fiction

Debut Novelist Sean Michaels Wins Scotiabank Giller Prize, Speaks Out Against Misogyny

The most unexpected—and welcome!—winner of the literary awards season so far is Sean Michaels, who last night won… Read More

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In Praise of Literary Failure

I’ll be honest: I’m baffled by the contemporary mania for the slogan “fail better.” Sure, in context, I appreciate Samuel Beckett’s famous line, but I can’t shake the notion that it comes from a piece called Worstward Ho. “Ever tried,” he writes, “Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The way it’s often used today, “fail better” implies that we’re lurching and stumbling, toddler-like, toward a better world. But the speaker in Beckett’s fiction isn’t moving toward success; he’s moving worstward. If we take the Oxford English Dictionary’s first-order definition of failure as a “lack of success,” we can appreciate that to fail better is to screw up more drastically, more spectacularly than ever before. To “fail better” is to lurch and stumble ever closer to the abyss. … Read More

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Move Over, James Franco: Tom Hanks Pens So-So Fiction for ‘New Yorker’

Move over James Franco and Steve Martin: you aren’t the only fiction-penning celebrities around. This week, The New Yorker features a short story by Tom Hanks — yes, that Tom Hanks — which seems to be heavily influenced by his time working on Apollo 13. While reading, I had do my very best to approach the story, a futuristic space-jaunt called “Alan Bean Plus Four”, as a lighthearted foray into fiction by a revered actor (director, screenwriter, producer, and cultural figure) and not as something I would mercilessly savage if I were in a fiction workshop and a “packet” of my peers’ writing had just arrived in my arms for a pre-class critique. … Read More

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A Brief and Incomplete Survey of New Types of Online Literature

Last week, T Magazine published a game of exquisite corpse featuring a selection of excellent fiction writers, from Jenny Offill and James Patterson to Zadie Smith and Ben Marcus. The game was light and refreshing; the story itself twists into absurdity as some of the authors — notably the insidious R.L. Stine — appear to be pranking their peers and sort of hacking the plot as it grows. I found the form of the story simple but genuinely interesting, so I decided to pool together this chronology (or survey) of recent developments in digital or online literary forms. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it meant to be. (I have, though, included some print projects that derive their form from digital media.) But it could be a starting point for a broader discussion about new literary forms, especially those new types of fiction (and criticism) that are popping up, rapidly, on Twitter and elsewhere. … Read More

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10 Scary Stories You Can Listen to Right Now

Nothing takes us back to our childhood faster than listening intently while someone reads us a story. Since Halloween is right around the corner, how about we make it a scary story—perfect to curl up with on a dark and stormy night. We might be too old for trick-or-treating, but no one can stop us from enjoying these creepy audiobooks and radio dramas. Campfire tales, urban legends whispered about during sleepovers, and bedtime stories have nothing on these chillers. Happy Halloween. … Read More

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What Do This Year’s Wildly Disparate National Book Award Longlists Mean?

If you like awards, this week has been super-fun, between the MacArthur “Genius” Grants (shout out Alison Bechdel!) and the National Book Awards’ longlists in the young adult fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and fiction categories. … Read More

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10 Gothic Short Stories You Can Read Online Right Now

Today marks the birthday of literature’s dark romantic and master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. The mad, mustachioed author initiated the modern detective story, helped define early science fiction, and embodied the definition of “troubled writer” — but it was his horror stories that marked his legacy. Inspired by his gothic greats, we’ve handpicked ten short tales of classic terror you can read online right… Read More

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Fiction Excerpt: The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals

If you’re like us, Rae Bryant‘s skin-crawling (make that gnawing) story “Intolerable Impositions” will make you simultaneously laugh and cringe at the squeamish awkwardness of one-night stand intimacies — and the sacrifices we’re willing to make to avoid them. Set to be included in her upcoming short story collection The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, from Brooklyn indie publishers Patasola Press, this witty piece of flash fiction is at once strangely fantastical and familiar. Click through to check it out.

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George Saunders: ASME Award Finalist

Author George Saunders, the former objectivist and now, safe to say, genius satirist, is by no means new to awards. With both the MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim Fellowships to his name, it comes as no surprise that Saunders’ short story, Victory Lap, recently grabbed a nod for ASME’s 2010 National Magazine Awards in its fiction category. Originally published in The New Yorker on October 5th, 2009, the story toys with perspective, channeling the voices of three distinctive… Read More

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