Of course, it might be argued that these distinctions may just be true of Forché and Hinshaw; they may not characterize prose poems and short short stories in general. In fact, my students at Wisconsin and I test them every time we read a new short piece or write one of our own. We also test distinctions between the short short story and the regular story, noting differences of character, style, narrative mode, tone, pacing, and dialogue, in a semester-long course I teach annually. What began as an experiment ten years ago–a one-time-only “special topics” course–has now become a permanent part of the undergraduate creative writing curriculum. Mildred I. Reid and Delmar E. Bordeaux, in long ago argued the virtues of such a course.
Reading "The Lottery" in high school had a profound impact on me and is one of the reasons I write. It also made me fall in love with the short story format.
Jerome Stern, who administered the World’s Best Short Short Story competition for years before his untimely death, once described what, for him, a winning short short must do. He compared reading it to entering, on a sunny day, a dark room in which a party was going on. At first his eyes, unaccustomed to the dark, would see almost nothing, just movement and shape. Gradually, as his eyes adjusted, he would begin to see people, and then details of furnishing and decor. Every time he left the room for a breath of air, and then returned, he would see new things–the party and the contents of the room would in some ways be familiar, but would also have changed. He could go back again and again, and always find something new; it would never be quite the same. Invite him to that party, that room, he said, and he’d be happy. You might even end up with a hundred dollars and a crate of Florida oranges.
For me James Joyce's "Araby" is the ultimate short story. I also wouldn't be able to do a short story list and not include Donald Barthelme, probably his "." Joe Lansdale's "" or "Bob the Dinosaur Goes to Disneyland." Dan Chaon, Kevin Canty, Tom Franklin, Chris Offutt, etc...
Yeah, Richard! “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit” is definitely one of the best and most chilling short stories I’ve ever read. Great edition of Storyville.
John Hornor Jacobs (author of Southern Gods and This Dark Earth, both good reads) listed his top 10 short stories on his site: - a great list as well.
But even for more advanced writers, the short short can prove salutary. Not only does it promote economy and precision of language; it can open up rich new areas of subject matter and mode. The length of the short short, I have found, encourages young writers to experiment more, to explore wild and often bizarre territory. Without the sometimes daunting pressure of having to sustain a narrative for twenty or more pages, students are more likely to pursue odd premises and take risky chances, moving outside the known and autobiographical to the unknown and fanciful. The range and variety of theme and subject matter I find in my short short classes far exceeds that of my regular fiction workshops in which the same kinds of stories tend to show up semester after semester. Short short classes always seem to promote the surprising and unusual.
For these reasons the short short story recommends itself highly also to high school and college classes in creative writing. In addition, the teacher of such a class finds the short short story, once he understands its principles, simple to explain. Assignments in this form are easy to correct and criticize, and the enthusiasm which students show for the short short makes the teaching of it a pleasure.
With the short short story, the beginning writer finds also a ready market for his work. An established name is not needed to sell a short short even to the best of markets. All that is required is that the story itself be good, and all markets are wide open to the most obscure unknown.
It is, however, to the beginning writer that the short short story has especially endeared itself. He finds this brief form a valuable proving ground for assimilating fiction techniques in a most economical manner. Here he gets the opportunity to try his wings on brief flights in preparation for the longer soarings necessary for the short story or the novel.
My favourites are Shirley Jakson's The Lottery and by Jonathan Swift. I love so many horror short stories that I couldn't name them all. The best horror short story anthology I've read is Hellbound Hearts - essentially Hellraiser fanfiction by famous authors.
Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Random House Alibi), and Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections—Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), and Tribulations (Cemetery Dance); as well as one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 100 stories published, his credits include Cemetery Dance, PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad 2 & 3, and Shivers VI (with Stephen King and Peter Straub). He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, and has received five Pushcart Prize nominations to date. He is also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at LitReactor and Editor-in-Chief at Gamut Magazine. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit .