Best Small Fictions 2018 is the fourth annual anthology of small fictions. The series editor is Sherrie Flick. Flick is the author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness (University of Nebraska Press), the flash fiction chapbook I Call This Flirting (Flume Press), and two short story collections with Autumn House Press: Whiskey, Etc. (2016) and Thank Your Lucky Stars (Fall 2018). Her nonfiction has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Creative Nonfiction, Pittsburgh Quarterly, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The guest editor is Aimee Bender. Bender is the author of five books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a NY Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000) which was an L.A. Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures(2005) which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year.
This is the fourth collection of small fictions in the series and the first without founder Tara Masih. I have been lucky enough to review the first three editions and honored to be asked to continue with the fourth edition. The tradition of great small fictions continues in the 2018 edition. Opening the collection is Kathy Fish, perhaps the godmother of small fictions. Her “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” is poem-like and assigns new collective nouns for groups of humans. There is an “enlightenment” of librarians, and a “raft” of social workers, a “grace” of hospice workers, and her list continues. Once the reader is locked into the feel-good nature of the work, it quickly changes in assigning new and time appropriate names the innocent of our society. Bud Smith follows up with an almost an inverse of Animal Farm with wolves adapting to urban sprawl in story “Wolves.”
The collection provides a great variety of subjects and morals. Audra Kerr Brown’s “The Way of the Woods” shows how we make alternative realities to hide what is truly gruesome. Ashley Hutson’s “I Will Use This Story to Tell Another Story” follows a crowd on the shore watching a man and dog drown and what actions they each take. A very modern and honestly cynical portrayal of what is done and what could be done, and what is done. Steven Dunn’s “Happy Little Trees” strikes one as weird during the first read but perhaps is meant to distinguish between talent and supplies. Eric Blix reintroduced me to triptych in his contribution for the second time this week and the second time since Catholic grade school.
Denise Tolan’s “Because You are Dead” is a touching story of the loss and remembrance. Likewise, Jessica Walker’s “Ex-Utero” describes a different kind of loss. The series ends with Gwen E. Kirby’s “Shit Cassandra Saw That She Didn’t Tell the Trojans Because at that Point Fuck Them Anyway.” Although a bit darkly ironic in the Cassandra story, there is one prediction of the future that makes her smile as she is being ripped away from the temple of Athena. The future of Trojan will be far different than anyone then could imagine.
The 2018 edition of Best Small Fictions lives up to the standard of the previous versions. There is a different feeling in this edition in the number and kind of narratives presented. There are various animals portrayed in stories and human babies too, alive and dead. Settings from a volcano to the Trojan War all have a place in this year’s collection. Fifty-one authors present fifty-three of the best small fictions of 2018. A wide-ranging and very well written collection of this year’s best of small fiction.