One thing I have to say is that this is much like any list I make: very, very much related to my mood and memory today. On another day, I’d probably be writing another list, though some elements will be the same. The other thing: I’m going to list linked stories as one, though I’ll specify which one I like the best.
The other thing of interest is that I haven’t been a lifelong short story reader. In fact, until last summer, I only read the short stories of a few authors whom I very much enjoyed. I was focused on novels, only occasionally picking up a magazine (my old favorite having been, in grad school, the now-defunct Science Fiction Age). So anyway, since attending Clarion West, I’ve been awash in short fiction, and man, is there a lot of good stuff out there. Mind you, there’s also oodles of bad stuff. But I won’t talk about that for now. Just the good stuff. In no particular order.
- “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde. (I just finished reading it ten minutes ago. It’s brilliant.)
- Bruce Sterling’s Deep Eddy stories, collected in A Good Old-Fashioned Future, but especially the tale “Taklamakan” (a pirate version seems to be online here)
- Greg Egan’s… oh, which one? They’re all pretty damned good. Maybe… “The Moral Virologist”? It’s evilly clever and funny and fun and critical too. But I do love those linked stories in the world that seems to be the same world in whose future Diaspora is set.
- It’s not a short story per se, but a novella, but whatever: “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman. God-damn.
- Maureen McHugh’s “Ancestor Money” hit me like a ton of bricks and never quite let go. I imagine ghostliness this way sometimes, even now.
- Iain M. Banks’ “The State of the Art”
- Cory Doctorow’s — yes, novella, but whatever — “After the Seige”
- “Seventy-Two Letters” by Ted Chiang
- “The Aleph” by Jorge Luis Borges, because it makes my head owchy.
- “A Dry Quiet War” by Tony Daniel. (No matter what Ted Chiang says, and I love it quite certainly because of the amazing reading that Paul Park gave of this story during a class at Clarion West ’06.)
There are tons of other stories that could have been on this list — more by women (Alice Sheldon, aka James Tiptree, and Connie Willis spring to mind), more by other authors (Paul Park and Cordwainer Smith come to mind), more that aren’t SF (several in Guy Vanderhaeghe’s Things as They Are, Sinclair Ross’ “The Painted Door”, and the whole cycle in “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” by Stephen Leacock, though, sorry, no Margaret Atwood) — but today is not their day, it is today, and today these are my favorites.
What are yours today?