Short story writers I recommend

I recently did a video Skype chat with the wonderful Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn website. Jo is also an accomplished thriller writer, but in this interview (which I’ll link here when it’s posted to YouTube in a few weeks) we were talking about the art and craft of short stories. When Jo asked me who I’d recommend people read to get a good taste of short fiction, I rattled off a bunch of names, then said, “You know what? I’ll blog a list and you can link to that.” Because there are just so many. And this is that blog post. It’s certainly not exhaustive. I know damned well I’m going to miss people who should absolutely be included, but I will come back and periodically update it. (If I’ve made any egregious omissions, especially friends, mea culpa! It was hard to gather all these into one place.) And, given it’s my list, it’s unashamedly weighted to the SF/F/H end of things, but not entirely.

crow-shine-book-pageI’m going to make the list in three parts. First of all, the old classics – stuff from before the turn of the century that people really should check out (some of them still writing today). Then I’ll list the great Antipodeans – that’s writers from Australia and New Zealand – and then I’ll list everyone else. It’ll be mostly a long list of names, but where I’ve particularly enjoyed an author’s short fiction collection, I’ll put that beside their name. Though be sure to read all you can by all these authors.

Before the list starts, it’s my blog, so I get to plug me. My own collection of short stories, Crow Shine, is being published by Ticonderoga Publications in November. I’m so excited to finally have my own collection coming out! It’ll be published in paperback, hardcover and limited edition hardcover (limited to 100 signed and numbered editions), and ebook. The pre-order page for the three print editions is up now, so if you want to get in early, especially if you’re keen for a limited edition, go here for pre-orders.

And now, the lists (alphabetical by surname):

The Old School – the greats from before

Clive Barker – all volumes of The Books of Blood are essential reading.

Algernon Blackwood

Ray Bradbury

Ramsey Campbell

Raymond Carver

Roald Dahl

Philip K Dick

Harlan Ellison

Robert Howard

Shirley Jackson – The Lottery and Other Stories

Stephen King

Sheridan Le Fanu

Ursula K Le Guin

Stanislaw Lem

Thomas Ligotti – Songs of a Dead Dreamer

H P Lovecraft

Richard Matheson

Edgar Allen Poe

Peter Straub

The Antipodeans – Australian and New Zealander short story writers of note

Joanne Anderton – The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories

Peter M Ball

Deborah Biancotti – Bad Power

Jack Dann (American, but he’s an Aussie now!)

Felicity Dowker – Bread and Circuses

Paul Haines – The Last Days of Kali Yuga

Lisa L Hannett – Bluegrass Symphony

Robert Hood – Peripheral Visions

Deb Kalin

Margo Lanagan – Black Juice

Martin Livings – Living With The Dead

Kirstyn McDermott

Andrew McKiernan – Last Year, When We Were Young

Greg Mellor – Wild Chrome

Jason Nahrung

Garth Nix

Dan Rabarts

Angela Slatter – Sourdough and Other Stories

Cat Sparks – The Bride Price

Kaaron Warren – Dead Sea Fruit

Kim Westwood

Sean Williams

Kim Wilkins

The rest – All the great modern short story writers from elsewhere around the world

Dale Bailey

Nathan Ballingrud – North American Lake Monsters

Laird Barron – The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

Ted Chiang – Stories of Your Life and Others

Ray Cluely

Brian Evenson

Jeffrey Ford

Eugie Foster

Gary Fry

Neil Gaiman

William Gibson – Burning Chrome

Ted E Grau – The Nameless Dark

N K Jemisin

Stephen Graham Jones

John Langan

Tanith Lee

Kelly Link

Ken Liu

Usman Tanveer Malik

Nick Mamatas

Gary McMahon

Willie Meikle

China Mieville

Sunny Moraine

Lisa Morton

Haruki Murakami

Sofia Samatar

Clark Ashton Smith

Michael Marshall Smith

Lucy Snyder

Wole Talabi

Steve Rasnic Tem

Tim Waggoner

Alyssa Wong

There really are so many great short story writers out there and I know this isn’t close to all of them. I also know I’ve missed some that I would like to include, and as they occur to me, I’ll come back and add them to this list. There are many not included simply because I haven’t read their work yet, though I’m sure they’re amazing. Everyone above is a writer I’ve personally read and loved, so I’m sharing that love. I’m sure you’ll find authors here that will blow your mind, so get to it!


CI-A, Me and the Battle of the Worlds

I was looking through some old stuff my mum had saved and discovered a bunch of old exercise books. Most of it is pretty rubbish, appalling “religious education” that was nothing but Christian indoctrination and so on. In truth, I always hated school, never got on well with a classroom environment, with one exception: I loved English. The chance to write stories and read books? That was my kind of schooling. It’s the only thing I was ever good at, academically, so it’s no surprise that these days I’m a writer and a martial artist.

I remember my first ever experience of storytelling. I was about seven years old and we were told to write a story about what we did on the school holidays. Most kids came back with paragraph or two about nanna’s house or whatever. I came back with seven or eight pages about a dude who went back in time and got chased around by dinosaurs. The teacher didn’t believe I’d written it and rang my parents. They said they had no idea about it, I must have done it all in my room. So my teacher, duly impressed, got me to read it to the class. As I stood up there with my knees trembling, reading this thing, I realised all the faces were enraptured. After class, kids were coming up to me saying how great it was and how they wished it wouldn’t end. I was amazed. I had discovered the power of storytelling. I never looked back.

Sadly I can’t find that time travel story I remember so well. Maybe I will one day. But I have found other stuff. One was a story I wrote when I was nine years old, and it shows my influences so clearly already. There’s science-fiction, horror and fantasy, shameless pillages from Star Wars and Doctor Who. It’s classic early Baxter. So I decided to transcribe it for posterity here. Below you’ll find the story, accurately transcribed with all my spelling errors and so on included. But I have added paragraphs. Seems I had a thing about not using them – lots of other stories in big blocks of text with my teacher getting more exasperated about it every time.

After the transcription are scans of the original pages with my teacher’s notes. Perhaps my favourite thing about this story is the teacher’s comment at the end:

very good

“Very good, Alan. I think you enjoyed yourself too. 1 house point.”

You’re right, teacher. I really did enjoy myself. And I still do – nothing is more fun than writing stories. And I scored a house point! That was a big deal back then. Anyway, don’t expect anything brilliant, but here I present to you:


CI-A, Me and the Battle of the Worlds

(A story from California)

by Alan Baxter (age 9 ½)


“Com’n CI its time to get up.”

“Bleep Bleep Bleep Bloop.”

“No I won’t let you lie in I’ve gotta catch my breakfast.”


“bleep bleep or not I want my breakfast. Look CI if you get up you can have some of your favorite drink.”

Bleep bleep bleep.

“Yes oil. Now you get up while I catch my breakfast.”

Bleep bleep bleep sis bloop?

“Yes you can pour your own.”

I caught my breakfast and ate it. Then we got in our spaceship and flew to ALPHA-Z-6 (which was CI-A’s home planet) and landed on the spacestations landing pad and went inside the station. When we got inside the station we found out that it was completely demolished.

“My god CI is this the right planet?”

“bleep bleep athermative.”

“Com’n CI I’m gonna get to the bottom of this.”


“Whats approching”

“DINCAS master”

“What the heck are dincas”

“Those are dincas master”

“Stop calling me master will you. Suffering sausages are they the dincas.”?


“HECK, their just the daleks CI.”

“Athermative they are the second type of daleks.”

“Second type would they attack us”?

“Athermative. But I could fight back with my lazers beams.”


“Lazer beams”

“All right I heard you the first time. But you couldn’t fight all of them theres dozens of them you’ve only got 7 lazers.”

CI gave a loud whistle and hundreds of CI-A’s came zooming in.

“We are going to attack the DINCAS they have completely destroyed our planet so we are going to destroy them! CHARGE.”

All the CI-A’s went zooming off fireing their lazers at the DINCAS. After a long and very noisey fight the DINCAS were all destroyed and not one of the CI-A’s.

“Well thanks CI you and your brothers sure did destroy them.”

We all helped build a new space station and after 2 ½ years the new space station was built. CI interduced me to his best friend. I made friends with him and he was called 8-9-Z CI-A 8-9-Z and I lived on the planet for a couple of years and then we had a spacestorm on the part of the planet where we were. A space storm is very colurful, but very dangeous aswell. It is a storm of colured lazer beams. One of the beams hit our ship so the robots and I could not get home.

When the storm finished we all went out to look at the ship to see weather it was re-buildable or not. We were all dissapointed. “O well you two we’ll have to start building one from scratch. After 6 months we had finished building it and 8-9-Z, CI-A and I flew home only to find that the dreaded wherewolf had attacked the village. There were dead people lying everywhere. O well here we go again another adventure to sort out. Just then CI-A sent up a rocket jet flare and all his brothers came down in their space-ship to help us out again. All CI’s brothers and sisters said that they had brought some equitment for catching wherewolfs. That made me pleased because it would make it easier to catch it. Just then there was a low growl.

“Ut, oh here he comes.”

Cis brothers went forward to attak but they retreated when they saw how huge the monster was.

“Look at the size of it CI is that the one that attaked your planet last month”?

“Athermative it is the one that attaked our planet.”

“Holy mackeral its eating the houses”

“Hang on a minute whats 8-9-Z doing with that spray”?

“He is using the water of life to bring the dead people to life.”

Just then the wherewolf came into full view of us CI-a swung round and fired all 7 lazers at it. It fell down dead and 8-9-Z CI-a and I put it in a little rowing boat and sunk it so all Cis brothers went home and CI 8-9-Z and I could settle down to a happy life again.










Ticonderoga to publish my first short fiction collection, Crow Shine

crowshine-cover1cSo this is news that makes me happier than a drunk in a brewery. Ticonderoga Publications, one of Australia’s premier presses, is going to publish my first collection of short fiction in September. It’s going to be called Crow Shine, and just look at that amazing cover!

It’s no news to regular readers here what a fan I am of short stories. Ever since I was about 11 years old and picked up a Roald Dahl book called Switch Bitch, expecting something like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Danny the Champion of the World and got… well, I got my mind blown. I think the short story and novella are a unique art form, one that is incredibly hard to do well, entirely different from novels, but one that is utterly captivating. They’re something I’ve loved reading, and subsequently writing, ever since I was that wide-eyed eleven-year-old holding Switch Bitch like it was both beautiful and dangerous. Which is was. Which all good short fiction is, hopefully. Like a brightly polished and finely honed knife.

So to be in a position now where a publisher as respected as Ticonderoga are publishing a book collecting the best of my own short stories? My mind is blown again. It’s amazing. Crow Shine will contain nineteen short stories and novellas, and is named after one of the three stories original to this collection. The other sixteen are drawn across many years of my yarns exploring the dark weird fantastic that I love so much. Crow Shine will be released in ebook and papaerback, of course, but also in hardcover and (get this!) Limited Edition signed and numbered hardcover. The Limited Edition will be restricted to 100 copies. Honestly, it just gets better and better, right?

Here’s what editor, Russell B Farr, had to say in the official Ticonderoga Publications press release about the deal:

“Alan Baxter is rapidly becoming one of Australia’s premier dark fantasists, and Crow Shine showcases some incredible work. While his stories can be dark, they also show an incredible respect for the human condition, and each one enriches the reader.”

That’s some sweet praise right there. And thanks to my wonderful agent, Alex Adsett, for brokering this deal. Crow Shine will be launched in early October, so watch this space and keep an eye on my social media to know when things are happening, especially if you want one of those 100 Limited Edition hardcovers.

Now, please excuse me while I Snoopy dance.


In Your Face – the genesis of my story, “Bodies Of Evidence”

One of the best things about slowly and steadily building a writing career is that you get to a point where editors come to you and ask for stories, based on their experience of your previous work. It’s incredibly cool, and really helps to remind a writer that all the hard work is worthwhile. Of course, there’s no guarantee that said editor will buy the story you send them – you still have to write something that blows their socks off. Well, in 2015 I was commissioned by three editors for stories, and I managed to sell to all three. I couldn’t be happier! In this post, I’m going to talk specifically about one in particular, a story for editor Tehani Wessley of Fablecroft Publishing, for her forthcoming anthology, In Your Face. A bit further down I’m going to talk about my story, but first you need to understand the idea of  the book.

In Your Face will be made up of original and reprinted speculative fiction stories that deal with very provocative themes. These stories will be provocative and/or confronting but with a firm purpose – they are pieces that will perhaps make readers uncomfortable because they are a bit too hard-hitting or close to the bone, but which interrogate these themes and ideas, and make a point about the world we live in.

The book is happening hopefully by April, and it’s going to be amazing. There’s a pozible campaign though, which aims to raise more money in order to buy more stories for the anthology and then, if it meets its stretch goals, pay its authors more. So that’s pretty awesome. The modest original target was met in less than twelve hours! But you can still get involved and use the campaign to pre-order your ebook or print copy at a discount, and claim other rewards. All the details here:

Now my story that will appear in In Your Face is a very personal one. When Tehani explained the book to me, I realised this was the opportunity to write a story dealing with something I’d avoided until now. I had an older brother, Steven, who was a great guy. But he was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most aggressive form of this progressive neuromuscular disorder, and he died when he was 18. I was 16. My entire youth was one where disability was front and centre of my life.

I knew I would address disability one day in a story, but not simply the nature of disability itself – I knew I needed to explore parallels between disability and deliberate body modification. The things people willingly do to themselves and the things people wish they could do. I knew it would be a difficult story to write and a difficult one to sell. When In Your Face came along, I realised the problem of selling it might be taken care of if I could do a good enough job of writing it. So that’s what I did.

It was one of the hardest things to write I’ve ever taken on. The framework is a cyberpunk noir story, with a protagonist who’s a career detective on a strange murder case. Her brother has a debilitating disease and not much longer to live. I don’t specify in the story that he has MD, but that was my model for the character’s situation. I’m not going to say any more about it, but now you know the genesis of the story. It’s called “Bodies Of Evidence” and I really hope people enjoy it. Well, maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word. It’s an uncomfortable story to read, I think, but that’s the point really. I just hope I’ve done the subject justice. Time will tell. Tehani, at least, thinks I have, as she bought the story, so I’ll take that encouragement. And I really want to thank my friends Rob and Julia for their invaluable help beta reading this story for me.

There are some amazing writers lined up for In Your Face, so get over to the Pozible page and reserve your copy now. I think it’s going to be a very important book.



Blurring The Line: Rena Mason

12003146_879319075487621_892517258321694034_nBlurring The Line is the new anthology of horror fiction and non-fiction, edited by award-winning editor Marty Young, published by Cohesion Press. You can get your copy here or anywhere you normally buy books (the print edition is coming any day now).

To help people learn a bit more about it, I’ve arranged for each fiction contributor to answer the same five questions, and I’ll be running these mini interviews every weekday now that the book is available.

Today, it’s:

Rena Mason

Rena Mason Bio PicRena Mason is a two-time Bram Stoker Award® winning author, as well as a 2014 Stage 32 / The Blood List presents: The Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest Finalist. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and The International Screenwriters’ Association. She writes a column for the HWA Monthly Newsletter, event write-ups, and occasional articles. Rena has served as a Literary Chair Committee Member for the Las Vegas Valley Book Festival and Co-Chair on the StokerCon2016 Event Committee.

A Registered Nurse, and an avid SCUBA diver since 1988, she has traveled the world and enjoys incorporating the experiences into her stories. She currently resides in Reno, Nevada with her family.

For more information about this author, visit her website: RenaMason.Ink

1. What was the inspiration/motivation behind your story in Blurring The Line?

Because of the shortage for nurses, as an R.N. I often found myself working side by side with traveling nurses from abroad. It takes a strong personality type to come from another country and be able to provide such a diverse range of care in a foreign land. Travelers who specialize in medical/surgical care get scheduled to work on whatever floor they’re needed, which can span from specialties such as cancer to post-op patients. It’s something I personally wouldn’t want to do.

A few traveling nurses I’d worked with told me that life in the states wasn’t what they thought it would be like, and that they’d return home after their contract was up. They complained of being homesick, missing their families, the people, and familiar foods. So I took the culmination of all those things, amplified them a notch or two with locale, added more distinctly mixed cultural diversities in a city’s population, taking the horror to a level that would push my main character over the edge.

2. What does horror mean to you?

It’s anything that makes me feel fear, uneasy, unsettled, or disturbed.

3. What’s a horror short story that you think everyone should read?

“The Old Nurse’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell. A classic, chilling ghost story.

4. What horror novel should everyone read?

Hell House by Richard Matheson.

5. Name something that you think just might be real, or might not…

The Loch Ness Monster.


Previous posts in the Blurring The Line interview series:

Marty Young
Tom Piccirilli
Lisa Morton
Tim Lebbon
Lia Swope Mitchell
Alan Baxter
James Dorr
Peter Hagelslag
Gregory L Norris
Steven Lloyd Wilson
James A Moore
Alex C Renwick
Lisa L Hannett
Kealan Patrick Burke
Brett McBean
Kaaron Warren
Paul Mannering
Charles L Grant
Patricia Esposito
Rena Mason