Russell’s Rough Syllabus – Short Fiction from the 1980s and 1990s

This is a guest post from editor extraordinaire and owner of Australian indie powerhouse press, Ticonderoga Publications, Russell B Farr. I’ll let Russ explain how this came about.

Russell’s Rough Syllabus

Short Fiction from the 1980s and 1990s

I was shooting my mouth off on Facebook about how it seemed that a bunch of Australians who came into the field seemed to have gaps when it came to recent classics. My second mistake was being very unclear as to what I meant by recent classics.

Alan Baxter called my bluff and told me to make a list, and in the spirit of put up or shut up, I have done so below.

What do we mean by classics anyway? Are they just the award winners – if that’s the case then I’d urge folks to go out and read all of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Ditmar, and Aurealis Award winners from 1980-1999. That’s not really a subjective list, though, it’s a research project. Same with suggesting that the various Year’s Bests of the period are recommended reading: they are but that’s not the point of the exercise.

So I thought, if I wanted to take a bunch of new readers through a crash course in two decades of the genre, unleashing all manner of themes, works that stood out for challenging the reader, for superlative writing, for a range of styles, which stories would I deem to be unmissable, compulsory reading? Like a syllabus, only I’m too lazy to group these in an order that would make sense. I’ve also skipped the boundaries of subgenres, as I’m not a huge one for labels.

A definitive list would run into hundreds of stories. I’ve tried to be restrained, picking no more than two stories from any writer (except Howard Waldrop, but we all know he’s an incredibly special case). And looking over the list I can see a number of glaring omissions, stories that could be added, and as a slight indulgence have tacked on an extra 6 at the end that I couldn’t squeeze in anywhere else.

If you want to learn to write a great story, I think this list is as good a place as any to start. In the 30 and 6 stories below are unforgettable characters, challenging ideas, stunning narrative twists, examples of the very best that the very best genre has to offer.

If you want to know how great the short story can be, I urge you to track these down, consume them, and let them blow your mind.


1. “Her Furry Face”, Leigh Kennedy
2. “All My Darling Daughters”, Connie Willis
3. “The Ugly Chickens”, Howard Waldrop
4. “Flying Saucer Rock & Roll”, Howard Waldrop
5. “Night of the Cooters”, Howard Waldrop
6. “My Lady Tongue”, Lucy Sussex
7. “Rachel in Love”, Pat Murphy
8. “Touring”, Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann
9. “Till Human Voices Wake Us”, Lewis Shiner
10. “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything”, George Alec Effinger
11. “The Scalehunter’s Beautiful Daughter”, Lucius Shepard
12. “On the Turn”, Leanne Frahm
13. “Heavenly Flowers”, Pamela Sargent
14. “Kirinyaga”, Mike Resnick
15. “Slow Music”, James Tiptree Jr


1. “Beggars in Spain”, Nancy Kress
2. “Haiti”, Steven Utley
3. “The Country Doctor”, Steven Utley
4. “The Chop Girl” Ian R. MacLeod
5. “Reasons to be Cheerful”, Greg Egan
6. “Merlusine”, Lucy Sussex
7. “The Phoenix”, Isobelle Carmody
8. “Love and Sex Among the Invertebrates”, Pat Murphy
9. “Foreign Devils”, Walter Jon Williams
10. “The Night We Buried Road Dog”, Jack Cady
11. “Bold As Love”, Gwyneth Jones
12. “Bears Discover Fire”, Terry Bisson
13. “Even The Queen”, Connie Willis
14. “Ursus Triad, Later”, Kathe Koja and Barry N. Malzberg
15. “Niagara Falling”, Janeen Webb and Jack Dann

And for extra credit

1. “The Caress”, Greg Egan
2. “The Magi”, Damien Broderick
3. “Pretty Boy Crossover”, Pat Cadigan
4. “Rock On”, Pat Cadigan
5. “The Paladin of the Lost Hour”, Harlan Ellison
6. “Replacements”, Lisa Tuttle

I can’t thank Russell enough for this – it’s a fantastic effort. And there are several stories above that I haven’t read, so I’ll be tracking them down. And I should point out that Russ really knows his stuff, as evidenced by all the amazing books he and his partner in life and Ticonderoga, Liz Grzyb, have produced by seriously talented authors. Go to the Ticonderoga site and peruse the amazing anthologies and collections of short fiction available there. – Alan


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