What I read

Reading: Short stories from Gasher, Flash Fiction Magazine, Fearsome Critters…

Ten splendid short stories I read this week.

(Image Credit:

Stories from magazines where my writing has been published or is forthcoming. 

I began submitting to magazines just a few months ago, and it’s tempting to view a magazine as Don Juan viewed a woman: Veni, vidi, vici.  I’ve been moving towards a less egoistic approach – reading not just magazines where I hope to be published, but also magazines where I’ve already been published.  As a writer, the best gift is to be read; I’ve begun making time to read and comment on fellow-writers’ writing.  Here are a few excellent pieces I’ve read recently from magazines that have published me; all pieces are short stories unless otherwise noted. 

As we all struggle through the pandemic, and businesses globally struggle, many literary magazines – labours of love to begin with – have shuttered, or are in dire straits.  Take a moment to read; consider purchasing an issue, or donating:

1.        Flash Fiction Magazine: Madeline Shapiro’s “Salmon Avocado Roll” is a flash story about losing a friend whom one had already lost to addiction.  The mood is perfect: sentiment without sentimentality.  The conversational tone artfully inserts snippets of relevant information in the places.  The structure of this little piece is impressive.  The last two sentences made me smile.

2.        The Curious Reader: Lavanya Lakshminarayan’s “From 1984 to The Inhuman Race  – A Journey Through Speculative Fiction” is a bird’s-eye view of modern speculative literature, from Huxley on.  Lakshminarayan correctly identifies the power of spec lit: It strips away the familiar, that which we take for granted as natural and inevitable; it’s by this defamiliarising and recontextualising that spec lit forces us to reexamine the bizareness and infinite malleability of human behaviour.  The article tends to read as a by-the-numbers tour of the high-points of modern spec lit; but it’s a laudable attempt to identify the themes of spec lit subgenres by a published spec lit novelist.

3.        Dove Tales Writing for Peace: Louise Belulovich’s “Borderland” explores the plight of a family caught between two cultures.  Here and in her other stories, Belulovich writes primarily about issues related to her own family: caught, post-WW2, in Pola, between their Italian heritage and their Yugoslavian residence.  In “Borderland,” the family is the microcosm in which these regional and international tensions play out.  Loyalties are stressed as dark secrets emerge.

4.        Fearsome Critters: Savannah Eden Bradley’s “Witch Country” runs in deft tandem two narratives: one present, one past.  Thematically, the narratives are of one piece; their interweaving is perfect.  Narrator Meredith is struggling with grief, and doesn’t want to move on; her new friend Carrie hops easily from friend to friend.  “Witch Country’s” characterisations are often sudden, unwarranted by the strictly episodic narrative; they are also on the nose: “[Carrie] was the exact opposite of Mark.”  Just because Carrie doesn’t live in the past, and believes in a different species of alchemy than herself, Meredith calls Carrie heartless; there’s no indication that the writer’s perspective on individual differences is more nuanced.  But the narrative is well-structured, and builds to a climax sufficiently substantial to earn its epilogue of large reflections on life.

5.        Gasher: Alexandra Tamiko Da Dalt’s flash story “Comb” is a delightful magic-realist account of three children home alone.  Through a gate with a pearled handle, they’ve stepped into their own Narnia.  The adults’ return sounds an ominous note.

6.        Star 82 Review: Pablo Saborio’s “Monkeyhood” is a microstory, more poem than prose.  “Monkeyhood” examines the artificiality of language, and the tensions between the refined and the primitive.  Fittingly, only the refined is troubled by the conflict; the primitive is satisfied to find and to chew.

7.        Proem Magazine specialises in pieces that tightrope between between prose and poetry.  Michael Chin’s proem “Old Spells” examines the bloody roots of traditional wisdom.  These ‘old spells’ are effective, but have a mind of their own.  “Old Spells” is a tiny, lucid crystal meditating on the sanitisation of society and the enervation of remedies.

8.        St. Katherine Review: Raina Jones’s “The Forerunner” – A two-stanza poem bristling with vivid imagery.  Depicting, I think, Moses bringing manna to the Israelites in the desert.  Only here it’s not the sugary honeydew that aphids excrete; it’s a honeycomb.

The Forerunner

9.        Potato Soup Journal: In Margaret Rowan’s “A Mother’s Fragrance,” two women have lost their mothers.  The women grew up in the same neighbourhood, but are strangers until they meet at a yard sale.  They have different relationships with their mothers, and with their mothers’ belongings – but, in the end, it’s these belongings that bring the two women to the start of a friendship, and to a reconciliation with loss.  Rowan narrates with a light touch her fascination with the things mothers accumulate, and the power of a long-empty perfume-bottle – or a handmade quilt – to evoke the dead.

10.      Novel Noctule: Dan Fields’s “A Witch’s Work” is a narrative of human misdeed mischievously masquerading as a fable of the paranormal.  Set in a Scottish seaside village, narrated in language immaculately Fieldingesque, “A Witch’s Story” begins with fisherman Hendrie Tulloch’s unfortunate manslaughter of the only child of the village witch.  Mother Mohgren invokes upon Hendrie, in fine Gaelic, a curse.  Over the next few weeks, justice visits Hendrie and other offenders of Mother Mohgren and her associates.  The final chapter brings events down into the realm of nature – bar one paranormal ally, whose final-act unmasking adds humour, but serves no indispensable narrative purpose.

If you read any of these pieces, I’d love to know what you think!  More importantly, so would the writer!  If the magazine website doesn’t allow comments, use the Author Bio to track down the writer.  Also let editors know what you’ve read and liked – shout out to them on social media.  Support a literary magazine by buying an issue, or by volunteering your time as a reader.  Most lit mags are non-profit labours of love.  They bring us joy, and they depend on us to keep them afloat.

As much of the world faces lockdown, job loss, the death of loved ones, and uncertainty with the pandemic – keep reading, and keep encouraging and supporting writers and editors.

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