and scrutinized and discussed. It has been, but not by everyone. It resides in Yale and Harvard classrooms instead of in raucous bars and cocktail parties. Which is where it belongs, because it's really a story for everyone.
I pretty regularly cite this as the best of Poe. It's body horror. It's eerie. It deals with some strange family relationships (And by strange, I mean potentially illegal by modern standards.). There's insanity. It's everything there is to love about Poe, all together at last. It's so dear to me, in fact, that I wrote an homage to it (Here, if you're interested.).
3: Today I am Paul
This is a recent one. It was up for a Hugo last year, but I feel no remorse putting it on this list. Poignant, well-written, and surprising. It's an emotional ride through the future well worth taking.
4: For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn
That's both the title and the entirety of the text. Six words that really show what language can convey. I've always said the goal of flash fiction is not to tell a story, but to capture an emotion, and this is one that succeeds beyond belief.
5: Flowers for Algernon (Can't give you a link for free on this one. Still under copyright!)
Absolutely one that must be read. I've been through the short story as well as the novel that spawned from it. While I will always recommend the novel version of this, the short story completely deserves its place on this list.
Those are my five. They'll probably change by this time next year. Or even next month. But for now, this is the list. What are your short story recommendations for me (And the rest of the comments.)?