I’ll probably read all these because, I mean, they’re short. I’m not going to do that right now, though. I’m reading Legendborn instead, and besides, though I may like the occasional short story, I seldom seek them out. Only if they’re written in a familiar SFF world, really, or occasionally when someone presses a story upon me too fervently for me to ignore. Or sometimes I just stumble across one and really love it. That happened with, let me see … right, this one, here it is:
That’s by Naomi Kritzer, which tells you something right there. If you’ve never read it, you should make sure to click through when you’ve got time and do so.
But back to the nominees this year. Let’s take a look just at the first few sentences of each one. I’ll present them in no particular order, one right after the other. The entries here are going to be very short, so I’ll add separators so you can most clearly see where each one stops. For the first one, I’m cutting details of the address and so on because none of that is important and I want to get to the line that matters while keeping the opening I’m showing here short.
So here we go —
A) Mr. Death — Alix E Harrow
I’ve ferried two hundred and twenty-one souls across the river of death, and I can already tell my two-hundred-and-twenty-second is going to be a real shitkicker. I know by the lightness of the manila folder in my hand, the preemptive pity in the courier’s face as she gives it to me. I read the typewritten card paperclipped to the front with my stomach tensed, braced for the sucker punch.
Lawrence Harper. Address. Time. Cause of death. Age.
Jesus Christ on his sacred red bicycle. He’s two.
B) Unknown Number by Blue Neustifter. Oh! It’s told as text message exchanges! How neat. Here’s the first exchange:
Person 1: Hello, I’m sorry, this is going to sound weird, but please give me a chance. When you were eighteen, did you have a childhood friend named Carli that you lost touch with after you left to go to college?
Person 2: Um, hi. Who the fuck is this? Carli? This is an extremely creepy way to get back in touch if so.
Person 1: No, this isn’t Carli.
C) The Sin of America by Cat Valente
There’s a woman outside of a town called Sheridan, where the sky comes down so close to the earth it has to use the crosswalk just like everybody else.
There’s a woman outside of Sheridan, sitting in the sun-yellow booth in the far back corner of the Blue Bison Diner and Souvenir Shoppe under a busted wagon wheel and a pair of wall-mounted commemorative plates. One’s from the moon landing. The other’s from old Barnum Brown discovering the first T rex skeleton up at Hell Creek.
There’s a woman outside of Sheridan and she is eating the sin of America.
D) Proof by Induction by Jose Pablo Iriarte
Paulie rushes out the elevator doors the moment they part, only to skid to a halt at the sight of his father’s wife. She shakes her head, but he doesn’t need the confirmation. If Tricia is out here and not in the hospital room with his father, it can only mean he has passed. He numbly accepts a hug from her.
E) Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather by Sarah Pinsker
“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” (Roud 423, Child 313) is a traditional English folk ballad. Like many traditional songs, the lyrics are unattributed. Child transcribed twenty verses, and a twenty-first got added later (and is included here for some unknown reason—I keep writing to the Lyricsplainer mods to get someone to delete it or include it as a separate entry, but nobody responds, and all they’ve done is put brackets around it. Sometimes I hate this site.)
F) Tangles by Seanan McGuire
There was something unique about the air on Innistrad. Maybe it was the horrors the trees had witnessed here, the blood that had watered the soil on which they fed their thirsty roots, the bones that littered the riverbed, but the air of this plane was like no other. Wrenn and Six took a step — one of their last together — and put their massive foot down on the soil of Innistrad, deep within the Kessig Forest. This was near the place where they had met for the first time.
Okay! That’s the set! What do you think? I haven’t read any of them, just these opening lines.
I like (A) a lot.
I love the idea of the text message story, so I’m looking forward to (B), also a lot.
FINE, Catherynne Valente can REALLY WRITE, this is like reading poetry and I’m definitely going to have to read this story.
(D) is boring boring boring. AND, bonus, also looks like it’s going to be sad. Absolutely nothing makes me want to read the next paragraph, much less the rest of the story.
(E) is interesting because it’s kind of similar to the Naomi Kritzer ghost story in a way! I didn’t expect that, but it looks like it’s written as though it’s nonfiction. I like that. I’m interested.
(F) sure looks like a horror story. But intriguing.
What do you think? Which of these story openings strikes you as most appealing? If you’ve actually read any of these, what did you think?