Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spotlight List: Short Story Authors

Spotlight is a feature I do where I pick a topic or theme and then highlight some books that fall into that theme.

Short Story Authors

At a time when bookshelves are practically overrun with series, it is good to remember the writers who excel at brevity. When it comes to short stories, I’m usually very picky. Most of the short stories I have read have been absolutely awful. The following authors are, in my opinion, among the best short story writers ever. Their tiny stories rival even the best novels.

Daphne du Maurier

I have only read two of her short stories, but they made such an impact on me that I have to include her in the list. One of the stories, “The Old Man,” is extremely short but includes characters I care for and du Maurier’s trademark gift for creating a setting that leaps off the pages. The second story is the real reason I feel compelled to include her name here: “The Birds.” The Hitchcock movie is good, but, if you can believe it, it lacks the dread and sheer fright of the short story. In comparison, Hitchcock is an optimist. I enjoyed the movie, but it didn’t leave any impact on me. After reading the short story, I’ve never looked at a bird the same way since. Absolutely chilling.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

You might be surprised to hear me say this, but if I could marry a fictional man, Sherlock Holmes would be a definite consideration. Conan Doyle has created a character so complete and so alive I ofte n have to remind myself that Holmes is a fictional character and not an historical figure. Each of the Sherlock Holmes short stories contains an absorbing mystery that never fails to suck me in, even when I’ve read them already. 

Ray Bradbury

Bradbury is the author I always recommend to people who want to read science fiction but actually hate science fiction. His stories are vibrant and contain situations that stun, horrify, tickle, and endear. While his setting is often futuristic and properly classified as science fiction, they are never bogged down by lengthy descriptions of gadgets and technology. Each story is complete with a beginning, middle, and ending and a pacing that steadily builds to the often shocking conclusion. Try his collection The Illustrated Man for a top notch collection of short stories.

Edgar Allan Poe

Spooky and horrifying, these short stories showcase Poe delighting in the macabre. Humanity’s baser tendencies and emotions are put on display to great effect. Memorize these tales for when attending sleepover parties or camping trips and I guarantee you will be both hailed as a scary story genius and despised for terrifying everyone. Even Bradbury thinks you should read these stories (see Bradbury’s excellent short “Usher II”).

Rod Serling
Goodreads Page        

Best known as the host of the excellent television series The Twilight Zone, Serling actually wrote many of the episodes himself and turned those into short stories that are equally amazing. Fans of dystopians would do well to check out Serling’s collections from the Twilight Zone. All of those themes and stories you thought were so original? (Ahem, Uglies series I'm looking at you). Serling did ‘em first. A champion against censorship, Serling delighted in taking a psychological look at people and exposing what he saw. These are stories that will hit you hard and make you think, which is doubly amazing when you consider how short they are.   

Who are some of your favorite short story authors? Please feel free to share in the comments. I'm always on the lookout for suggestions!

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  1. I'm not much of a short story reader but I definitely concur with Sherlock Holmes (one of my desert island books) and Poe, especially his ratiocination stories. I'm intrigued by your description of du Maurier's stories but also kind of frightened now; sounds much darker than Rebecca.

  2. RB is perfect for people who hate Sci-fi. I should know. I'm one of them. But I love me some RB!

    And what?? Sherlock Holmes wasn't a real person? *sobs* I actually haven't read any of the short stories, but they carry such a presence that you can't not know about them.

    How did I know know about The Birds? Really Missie? And all this time, I thought myself a Daphne du Maurier fan. *be's full of fail*

    This is why it is sooooo good to know your local librarian. ;)

    Great compilation.

  3. ROBERT BLOCH!!! <3 I need to own more of the man's work.

  4. I am not usually a fan of short fiction, but I'll read anything with Sherlock Holmes in it. SWOON. Did you see the BBC miniseries from a year or so ago? They just aired them on PBS, and the actor who plays Holmes is so hot I want to marry him and commit bigamy. It's probably available on DVD by now. MUST SEE.

  5. The Birds was much darker than Rebecca, but The Old Man wasn’t. Sherlock Holmes would totally be one of my desert island books!

    Missie, Yay for Bradbury! Haha, I know, I cry a little whenever I’m reminded Sherlock Holmes isn’t actually real. :( I only found out about The Birds, um…a year ago? Something like that. So don’t feel too bad :) But, ok, I’m going to guilt you about not having read Sherlock Holmes stores. I’m book pusher-ing The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes onto you. Go, read! :)

    Bookish Hobbit, I really need to read him already! I even took one of his books out of the library, but then I had to return it before I could ready any.

    Logan, No, I haven't seen that show. Is that the one set in modern times? I'm glad to see I'm not the only one swooning over him!

  6. Yep, that's the one. I loved it. I think I have to buy it now.

  7. Omgosh! The story made Hitchcock look like an optimist in comparison?! I have GOT to read this now. It's my Dad's fav movie so I'll have to get him in on it too!

    I am squealing in delight at this amazing post. Had no idea Rod Sterling wrote short stories. I've discovered that I'm a huge fan of dystopia so I will run, not walk, to the library and try to check some of his stuff out.

    Thanks for this AWESOME post!

  8. Logan, Hm, I’ll have to give it a try. I’m a little gun-shy after the Robert Downy Jr. movie. I’m a stickler for accuracy when it comes to Holmes :)

    Lazy Girl, Haha, yup, Hitchcock’s version is a lot sunnier than Du Maurier’s! Oh my gosh I can’t wait for you to read Rod Serling’s stories! They’re the same as the episodes he wrote, so if you’re really familiar with the show then they wont’ be new to you but they’re still fun to read.


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