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Author Topic: Best short story
rcorporon
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What do you guys think is the best short story ever written?

My vote would have to go to "At The Mountains of Madness."

I dare anybody to read this story tell me you are not totally immersed in the world Lovecraft creates. I was reading it again on the train to work today (in Japan, EVERYBODY goes to work on the train!) and I was totally taken out of the train, and dropped into the Antarctic world of "Mountains."

When I write, if I can get only 10% of the skill Lovecraft had for description, I think I'm doing good.

Ronnie


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tchernabyelo
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I could never list a single "the best", because it would depend on mood - what elements I considered "best" might vary from time to time.

However, for immersion and atmosphere, yes, "At The Mountains Of Madness" is right up there. Isn't it a bit long to be called a "short story", technically, though? As is another I vividly recall, a rare Alan Moore venture into prose, "A Hypothetical Lizard".

Growing up, I was hugely into Arthur C Clarke, and loved "Report On Planet Three" - the story where the Martians list all the reasons why there couldn't possibly be life on Earth. Haven't read it in years, though. Indeed, haven't read very much for years, particularly short stories. Been too busy trying to write...


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Paul-girtbooks
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A single best is too difficult to pin down.

However, my nominations for the best single-author collections would have to be Michael Shea's Polyphemus (1987) and Peter Straub's Houses Without Doors (1990)

Other stories that have impressed me have been Stephen King's "The Last Rung on the Ladder" (1978) and Stanley G. Weinbaum's "The Adaptive Ultimate" (1935). Also, Theodore Sturgeon was a excellent short story writer as was Cordwainer Smith.

The J.N. Williamson edited volume How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction (1987) contains an absolutely excellent 'recommended reading library' of hundreds of novels and short fiction, chosen by over 250 writers, editors and critics.


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Robert Nowall
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Mmm...I'll have to meditate on this. There are a lot of short stories to think of. Which ones influenced my life and career? Which ones are from the collections and anthologies, and which ones were printed in the magazines and then forgotten?

Meanwhile...I'd classify "At the Mountains of Madness" as a novella or short novel. It's quite a read, sure...but if Lovecraft had added, say, ten or fifteen thousand words, he might've had that full-length novel he talked about never being able to write...


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rcorporon
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I don't usually use terms like "short novel" or "novella." I try to lump things into either short story or novel, so according to my messed up classification, Mountains of Madness is a short story .

Ronnie


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Robyn_Hood
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I think my favourite short story of all time is "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connel. But then, of course, there is "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson, or "The Cask of Amontillado" by Poe...I just like short stories. Most of the time, I would rather sit down and finish a couple of shorts than get half way through a novel. I guess I just like instant gratification.
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Robert Nowall
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Well, I've been cleaning out my library [read: storage room] and discovered quite a few books and magazines under the clutter.

I dug out the first dozen and a half issues of "Analog" that I ever read, dated May 1971 (the first issue I ever bought), May 1972 (when I realized it was a magazine with successive issues), and July 1972 (when my subscription began) through October 1973. (I didn't even realize there *were* other magazines until about the end of that period.) I'd say these eighteen issues formed my notions of short story and science fiction construction, perhaps more than anything else.

Here's a few stories / novelettes that come to my mind as important and interesting to me as I peruse the tables of contents:

"Peace With Honor," Jerry Pournelle
"Lunchbox," Howard Waldrop
"Nanda," Gary Alan Ruse
"Long Shot," Vernor Vinge
"The Symbiotes," James H. Schmitz
"Pigeon City," Jesse Miller
"Miscount," C. N. Gloeckner
"The Second Kind of Loneliness," George R. R. Martin
"Original Sin," Vernor Vinge
"Pard," F. Paul Wilson
"Integration Module," Daniel B. James
"Health Hazard," Howard L. Myers
"A Thing of Beauty," Norman Spinrad
"Force Over Distance," Tak Hallus
"The Guy With the Eyes," Spider Robinson
"Naked to the Invisible Eye," George Alec Effinger
"How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion," Gene Wolfe
"With Morning Comes Mistfall," George R. R. Martin
"An Agent in Place," Laurence M. Janifer
"The City of Ul Chalan," Richard K. Lyon
"Godsend," Edward Wellen
"Forty Days and Nights," Robert Chilson
"The Epoxy Goat," David Lewis
"The Sweet Smell of the Past," Lawrence A. Perkins
"Persephone and Hades," Scott W. Schumack
"Prisoner 794," M. Max Maxwell
"Override," George R. R. Martin
"Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand," Vonda N. McIntyre

A lengthy list, it seems to me, and doubtless many of the stories and authors are completely unfamiliar to many of you. But a lot of these had influence on how I plot, how I handle character, what familiar devices I use for background, how I turn a phrase, what's funny and what's serious in what I write...well, you get the idea.

(I suppose I'm dating myself by the dates of these magazines. Well, it's not as if I'm dating anybody else...)


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Crotalus@work
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Don't know if it's the best. That is such a subjective thing anyway. But my current favorite is:

Repent Harlequin said the Ticktock Man - Harlan Ellison.


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john d. clark
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Someplace in the top 20

Any Nick Adams Story
(Hemingway)

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
(Bierce)

The Lottery
(Jackson) Yeah, I know you read it in high school :-)

The Masque of the Read Death
(Poe)

Any Short Story about the Snopes Family
(Faulkner)

Mimsey Were The Borogroves
(It's a team Husband and wife I think)

Farewell To The Master
(Bates)

Welcome To The Monkey House
(Kurt Vonnegut)


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Ramadeus
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Mountains is up there, I agree.

I'd say my "holy trinity+1" (quaternity? ) of favorite SF/fantasy/horror authors are Poe, Wells, Lovecraft and Bradbury precisely because they convey such powerful ideas in stories that seem dream-like, almost mythologically constructed, and also fairly short or compact. Poe and Lovecraft have so many powerful short stories. And Wells and Bradbury have great short novels (long short stories?).

For example, probably my favorite piece of short fiction, the thing that resonates with me the strongest (and may not technically be a short story at all, but a poem), would be The Raven. Oh my god. What a masterpiece.

However, I'm a sucker for language that sounds nice & lyrical when read aloud, so maybe that makes me rate The Raven more than it's worth, dunno.


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TL 601
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My favorite short story might be "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" by Harlan Ellison.
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TL 601
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*High fives Crotalus for Harlan Ellison*
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Robert Nowall
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Belated addtion on this recently revived thread: "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" was written by Henry Kuttner and / or C. L. Moore, and usually credited to Henry Kuttner. (It's in a seventies-era "best of" Kuttner collection.) I gather they informally collaborated on nearly everything they wrote after they married, up until Kuttner's death in the late fifties.
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Paul-girtbooks
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Almost everything in the Bob Silverberg edited volume The Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

This collection totally blew me away when I loaned a copy from my local library, when I was about 14 or so, and is the single reason I became a science fiction fan!


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Isaiah13
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Jeffty is Five--Harlan Ellison
Blood Music--Greg Bear
And a newer one...Almost Home--Terry Bison

Not sure if those are my favorites or not, but all three are excellent, IMO.


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Silver3
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Le Guin's "The ones who walk away from Omelas". Powerful, and disturbing.
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Zodiaxe
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Mountains of Maddness was good and I am a die hard Lovecraft fan; however, Cool Air is my favorite of his stories.

My short stories favorites are;

Anything by Edgar Allen Poe
All the Sherlock Holmes stories
Prisoner 794, M. Max Maxwell
The Monkey’s Paw W.W. Jacobs
The Book of Blood Clive Barker
Cabal Clive Barker
The Ransom of Red Chief O’Henry
heh, reminds me of my nephew
The Gift of the Magi O’Henry

But by far the most disturbing short story was one by Stephen King and I can’t remember the name of the story or the collection it came from. I read it years ago while in Germany and stuck inside a tank during tank gunnery. It was about a man who became stranded on deserted island with a dump truck load of heroin. He breaks his leg while chasing a seagull and, in order to survive, he eats some of the heroin and amputates small parts of his body bit by bit until he is crawling along the island on his one good hand (I think he only ate one) his elbows and his knees. I couldn’t help but think, what would be worse, living the rest of your life on the island as a freak, being rescued and living as a freak for the rest of life in society, or, not being rescued at all and either resolving yourself to eat your entire body - - for survival - - until you die or eventually running out of heroin and living with Dts and having to eat yourself without anesthesia.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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King actually published that story?

If I remember correctly, he said in DANSE MACABRE that he figured that was a story even he couldn't get published. I guess someone convinced him otherwise.


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Robert Nowall
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Well, it was in one of his short story collections, I don't remember which, or the title of the story. And I found the story itself completely unbelievable...but that's just me.
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NMgal
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"The Borders of Infinity" by Lois McMaster Bujold is absolutely wonderful. Words can't even describe it. Is it creepy to have a small shrine in one's house devoted to one's favorite writer? Ha, ha, just kidding.

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Paul-girtbooks
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RE: Zodiaxe and Kathleen

The Stephen King story was called "Survivor type" and was first published in Charles L. Grant's anthology Terrors (1982) and later collected in the King volume Skeleton Crew {1985).


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks, Paul-girtbooks.

DANSE MACABRE was published in 1980, so that fits.

Edited to add: I can see Charles Grant asking King to write the story for his anthology after reading about it in DANSE MACABRE.

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited January 08, 2006).]


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Zodiaxe
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Thanks Paul. I went out this weekend and bought it so my wife could read it. She had never heard of it and was horrified, revolted, disgusted and every other negative adjective that comes to mind. In fact, she was so totally stupified by the story that she, a professor of Religious Studies specializing in Religion in Literature, saw a religious aspect to the story and is planning on teaching it next fall semester next to Ernest Gaines'A lesson Before Dying John Stienbeck's Grapes of Wrath and Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire .

Peace,
Scott


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Smaug
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Here are some of my favorites:

Levitation by Joseph Payne Brennan
Parson's Pleasure by Roald Dahl
The Room in the Tower by E.F. Benson

There are probably more, but these are the ones I generally remember when this kind of topic comes up.

Shane


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Kolona
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"Rain," by W. Somerset Maugham. Read it in high school and it really impressed me. The mood with the ever present rain in the story coloring everything has stuck in my mind all these years.
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Annabel Lee
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'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
It's marvellous and absolutely terrifying, and it feels... true, somehow. I wasn't surprised to discover that it was loosely based on her own experiences.

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rcorporon
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quote:
'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
It's marvellous and absolutely terrifying, and it feels... true, somehow. I wasn't surprised to discover that it was loosely based on her own experiences.

I didn't mind this story, but it was killed by the feminists in my first year university class.


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Smaug
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quote:
of course, there is "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson,

Thanks. I'd been trying to remember the title and author of that story for years. Yes, I really loved it and still do. Another of my favorites is "To Build a Fire" by Jack London. There's a story by Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, in which two gunfighters are trying to exact vengeance on each other and both kill each other and neither one knows it. I can't remember the name of the story, so if anyone knows, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me. It's one heckuva great story.

[This message has been edited by Smaug (edited February 19, 2006).]

[This message has been edited by Smaug (edited February 20, 2006).]


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