Introduction by Joseph O’Connor
What kind of strange creature is a short story writer? I must confess that I don’t know. Ahigh priest or priest of art? A wounded soul who can’t understand the real world and thus feels a need to re-invent it? A moralist? A spinner of yarns? An entertainer? A prophet? Probably all these things. Possibly none.
The single fact I can be sure about is this: writers are watchers. The one and only thing they have in common is an ability to look at the everyday world and be knocked out by it. Stopped in their tracks. Startled. Gobsmacked.
My favourite short story writer, Raymond Carver, has this to say:
writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks, or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing – a sunset, or an old shoe – in absolute and simple amazement.
Another writer I love, Flannery O’Connor, put it even more strongly:
There is a certain grain of stupidity that the writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quatity of having to stare, of not getting the point at once.
There is only one trait that writers have in common and that’s it. They watch for the extraordinary magic that lies in the everyday. A writer is always quietly looking and thinking. Not willing inspiration but just being open to the world. This quiet looking and thinking is the imagination. It’s letting in ideas. It’s trying, I suppose, to make some sense of things.
In that sense, it is important for a writer to be always writing.
Even when you’re not actually sitting with a pen in your hand. You don’t take days off. You don’t go on holiday from writing. Sometimes you don’t even go to sleep. If you’re serious about writing – as the people whose fine work is represented here most definitely are – then you’re a writer twenty-four hours a day, in the office, in school, doing the dishes and in your dreams.
Writers have their eyes open. They keep them open all the time.
Ezra Pound said ‘fundamental accuracy of statement is the one morality of writing’. Naming things, calling things what they are. This is all that writers can do in an age where language has become debased and sterile. That is what the writers in this book do, time and again, with style and conviction and confidence.
Most of them are spare time writers, in the sense that they do other things to make money. But you’d never guess that from their work. James Thurber was a full-time writer. His use of his spare time is interesting:
I never quite know when I’m not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, ‘Dammit, Thurber, stop writing’. She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, Is he sick? ‘No’, my wife says, he’s writing someting’.
That we all do what Thurber did is important, if we want to be more than dilettantes, if we want to acheive the admirably high standards of the work represented in this collection. Writing is not typing. Writing is first of all, a way of looking at the world, naming it precisely, making sense of it or celebrating its nonsense.
The short story is one of the greatest, most challenging, most infuriating forms of literature. They look so easy! That’s the thing about really good short stories like these. They don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. When we read the work of a short story maestro like Joyce or Frank O’Connor or Richard Ford or Alice Monroe or Mary Lavin, we think yes, there is just a rightness about that sentence, that image, that line of speech. But anyone who has ever tried to write a short story will know just how tough it is to hit that reverberating note, to say something – anything at all – worthwhile about the human condition in five thousand words or less. It’s hard.
A short story is a glance at the miraculous. Joyce used a religious word. He called his stories ‘epiphanies’. A good short story is almost always about a moment of profoud realisation. Or a hint of that. A quiet bomb. There is a record by the American singer Tori Amos called Little Earthquakes. That’s agood metaphor for a short story. Often, a good short story will be a little earthquake.
It is a form that has all the power of the novel – some would say more – but none of the self-importance. A deftly imagined and carefully written short story like Karl Iagnamma’s Dog Days, or Frank O’Donovan’s Jonny Mok’s Universe, or Anne O’Carroll’s Flame, by concentrating on the particular, can say a whole lot about the universal.
So let us get idealistic for a second or two. V.S. Pritchett’s description of a short story is ‘something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing’. And our task as short story writers is to grab that moment with both hands and invest it with all the power and humanity and sympathy we can. to develop our skills at language and characterisation and structure and dialodue – our fundamental accuracy – for one reason. To tell the truth. that’s what all the hard work comes down to in the end.
If we forget that we forget everything.
Dog Days by Karl Iagnemma
Black George by Martin Malone
Tomatoes, Flamingos, Lemmings, and Other Interesting Facts by Alex Keegan
Compound Interest by Tim Booth
White Goods by Carmen Walton
Flame by Anne O’Carroll
Johnny Mok’s Universe by Frank O’Donovan
Three Stages of Heat by Julia Darling
Tricky Journey by Eamon McDonnell
World of Trees by Geraldine Mills
Florence – The Rough Guide by Pat Boran
Walking The Dog On Mars by Geraldine Taylor
The Removal Man by Deirdre Shanahan
Letter to a Cat by Sheelagh Morris
The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.More
€12 (incl. p&p) Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination. An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, and waltz around your mind long after […]More
How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.
What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.More
A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.More
Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart
The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.More
I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCannMore
The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo GeblerMore
I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael CollinsMore
These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane FountasMore
Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber
Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank DelaneyMore
From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo HamiltonMore
In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe
It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher HopeMore
There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’RiodanMore
I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms the short story. – Clem Cairns.More
Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskeyMore
The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn SweeneyMore
Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’ConnorMore
The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy DoyleMore
This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.More
12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.
You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.More
A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.More
Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?More