Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Aaron's Top Five Neglected Stories

Jeff VanderMeer asks: What are your top five underrated short stories of all time? This naturally had me looking through my list of favorite stories, where I spotted eight that had not received major award nominations or similar accolades. Two were by the same author, so I culled out one of those, then I dropped the two stories that were later expaned into novels to get my list:

Walter M. Miller, Jr. - Crucifixus Etiam (1953) Most of my favorites from the Golden Age are on the usual suspects list, "Flowers for Algernon," "The Star," etc., but "Crucifixus Etiam" has been largely forgotten. In a way, that's appropriate; the story is about brave pioneers whose heroic efforts will surely be forgotten by the later generations who benefit from them.

Orson Scott Card - Holy (1980) Card is known for Ender's Game and sequels, but much of his best work is in his early short fiction. Some of his best short stories were well received at the time, such as "Unaccompanied Sonata" and "Lost Boys," but "Holy," from Robert Silverberg's New Dimensions series of anthologies, was almost entirely ignored. Card must have written it on a dare -- the story is about a man trying to get to a particular rock to smear human feces on it, and by the end Card actually has you caring about whether that happens.

Connie Willis - Chance (1986) For all the awards Connie Willis has won, "Chance" somehow slipped through the cracks, but it's one of her very best, emotionally powerful albeit not as funny as, say, "Even the Queen."

Greg Egan - The Moral Virologist (1990) Originally published in Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine, this is a great thought experiment story. What if you tailored a virus to kill people who commit adultery?

Susan Palwick - Sorrel's Heart (2007) This is one of my favorites of this century, from Palwick's collection The Fate of Mice. It didn't get the attention it deserved, although Jonathan Strahan picked it up for his year's best anthology.

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