Stamina is required for novels: chapters after chapters, milestones to cross when you’re traversing an average 70,000-page book. Short stories, however, are a sprint, and the journey makes it no less enriching than its long-read cousin. Short stories are the currency in which, we fallen apes trade in. It’s what makes us, well, human. We present this year’s releases of short stories collections, as well as a recommended re-reading of a local perennial compilation.
The author behind The Cabin at the End of the World returns with another collection of short stories. Horror in nature but always delivered in unexpected ways, the pieces within show us why Paul Tremblay deserves a well-earned seat at the table of Horror Masters. With a stable of narrative tricks under his belt, Tremblay tells each story with aplomb—metanarrative (“Postal Zone: The Possession Edition”); playing with poetic structure (“The Beast You Are”). And with notes about each story included in the collection, it offers an insight as to how he is able to pull it off but just barely. The fun is all in the mystery and the awe.
Adept at the shortened prose, Kelly Link rules over all. While we wait for her to put out a novel, let us contend with her fifth short story collection: White Cat, Black Dog. Drawing inspiration from fairy tales—obscure ones, that is—Link contemporises them and shapes them in the unexpected forms that only Link knows how. Our favourite—even though every tale that Link touches is gold—is “Skinder’s Veil”. With the faint echoes of “SnowWhite and Rose-Red”, Link puts her protagonist on a simple quest: When you’re housesitting Skinder’s house, if any of Skinder’s friends come a-knocking, let them in. If Skinder himself shows up, don’t. Following a nesting narrative structure, Link pens an endearing weird story that lingers long after.
Suspicion of a cab driver; a predatory teacher; the dangerous pursuit of beauty: these are some of the fables found within Agustina Bazterrica’s collection. Her second work to be translated into English, Bazterrica exercises brevity in her stories. Though brief, they contain the full magnitude of her imaginative terrors. With tales that embrace the surreal and eschew the conventions of horror tropes, the results are often abstract. But you’re left with that dark dread in the pit of your stomach. Bazterrica is able to convince you that horror is everywhere, even in the telling of our mundane existence.
This is recommended re-reading. The follow-up to Fish Eats Lion, this features stories that tap into the essence of the Lion City. Yes, it came out last year but it’s a perennial favourite that showcases the best of speculative fiction—from Singapore, no less. The 22 stories, written by a diverse pool of writers, both new and established, are examples of the talents on the island-state, who dare to dream up a different, bolder world. While the time between the two instalments was 10 years, we’re hoping that the next anthology can arrive much sooner.