Short Winter Reads

Some Short Stories To Accompany You on a Cold Winter’s Evening

Short stories contain some of the best adventures. They can take us to many new places, some familiar and others not so much. They’re also the best companion on a cold winter night, as it is here in Australia right now. I’ve been reading a lot of short stories once again since my post back in February, so much that I’ve got more bite-sized recommendations. The following are just some of the short stories and their respective collections I’ve read since my last post on the topic. They are best paired with a nice warm fire and some hot chocolate or custard-covered golden syrup dumplings.

Burning Chrome by William Gibson

This short story collection wasn’t the first book from science fiction author William Gibson I wanted to buy at Adelaide Writers Week in 2021. I wanted to buy Neuromancer, but the Book Tent had sold out before I could get a copy. So, this collection of short stories became my introduction to Gibson’s writing. And what an introduction this collection turned out to be.

Ten of Gibson’s short stories are within this collection, which includes some he co-wrote with authors, like John Shirley and Bruce Sterling. And do these stories pack a punch, considering their length. I was taken by these compelling stories, particularly ‘The Gernsback Continuum’ and ‘Red Star, Winter Orbit’. Even the titular short story had so much happening within it and had a sort of retro-futuristic feel to it, which added to its uniqueness.

I’m happy that this short story collection was my introduction to the weird and wonderful world of William Gibson. This is a highly recommended collection and is a great introduction to Gibson’s writing style. I’ve gone on since to read Neuromancer, which I finally got a copy of. Now, I’m trying to find copies of Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive so I can further read the Neuromancer trilogy.

The Last Free Man and Other Stories by Lewis Woolston

Reviews for The Last Free Man and Other Stories were in almost every major Adelaide publication I read in 2020. Many of these places gave this indie-produced collection glowing reviews, but I found getting a copy in stores hard. I eventually found a copy in a street library, which I couldn’t say no to. And I’m glad I got the chance to read this collection. It certainly is a unique one.

The Last Free Man and Other Stories is a collection of stories about people from across Australia; from Perth to the small town of Yunta on the Nullarbor Plain. Most of these stories take place across the Nullarbor, between South Australia and Western Australia. And the amount of character within these people showcases the endless possibility of stories in regional Australia. From a man who ran away from his comfortable life to a former dole bludger coming across an old friend, so many amazing tales.

The only criticism I have with this collection is I’m not sure if I should call them tall-tales, or non-fiction. While engaging and eye-opening, I’m unsure if some of these people’s stories have been exaggerated, or if they’re even real. Then again, reality can be very deceptive and that’s what makes these sorts of stories fun to read. I highly recommend this collection, if you love reading about odd characters. You will have a lot of fun here.   

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

Alongside The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine has been one of my go-to fiction magazines. I love mystery and crime fiction, which is why I enjoy this short story magazine. It’s also a great magazine to read between books, as almost a break from longer novels.

Many of the stories that feature in this magazine are of the classic sort of mystery/crime variety. Here, there are hardboiled detectives and cozy mysteries, all written with a tinge of Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie. They have that mid-20th century look and feel, all while retaining 21st-century technology and lifestyles. To me, they have a sort of retro-contemporary read and feel to them, which I enjoy. And then some stories within this magazine break their usual stories, for better and worse. Some of these I remember well, especially one that involved a woman who enjoyed collecting band t-shirts. That story was thrilling from start to finish and a real different sort of read. Then there are others which were so forgetful that I couldn’t even tell you what their names were.

Despite the hit-and-miss nature that’s common with these sorts of fiction magazines, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine is still a good read overall. Yeah, the formatting is odd (two columns per page) and the set-out of the non-fiction pieces is irritating, but some of the stories within its pages are well worth it. For me, reading this magazine is like taking a trip back to a time when pulp crime magazines ruled newsstands and Agatha Christie was still producing new works.


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