Over the last three months at the fiction desk I have had the opportunity to read a wide variety of new short fiction, much of it of an extremely high standard. The very best of it is contained here, in the 36th edition of The Blue Nib. The longer, darker, colder winter nights always seem the perfect time to stay at home in the warm and get comfortable with something good to read, and there is plenty for you to enjoy here.
Love and relationships, both familial and romantic, are an eternal theme in fiction, and are the focus of several of the pieces that I have selected. The short works published here include a moving piece of flash fiction by Yong Takahashi. In this story everything remains opaque, except for the pervasive sense of loss and yearning. Meanwhile, Kate Ennals has contributed a story that somewhat wryly acknowledges the fact that complications inherent to the parent-child relationships do not lose their potency once the care-taking roles are reversed. Jude Alexzander vividly evokes a feeling that many will relate to, whatever their sexuality. In her story, The Realisation, a friendship teeters on the brink of becoming something more. Frances Browner also writes, in emotionally rich prose, of the growing awareness that a personal relationship has changed, this time from an entirely different, darker perspective.
The protagonist in Philip Dean Brown’s work Flyer is also living through a time of significant change, in a vividly drawn coming-of-age tale set in the writer’s native Tucson, Arizona. And, finally, for something completely different, from Scottish writer Alisdair L R I Hodgson, an intriguing and highly imaginative piece of work with a sci-fi bent.
As promised last time, I have written an article for this edition of the magazine in which I discuss some of my favourite writers of short fiction. For this piece, I’ve discussed only contemporary short fiction written in the English language over the past decade or so. I intend to revisit the theme next year, casting my net more widely to include both earlier work, and a number of different genres. There are so many excellent writers whose work has been collected in contemporary short story collections that selecting a few to discuss has seemed in many ways both impossible and unfair, as inevitably there’s a lot of work that I have never read! Nevertheless, I think you will find useful and interesting recommendations there.
In the last issue I talked about the Man Booker prize, which was won in October by Belfast writer Anna Burns for Milkman (variously described as both “brilliant” and “unreadable”). However, equally interesting, I find, is the Goldsmiths Prize list for experimental fiction. This prize was launched by the London college of the same name in 2013, and it announced a very interesting shortlist this autumn. I’ve been reading the six books on the list and discuss them, and the prize itself, in this issue of the magazine.
Finally, I’ve also reviewed Wendy Erskine’s debut collection of short works, Sweet Home, which was published by The Stinging Fly Press in September of this year.
Once again, the new year is nearly upon us. My resolutions, aside from the inevitable exercise- and diet-related ones, are to fill in some of the gaps in my reading and to make a dent in my teetering piles of books bought but still not read. (Interestingly I recently discovered that there is a word in Japanese for this affliction: tsundoku.) Do make it one of your own new year’s resolutions to send us more of your exceptional short fiction. I’m looking forward to selecting work for inclusion in issue 37, which is due for publication in March 2019. This seems a good time to remind you, too, that if you have written a review of a significant work of recently published fiction, or have written a book that you would like to see reviewed by The Blue Nib, do let us know and we’ll be sure to consider it. Importantly, too, if you’re enjoying reading The Blue Nib, whether online or in print, do consider taking out a subscription. We’re a not-for-profit venture, and every cent or penny counts in helping us to launch and promote the career of new and emerging writers.