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  • Writer's pictureYennie Cheung

Short Story Month, Day 31: More Stories

Photos of Kathryn E. McGee and Jeremy John Parker, and the cover of The Best Small Fictions 2015
Kathryn E. McGee, Jeremy John Parker, The Best Small Fictions

Today, I'm rounding out the month by listing a few stories I wanted to include but couldn't for one reason or another. I'd decided to do this pretty early in the month because I'd wanted to include a particular story by my DTLA/37 co-author, Kathryn E. McGee, but it's only available in print and out for submission for rerelease in another format, so she couldn't just let me reprint it or post it herself. (All of Kathryn's publications are print-only, which made selecting a different story kinda impossible.)

While I'm at it, I'm going to link a few other places to go search for stories if you like the ones I've posted. And since a few people have asked me to provide a list of all the stories I've mentioned this month, I'll post that tomorrow.

"The Fifty-Eighth Item" by Kathryn E. McGee from Winter Horror Days This story was Kathryn's first publication and my first experience reading one of her creative works. I mentioned awhile back that I knew I could trust Cynthia Romanowski's writing abilities when read her story "Wrestle Mania" the first time. Cynthia, who was initially going to write DTLA/37 with me, had the same reaction when she heard me read my story "Something Overheard" for the first time. It seems fitting, then, that my first exposure to Kathryn's writing was this story, which takes cues from Marie Kondo's philosophies to create a fun twist on haunted houses and material anxiety. It's so fun and clever, I knew that we'd create a polished set of texts together for our own book.

"The Back-Up," originally published in Flash Fiction Magazine Don't bother clicking the link; it takes you to a 404 error page because the editors took down the story. I'm just providing it anyway to prove it did once exist. Unfortunately, I don't remember who wrote "The Back-Up," and I was surprised to find it taken down. I thought it was a phenomenal story about a mother's relationship with her child and her child's stepmother. At first, it reads as though the mother feels inadequate, but it takes an amazing turn when we learn that the father is abusive and the mother isn't jealous so much as triggered, the warnings of her own abuse going ignored until the stepmother herself is abused. By the end of the story, the entire beginning has to be reread because the entire story reads differently once we get the backstory, and the clever writing blew me away.

When I inquired about why it was taken down, I was told that someone claimed the story was based on real people and threatened legal action or something. I'm not sure how true that is, but I remember the story got a lot of comments, including some from men who were pretty defensive and obtuse about it, as some men can be when confronted with abusive behavior from even fictitious men. So honestly, I have no idea if the author cribbed from reality or if some dude just got really butt-hurt and decided to lash out, which I think we all know is a thing that happens. Either way, it was a phenomenal piece of writing.

"Just Different" by Malika Moustadraf I found this story at the same time I found the story by Rasha Abbas, and I considered featuring this one, but I wasn't able to find an author photo bigger than a thumbnail. The story surprised me first because I'd expected certain things from the story based on certain clues in the beginning, but I quickly came to realize that these assumptions were pretty heteronormative of me. Once I readjusted my thinking, I appreciated the surprise. I wish, though, that so much of this piece didn't take place in backstory. I felt like it ended with so much more to tell.

"At the Speed of Light" Jeremy John Parker I was going to post this as one of my 30 stories, but then most of what I wanted to say about it was more personal than it was about the story. Some of it had to do with the amusing coincidence of someone I know getting published by a journal I helped found, though the editor who solicited this story had no idea of the connection. The rest of it had to do with feeling that I read this at just the right time, given the essay I'm currently writing, which deals with conflicting decades-old memories between myself and someone I haven't seen in over two decades. I was particularly struck by one line: "Our strongest memories are often our worst ones, the bad ones, the shameful ones, the embarrassing ones." It's a common truism in a deceptively quiet story, but I read it at the right time for it to resonate. That the characters in the story remember events more negatively than they should reminds me of another truism about memories: They're never accurate. Memories are not facts but revisions. They're biased perspectives. What we choose to remember and how we choose to interpret those memories reveal a lot about us. That's something I have to keep in mind as I write my essay.

"Kathleen, or Ryan" by Bobby Fischer When I started on this month-long venture, I asked my friends at literary journals to send me their favorite stories that they've published, and I ended up using none of them because I'm a jerk like that. Actually, I meant to use them, but then things happened and I sometimes picked things from the sites that hadn't been suggested. In this case, I hadn't picked anything from Outlook Springs because I planned to feature the fiction editor, Jeremy John Parker, instead. But as you can see above, that didn't happen because, again, I'm a jerk. I did, however, get a tremendous kick out of this story that takes two common names and goes off on an adventure of ambiguous proportions. Have fun with it.

The Wigleaf Top 50 So Wigleaf's annual list of the Top 50 flash fictions of the past year came out a few days ago, and by then I'd already picked all my stories for the month. I'm glad I didn't have to scour the list to decide which ones to highlight. Much better that I get to tell you to read them all.

The Best Small Fictions series I know I'm biased because I'm featured in the 2015 edition, but I really enjoy following the series and seeing what stories end up featured. If you liked Kathy Fish's story near the beginning of the month, check out this year's edition, which wisely includes Kathy's story.


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