by Luke Forney
The rise of ebooks also seems to be heralding a new rise in short fiction. Authors no longer are limited to particular venues, be they upcoming themed anthologies or the ever-dwindling fiction magazine market. Small press publishers are now able to create more open, less themed anthologies (e.g. Therefore I Am *knudge knudge*), while authors can, taking advantage of very low prices, release individual short fiction pieces, or even “mini-collections” of a few stories. Frequently with the physical book market, these mini-collections and novella-length pieces would be released as limited edition hardcovers, or expensive trade paperbacks, reaching only readers who were willing to drop a decent amount of money for an hour’s entertainment. Not that it is inherently a bad idea, but it drastically limits the audience. Now, for very cheap prices, frequently even just 99 cents, short pieces can reach a much larger audience, and new readers can try out authors without quite as high of an upfront cost. As Digital Science Fiction is a bastion of this newly blossoming short science fiction market, this seems like a great place to take a look at some excellent short science fiction coming out in ebook exclusive editions.
James Patrick Kelly’s Strangeways Magazine
James Patrick Kelly has made a career around short fiction, gathering up a whole sack full of awards along the way. While short science fiction certainly isn’t all he writes (his regular “On the Net” column for Asimov’s Science Fiction shows this rather completely), he has amassed a treasure trove of it. Much of Kelly’s work is now either out of print or has never before been collected. Thus, the introduction of James Patrick Kelly’s Strangeways Magazine is an exciting event for science fiction fans.
Each issue of Strangeways includes two stories by Kelly along with one of his non-fiction essays, generally interspersed with interview snippets. Issue one reprints “Plus or Minus,” a wonderfully gripping tale of life aboard a spaceship that is not even remotely as glamorous as one would like to think, and “The Propogation of Light in a Vacuum,” the slightly off kilter and incredibly engaging story of the first ship to go faster than the speed of light, with undreamt of consequences.
Issue 2 features “Ten to the Sixteenth to One,” a story of time travel, the Cuban Missle Crisis, and being a small boy in a big world. “Unique Visitors” tells the story of a business man who discovers that he could never have imagined the future he is discovering.
At only 99 cents each, these first two issues are more than worth checking out, containing award winning stories from one of the top authors working in the genre. Keep an eye out for future issues coming out soon.
“If at First…” by Peter F. Hamilton
Peter F. Hamilton is generally known for his huge (both in scope and length) space operas, such as the Night’s Dawn trilogy or his more recent Void series. However, in anticipation of the upcoming omnibus release of The Mandel Files, Volume 1, Del Rey has rereleased Hamilton’s short story “If at First…,” previously published in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume 1, in a new ebook format.
“If at First…” tells the story of David Lanson, a detective stuck with a very unique crime, in which a man breaks into a home looking for a computer mogul’s time travel machine. Except only a fool would think time travel was possible…
As in Watching Trees Grow, Hamilton shows himself to be very adept at writing detective stories with science fiction trappings, and for those more familiar with his novels, “If at First…” proves that Hamilton is just as strong a writer of short stories as he is of vast novels.
Currently available for free, this is a steal that all science fiction fans should grab as soon as possible.
After Things Went Bad: Three Tales of the Near Future by Renée Harrell
Renée Harrell is actually two people, a semi-pseudonymous husband and wife team who have only recently begun exploring the self-publishing market via ebooks. While they have a very broad genre range (from paranormal romance to a very funny science fiction adventure novel awaiting publication), they have here collected three tales of near future science fiction, all wrapped in a very dark atmosphere.
This short collection opens with “After Things Went Bad,” the story of one woman’s quest in a post-apocalyptic future. The story excels at vibrant characterization of the protagonist Kat, fleshing her out wonderfully in a short space, and using her to carry the story along wonderfully.
“At Home on Wintebury Circle,” previously published in Tachyon Dreams and the only story in this collection previously published, cements the theme of the collection as lonliness, as an aging woman seeks companionship from anything that she can, and balances a number of dark emotions, shifting from sadness to fear and back very smoothly.
The collection concludes with “Mr. Tinker,” the tale of a man going to extreme conditions to keep on living. At times this story was vague on details, yet on atmosphere it prevailed, and is a compelling closing to this collection.
Fans of short science fiction should make sure to check this one out. At 99 cents, this is one of the best values for your money you will find in ebook short science fiction.