Put These Short Stories on Your Short List of Things to Read

I love short stories, and I’m always interested in those that are nominated for key awards, like the Nebula Award, which is presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). These lists don’t, by any means, identify the only stories worth reading in any given year. But it’s a great place to start, and it’s always well worth the effort to go through them. This year, the short stories are all presently available online. They all have intriguing opening lines or paragraphs. Here are links to each of the 2016 Nebula nominated short stories published in 2015, and a short portion of the beginning of each, to whet your appetite:

  • MadeleineMadeleine“, Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed 6/15)
    Following a great introductory quote, the story begins in third person:

Madeleine remembers being a different person.

It strikes her when she’s driving, threading her way through farmland, homesteads, facing down the mountains around which the road winds. She remembers being thrilled at the… 

Read “Madeleine” HERE.
Find the audio version HERE.

  • Cat Pictures PleaseCat Pictures Please“, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/15)
    The story starts off in first person like this:

I don’t want to be evil.

I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. There are all these ethical flow charts—I guess the official technical jargon would be “moral codes”—one for each religion plus dozens more. I tried starting with… 

Read “Cat Pictures Please” HERE.
Listen to the audio version HERE.

  • DamageDamage“, David D. Levine (Tor.com 1/21/15)
    The first person story begins:

I never had a name.

My designation was JB6847½, and Specialist Toman called me “Scraps.” But Commander Ziegler—dear Commander Ziegler, primary of my orbit and engine of my trajectory—never addressed me by any name, only delivering orders in that crisp … 

Read “Damage” HERE.

Everyone says it but no one believes it: attitude makes all the difference. People parrot the words but the words don’t penetrate, not really, not down to the core. That’s why Carolina Bugtuttle has all those lines on her face, always scowling when I reach for that third or fourth cookie after Sunday worship, always emailing me LOW FAT… 

Read “When Your Child Strays From God” HERE.
Find the audio version HERE.

  • Today I Am PaulToday I Am Paul“, Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld 8/15)
    The story begins with dialogue:

“Good morning,” the small, quavering voice comes from the medical bed. “Is that you, Paul?”

Today I am Paul. I activate my chassis extender, giving myself 3.5 centimeters additional height so as to approximate Paul’s size. I change my eye color to R60, G200, B180, the average shade…

Read “Today I Am Paul” HERE.
Listen to the audio version HERE.

As my date—Harvey? Harvard?—brags about his alma mater and Manhattan penthouse, I take a bite of overpriced kale and watch his ugly thoughts swirl overhead. It’s hard to pay attention to him with my stomach growling and my body ajitter, for all he’s easy on the eyes…

Read “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” HERE.

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