February is the shortest month of the year, and the prevalent grey of a lingering winter means that those few days feel even shorter. We rush around at work to get organised for the upcoming months and chase our New Year’s resolutions to make the most of the wee hours, and we’re potentially behind on our Goodreads challenges already! So, what better way to get our reading energy back than with some short story anthologies?
Short story anthologies are a great means of getting that sweet boost of book joy, because the best short stories within them are rollercoasters in a teacup; all the thrill and fun of a novel compressed into a few electric pages. For writers, short stories pose a challenge to find the essence of a story, as well as practice pacing, atmosphere, or successfully constructing an entire universe in a small space. For readers, anthologies are perfect for learning these skills, but also for reading on the bus on the way to work, and for taste testing as they are packed with so many different types of stories and writing.
It’s okay not to like everything in an anthology, because it is important to discover what we like and what we don’t (you don’t even have to read them cover-to-cover in one go). However, there are, hopefully, enough hidden gems in a collection that can grab your attention and remind you why you love storytelling.
It’s time to make February the month for discovering some quick, yet engaging, reads to get re-inspired and excited about reading after a lethargic January.
For some inspiration, check out these short story anthologies, which are full of eclectic tales of love, ghosts, space, and more from around the world.
This Lambda Literary Award–winning anthology collects a range of stories about queer love across Africa, providing a unique and exciting tapestry of vibrant voices. At times tender, other times anguished, often sexy, but always unapologetic and urgent, this compilation of tales is unflinching in its reflections on the progress of LGBTQ rights across the continent and the difficulties that members of the community face while navigating political and social hostility to live safely. However, the passion that runs through this collection flourishes with every page, and this undoubtedly revolutionary and critical book encourages the same drive for change.
The concept is simple: in order to challenge and defy the perception of the comic industry as a male-dominated one, women across New Zealand draw short vignettes inspired by three random words chosen by the other contributors.
What emerges is a delightfully refreshing and important collection of art styles, narratives, and perspectives that demonstrate the value of sharing art and talent. The comics discuss indigenous rights, gender and sexuality, cultural identity, and the banal everyday. What is also incredibly important and enjoyable about this collection is the way in which it does not define what a ‘New Zealand’ identity is, meaning that there are many immigrant narratives present throughout this work – in a world that is increasingly xenophobic and ignorant towards migrant people, Three Words is a refreshing and absorbing icon of resistance and acceptance, which will undoubtedly inspire you to pick up pencils of your own.
Compiling science fiction and fantasy tales from some of the genre’s greats – Nisi Shawl (New Suns) and Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death) are here! – this book dreams of bold worlds and imagined futures with African, Asian, South Asian, Aboriginal, and North American and British writers of colour at the centre. The aim of the collection is to respond to the recurring science fiction trope of colonisation, which for many is not an experience contained to fiction, and instead put a new, radical spin on speculative literature. Forging its own space, this anthology explores body autonomy, alien encounters, and what the future may hold in fantastically creative and engrossing ways.
As the title suggests, this collection is all about Djinns and the different legends and folklore that feature them. Including work by iconic authors all over the world – including J.Y. Yang (The Black Tides of Heaven), Neil Gaiman (American Gods), and Kamila Shamsie (Home Fire) – these stories show the reader how the figure of the Djinn is perceived in different cultures, from being nasty creatures to potential romantic partners. A selection box of eclectic and engrossing tales, this anthology is sure to open your eyes to the supernatural and the beautiful variety that can be found within myth.
This anthology takes inspiration from the misty and mysterious landscape of Scotland, collecting spine-tingling horror tales that mimic the Gothic tradition from local Scottish talent. Monsters, ghosts, and the dead rise from these pages, sometimes with teeth bared and sometimes with their tongues firmly in their cheeks, sure to engage horror fans of all types. Much like Three Words, this collection offers a diverse cast of writers inspired by various traditions and cultural backgrounds, which wonderfully celebrates the wealth of talent to be found in the Scottish arts scene. Here be stories which evoke memories of reading under the covers with a torch at night or huddled by the fire exchanging spooky legends to while away a chilly October evening.