Though it’s already a modern classic, I only discovered this story a couple of years ago when I started teaching a course on writing short fiction, something I knew next to nothing about. I’ve hardly written any, and my dirty little book secret has always been that I never read short stories either. There were a few obvious choices for this list, but it wasn’t a question of what to leave out; in fact, it took me quite a while to come up with twelve. The truth is, I’ve never really had a nose for the stuff a writer is supposed to have read. Many of my picks for this list I stumbled across quite randomly in libraries or bookshops before I was 20; after that, I seem to have done my best to ignore contemporary short story collections, and to avoid the acknowledged masters of the form. I always used to tell people I found them frustrating, that if I was invested in a world I wanted to stay there as long as possible, but I’m really not sure that’s true. It just became a blind spot that I couldn’t shake. That’s changed lately, at last, and Saunders was a big wake-up call. This story is just about as good as he gets, and that’s an awful lot better than most writers, in any form. He’s supposed to have dreamed the set-up one night, and then taken fifteen years to make it work as fiction. The point is, he really really did.