The One That Taught You an Unexpected Lesson:
Like me and all other right-thinking people, you are obviously well aware that there are no ‘rules’ to what a short story should be or do or aim at or look like – and you know that anyone who says different is a liar and a crook who has no love for the format, or writing itself, or the world, or the two of us.
But if I, or you – if either of us – were ever forced to talk about examples of short story writing ‘craft’ or ‘technique’, about pacing, and narrative tricks, and all those sorts of sneaky things? Well, we could do a lot worse than make people read Dale Peck’s short ‘Fucking Martin’, which, like Kij Johnson’s ‘Spar’, is about sex and grief and personal erasure, but which also has a one-line reveal/ reverse (if that’s the right name for it) toward the end that’s so powerful that I can still remember, twenty-some actual years later, the feeling of being punched in the stomach the first time I read it.
I don’t want to say anything else in case I spoil the effect for first time readers, but if you want to borrow my copy give me a shout.
(Read in Cowboys, Indians and Commuters: The Penguin Book of New American Voices, 1994. Also collected in Martin and John/Fucking Martin, St Martin’s Press/Chatto & Windus, 1993)