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
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
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'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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