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Very Short Stories

I caught the link the other day on LanguageLog, but My Alter Ego got me to follow it to its source. Wired sought submissions for six-word short stories in homage to Hemingway. Stories so brief do little more than hint at narrative; it’s the hints, then, that speak to readers or don’t. What intrigues me about them all is the juxtaposition of the ones that don’t intrigue me to the ones that do, and how different my own favorites are compared, for example, to MAE. My favorites follow:

Tick tock tick tock tick tick. (Neal Stephenson)

Kirby had never eaten toes before. (Kevin Smith)

I’m your future, child. Don’t cry. (Stephen Baxter)

It’s behind you! Hurry before it (Rockne S. O’Bannon)

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time (Alan Moore)

Longed for him. Got him. Shit. (Margaret Atwood)



“Ah…” Why did I jump? “...hhh…”

That would be mine shot at a six word story.

The reason I like so many that emphasize time, either by time machines or by ticking clocks is because I know full well that one cannot have a story without time, or without the suggestion at least that there is a dimension before, though perhaps not after. Some of those in the article are merely political statements or are simply macabre or make it as first lines but not necessarily as stories, per se. (Kevin Smith’s, above, is like that, but I liked it nonetheless. From the horror genre, Joss Whedon’s is most complete.)

Also, not many of them are in a class with Hemingway’s, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” if it can be said to have a class at all…

this was hugely popular in latin america from the late 60s to the early 80s.

one that i remember went something like,

yawing, the dinosaur awoke

relevant to Hermits for the first time (after a week of persistence):

The day spambots won, pharmaceuticals reigned.

hmmm…i’m having thoughts of the poetry discussion a while back. poem/short story…where is the line?

It’s a good question, Richard. Hemingway argued that story happened as much in what wasn’t said as what was; still, the claim that such a brief thing could constitute story might be more braggadocio by Hemingway than anything. To allow such brevity to be story requires a lot of faith in readers.

it goes back to c2. for a story (narrative) time and the passage of time must come into play. for poetry this is not the case.

though, short stories and poems, and the shorter the story the more like a poem, do share verbal condensation, parsimony and precision(which is one of the many reasons, i’m a really bad poet).

there are poems that are short stories, think, especially of Browning’s My Last Duchess, or most any of his interior monologues, though this is considerably longer than these six word stories.

but, not all poems rely on time and the passage of time as constituent of the medium itself. sorry, that might not make much sense, but i’m hurried.