Reviewed by Genevieve Hartman
Dark whimsy, magical realism, and countless ghosts live inside this deft and eclectic collection of microfiction.
Best Microfiction 2021, guest edited by Amber Sparks, celebrates one of literature’s smaller forms. Ranging from witty to silly, to tragic and sincere, this collection of microfiction taps into the pulse of writers worldwide by showcasing the top stories published internationally in literary magazines in the last year.
Though written by ninety-six different authors, the unifying note that sounds through this collection is one of wonder. Each story offers the briefest look into the writer’s mind before dropping the reader back into reality.
Sometimes the glimpse is heartwrenching and real and sad, such as “Drosophila Melanogaster” by Hannah Storm, or Grace Q. Song’s “The Eternity Berry.”
Other times, the fiction is truly stranger than truth; examples include the bearded baby in Hema Nataraju’s “Tonight” and the titular figure of Carson Markland’s “Armadillo Jesus.” And always the specters—sometimes real, sometimes figurative—lurk in love-lost bedrooms or overactive minds in Best Microfiction 2021, waiting to haunt readers long after their short life on the page is up.
Stylistically, of course, the collection features a broad spectrum of talent. Some of these microfictions could be labelled as prose poems and no one would blink an eye, while others favor a more story-based approach. Throughout each, though, there is a deep attention to the language, which is a vital part of any short form. The wide movements in style and subject matter ensure that this book never fails to entertain.
To finish off Best Microfiction 2021, the editors solicited two craft essays with writing prompts, written by authors with several stories in this collection, and three interviews with the editors of the most-selected magazines for this anthology.
“Small Apocalypses,“ written by Avra Margariti, provides a close reading and background for Margariti’s “A Dog Like a Ghost,” while Jeff Friedman‘s essay veers into an extended phone conversation with the author’s “sister,” grounding itself firmly as a fictional background of the piece “Lost Memory.”
The interviews with magazine editors effectively tie up the collection, discussing how current events, location, and cultural background influence microfiction, offering a window into the curation and editing of these notable short stories.
What Amber Sparks, Meg Pokrass, Gary Fincke, and the contributing editors have curated here is a collection that is both expansive and cohesive. Best Microfiction 2021 is a celebration of form, of creativity, and of diverse voices. Each story is its own small snowglobe of self-contained imagination, ready to delight or horrify or shatter readers in equal parts, and together they make up a moving anthology that will keep filling readers with wonder long after 2021 ends.
Genre: Anthologies / Multiple Authors / Short Fiction
Print Length: 248 pages
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