Welcome to The Short Fiction Review series here on UBR. This month I’m reviewing three very different pieces of short fiction by self-published and traditionally published writers.
Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes
Lamppost, a sci-fi novelette by Malcolm W. Keyes (a mysterious pseudonym of a published speculative fiction author), takes the reader on a thoughtful exploration of the human soul, a mind-blowing ride though the multiverse and, along the way, we get to blow up evil aliens.
This is the story of Jonah, a military starpilot who mentally fuses with his spacecraft to become a single entity. Exhausted from a career of battling universe-devouring machines, Jonah is burned out and must take drugs to fulfill his duties. Depressed and strung out, it is duty that gives Jonah his only reason for living. He is unable to form normal human relationships. Eventually, Jonah is ordered to seek counseling. With his counselor’s help, Jonah finally finds himself and connects with a childhood sweetheart, Ariel. In her he finds love and a new reason to live. Just when he is able to feel human
again, Jonah is ordered on the mission of a lifetime, a mission to save the universe.
Lamppost is Darkstar meets Top Gun with a little of The Last Starfighter thrown in. The writing is fast and clean, sophisticated and yet simple. It’s difficult to pigeon-hole this book, and that’s the way a good story should be. Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes gets 88 out of 99 cents.
If you’re a writer you’ve probably been there. You’ve written a short story, or even a collection of short stories, edited them and now you’re ready to sell them. And so the query process begins. As you search for agencies and publishers something quickly becomes apparent. No one wants short stories.
Many publishers and agents won’t accept or represent short fiction. Why? The word is
that short fiction doesn’t make money. The economy has taken a toll on the forums that still widely publish short fiction, like magazines and university literary reviews. These types of publications are quickly becoming scarce. Oh sure, there are still plenty of writing contests for short fiction, but getting published is hit or miss depending on what the judges are looking for. Often, writing contests have themes that exclude broad swaths of fiction. Bottom line, it’s tough, and getting tougher, to get your short fiction published through traditional means.
From flash fiction to novellas, short fiction is how writers cut their teeth and learn their craft. Short fiction is the mother’s milk of creative writing, the seed corn of literary greatness. Without short stories there can be no fiction. It deserves a little respect.
There is one place that short fiction is still alive and well – the endless shelves of
places like Amazon, Smashswords and other e-publishing sites. Short stories, serialized short stories, novelettes, novellas, and flash fiction of every stripe thrive in the e-publishing universe. In the digital domain there is a glorious explosion of little books from people with big ideas. This is the literary marketplace at its finest, a roaring throng of endless humanity hawking their wares, trying to get someone, anyone, to notice their books. I noticed.
Over the past few months I delved into the endless expanse of short fiction e-books. Some of it is good, a lot of it is bad, and some of it is bizarre. I found hundreds of self-published books by different authors with almost identical covers. I saw books with covers featuring the identical photo of the author. I had no idea there was so much erotica for women. I saw novellas by established authors like Dean Koontz and Karen Slaughter. And, of course, there were tens of thousands of free short fiction books with a lone five-star review. Yes, short fiction is alive and well. I think it’s time it gets the credit it deserves.
Over the next three months I will be reviewing short fiction and nothing but short
fiction from a variety of genres. I want to highlight the amazing work, and maybe not so amazing work, from aspiring and established authors across the world. Since this type of fiction is, well, short, I’m going to be writing more than one review per blog post. My first installment will be this Monday. I hope you will join me.