Short Fiction Review — May 2022 (online only)

By TJ Price in Issue Four, May 2022

Thanks for checking out our column, the Short Fiction Review, here at Haven. For me, there's always a shifting set of criteria when it comes to what constitutes a really great story. It could be that the characters are distinctly well-drawn and that I find the emotional stakes moving. It could be that the world-building is top-notch and integrated seamlessly into the text of the story, providing a rich and vibrant setting for a piece. It could be that the writing itself, on a sentence level, is so stunning that it makes my jaw drop. It could be a combination or something entirely different. I'm always on the lookout for something that does entirely new things with the conventions of prose.

Not everyone will agree with me, and I think that's great. Fiction should be full of varied voices. But what you'll get in this column is a sampling of the stories that I've found recently, from a variety of sources, that really hit that sweet spot for me.

I intend to keep my 'reviews' of these stories somewhat short, as I only mean to draw your attention to them. The stories, and their authors, should speak for themselves.

I hope you enjoy and perhaps find something new that inspires you.

This month, there are three stories that really stood out to me when I read them. You can find all three of them below, and each is accompanied by a link that will lead you to the story in question.

"A Monster in the Shape of a Boy" by Hannah Yang (Apex, Issue 131)

I was so taken aback by this story when I read it for the first time that I immediately went back to the beginning to read it again. Yang packs a ton of weight into these 1,700 words—the plot itself is straightforward, and the premise is eerie...but it's what growls underneath the story that's the most arresting element of this tightly-written piece. That and the ending, which comes as such a flash of light that the reader is momentarily blinded.

"√i" by by Martin Cahill (Nightmare, Issue 115)

The author's note included at the top mentions that the inspiration for this story is due in large part to Brian Evenson, which was instantly clear in the prose. Short, sharp shocks of sentences, like lightning illuminating a desperately dark room, provide the structure of this story. The narrative development of the piece comes in intriguing fits and starts too, but it's the intentionally blunt nature of the telling that is the real star here. This is a story which has been told before, but never like this.

"Vegetable Mommy" by Patrick Barb (Diabolical Plots)

Barb is a writer who knows how to do a lot with very little. This flash piece stuck with me for days after I read it—I don't think I've ever felt as frightened of what comes from the produce section since I read The Celery Stalks at Midnight. With efficient strokes, this story is told in a delightfully unnerving voice and trembles with anticipation the closer the reader gets to the end. When that ending arrives, Barb serves the reader with a question that may have been growing under the surface the whole time—and masterfully recontextualizes the whole piece.

© 2022 TJ Price

TJ Price

TJ Price’s corporeal being (he/him) is currently located in Brooklyn, NY, with his handsome partner of many years, but his ghosts live in northeastern Connecticut and southern Maine. He either is or has been a wine-seller, a wine-drinker, an avid reader, an obsessive writer, a pen-and-ink artist, a dishwasher, a neurosurgical technologist, a proofreader, a storm-watcher, a music-maker, and other sundry avocations.

Primarily, TJ spends his time reading as much as his eyes can take, but when he's not reading, he's either writing weird stories about unnerving things, drawing lots of little circles in pen and ink, enjoying esoteric studies, or taking photographs of clouds.