Guest Post: Steve Quinn / Short Story Showcase

We here at created this site because we wanted to promote short SFF and speculative stories, poetry, journals, anthologies, both the readers of such and their writers. There are many ways this promotion can be done, and while at this site we primarily focus on reviewing stories, we’re also eager to showcase other promoters working towards the same ends. To that end, we’re very pleased to have a guest post today by Steve Quinn who since the beginning of October has been running a Short Story Showcase. Here Mr. Quinn tells us a bit more about himself and his reviewing:

A huge “Thank you!” to Dr. Uckelman and the rest of the team here at SFFReviews for giving me the opportunity to post. My name is Steve Quinn, and I’m an amateur author who has recently launched a blog featuring mostly short story reviews, with the occasional writing-focused or weird historical post. My reviews will be a little different from what you’ll see on SFFReviews, though.

There are lots of fantastic stories out there, and there are lots of people more experienced than I who can help you find those stories. So, rather than identifying great stories, I want to get under the hood and discuss what makes them great from a technical perspective. Basically, these are the stories that make me, as a writer, sit up and say, “That was clever! How did they do that?”

I’m going to try to visit as many different publications (mostly semi-pro) as I can in the process, but over time you might notice me focusing on some more than others. That’s not because they’re necessarily any better, but rather because I know Charles Payseur and the great team here at SFFReviews aren’t able to cover them and I want to help draw attention to the excellent work they publish.

Before I begin this review, though, I’d like to put something on the table: I hate the Idiot Ball. Plots that only function because one or more cast members take turns huffing paint make me want to smack myself in the head with the book. For similar reasons, de-powering characters usually annoys me, too. Done well, it can be an interesting exploration of the risks inherent in using a certain skill or ability as a crutch, but most of the time it seems like the author does it because otherwise there wouldn’t be a plot. Further, even when it’s done well, it’s almost invariably less fun than another plot would be.

Consider the duel scene from the Princess Bride (a brilliant scene in a movie full of brilliant scenes). How much fun would that scene have been if they had begun dueling right after the grueling climb up the Cliffs of Insanity, when they were both dead tired? There still would have been tension, of course, but it would have been a grim, grey sort of tension, as opposed to the nail-biting back-and-forth masterpiece the movie created.

That’s why I enjoy stories like “The Bonesetter,” by Santiago Belluco and published in Metaphorosis. The core of the story is a duel of magic and cunning between two skilled, clever antagonists, each among the last of their kinds. They fight as much for survival as dominance, and they both have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to keep each other off-balance.

I use that metaphor advisedly. Ideally, Belluco would have carefully hung each trick up on the wall prior to using it, but in the cramped confines of short fiction, that’s not always possible. Instead, what this story presents is more of a magic show. You never quite know what tricks the protagonist or antagonist are going to perform, but you can count on enjoying the stagecraft.

Between the tricks, though, keep an eye out for the complex worldbuilding Belluco weaves into the story. Some stories feel like they take place on a movie set, where nothing existed before the story’s start and nothing will remain after The End. The world of “The Bonesetter” is full almost to bursting with small details and intriguing facts about far-away places, and you’ll come away with the feeling that you’ve seen just one engrossing facet of an immensely complex gem.

So give it a read! Sadly, you don’t see this sort of thing every day. And, after watching a truly masterful parasite at work in this story, you’ll be rethinking any objections you might have had to cut-rate ones.

We encourage everyone interested in reviews of short SFF to add Quinn’s series to their blog roll. We’d also love to showcase any other sites doing reviews of short SFF, please drop us a line if you’re interested in doing a guest post on our site!