Lists are inherently problematic. They suggest that there's some magically empirical method to judge aesthetics, of saying x is better than z, or, even worse, z is not as good as x. And yet, as a writer, I admit that I love to see my name on lists. It's an honor to be there, even if I understand the whole process is skewed by predispositions and personal aesthetics.

And the process is skewed by predispositions and personal aesthetics! It would be ridiculous to pretend otherwise. That being said, the entire longlist was spectacular, and it was very difficult to whittle 200 down to 50. I drafted at least three letters to Wigleaf asking them to extend it to the Top 75, or, Top 100. Each story I read for this list was beautiful and jarring. Each story was as memorable as the one before, each crafted with delicacy, and each pushed the form of the very short fiction further. Reading these 200 stories, I was pleased and excited to see how the very short form could be manipulated and stretched while maintaining the graceful elements of narrative.

Of the 200 stories represented on the long list, I knew most of the writers, though oddly enough, more through their online personae than their fiction, per se. It was refreshing to see the dramatic shift in voice between blog—like Jimmy Chen, Kyle Minor, Roxane Gay, Amber Sparks, Tim Jones-Yelvington, and Greg Gerke—and fiction. As exciting as it was for me to read stories composed by active and established names, it was far more invigorating to discover writers with whom I had no familiarity. Saša Stanišic's story "Let's Go Sleep Japan Soon," for instance, tours the globe in concise and whimsical sentences. A full narrative is revealed with brevity and charm. Sara Lippmann's "Father's Day" played with ever-extending sentences and a vernacular language that is as abrupt as it is urgent. I was also happy to see new, emerging journals publishing strong, challenging work, such as Cavalier Literary Couture and The Dream People.

This Top 50 list is in no way truly indicative of the best 50 very short fictions published online last year. Instead, it reveals my bias as a reader. There are journals whose aesthetic I find a natural affinity towards, such as The Collagist and Everyday Genius, and although I tried to provide the widest array of writers and journals, there were many brilliant stories that did not make their way onto this list. I wish I could've included the whole long list, plus scores of other short shorts that didn't make their way—for whatever reason—onto the long list.

Yes, I started off this introduction by making an argument about how inadequate lists are as a general rule, but lists are also quite valuable, especially this list. In this Top 50, you will find brief narratives—confined and constrained by their succinct form—that glimmer and surprise. Each story is as self-contained as passion fruit, each as succulent, each with spoonfuls of literary satisfaction. I mean: I hope you enjoy the stories on this list as much as I do. By simultaneously refining and pushing the boundaries of form, these fictions are re-defining the genre and making this moment, right now, the future.

Lily Hoang

Lily Hoang's most recent novel is The Evolutionary Revolution. Her previous novel, Changing, won a PEN/Beyond Margins award. She's recently accepted a position within the Creative Writing program at New Mexico State University.

To link to this directly: http://wigleaf.com/11top50intro.htm

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