I was familiar with only about a quarter of the writers of the 200 stories that Wigleaf passed along for me to reduce to the top 50, and I had read only a scattering of the actual stories themselves. Reading through the work that comprised the long list, I was pleased to see so many writers, of all ages and backgrounds, actively manipulating the very short story as a form, exploring its possibilities in a variety of ways and keeping the genre alive and well. Certain writers whom I already knew I wasn't surprised to see doing work that was unique and compelling. But as I was making my final choices I was surprised to find myself opting in many cases for a great story by a young and unknown (at least to me) writer over work by a better-known writer who wasn't as ambitious with this particular form. I also found myself including a few writers here who I hadn't given their proper due—writers who not only surprised me with their own felicities, but sparked new ways of thinking about my own relation to narrative.

Apart from two exceptions (Jensen Beach, whose stories do something very deft with two different non-standard types of narration, and Kevin Wilson, whose stories were distinct enough that I suspect he's more than one person, at least in spirit—both of these writers new discoveries for me) I've included only one story per writer. There are more traditional stories here, many stories that offer all the satisfactions of plot. But also stories that take advantage of the possibilities of publishing online (for instance Kristina Born's and Scott Henkle's stories), stories that do something formally innovative, stories that jettison many of the elements we've come to think of fiction having, and stories that enter unapolegetically a symbolic register in a way that only a very short story can get away with. I've tried to give a sense of the variety of fiction available online. I've tried as well to avoid having stories that were too similar. Indeed, I left out a few stories that I liked because I thought another story did the same thing but slightly better.

In any case, I hope you enjoy these pieces, and that they'll lead you back to the venues they came from (and encourage you as well to consider venues that I admire which were not represented in the original 200, such as Harp & Altar and Tarpaulin Sky, or that were on the list but that for various reasons I wasn't able to include, such as Wag's Revue). The future of short-short fiction seems to me increasingly to be found online.

Brian Evenson

Brian Evenson is the Director of the Literary Arts program at Brown University and the author of many books of fiction, most recently Fugue State, a collection of stories, and Baby Leg, a novella.

To link to this directly: http://wigleaf.com/10top50intro.htm

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