Sunday, April 25, 2021

REVIEW: Short Stories by Texas Authors: A Collection of Award-winning Stories, Vol. 3 (short story anthology)

Short Stories by Texas Authors, Vol. 3 is an anthology tied together only by the authors all being from (or living in? since those aren't necessarily the same thing) Texas. Also, the title makes it sound like all the stories have won awards of some sort.


I received this collection of 23 short stories for free at a library conference I attended several years ago. As far as I can tell, it's not an ARC, although there were enough typos and incorrectly used words and commas throughout to make me doubt this and double-check (yup, not an ARC).

As with most anthologies, some of the stories were good and some were not so good. Some were...pretty bad. Most had a "why I wrote this story" section at the end, which was nice.

There was absolutely nothing tying this anthology together beyond all of the authors being from or living in Texas, and supposedly all of the stories being "award-winning." Which awards? The volume doesn't say, and I highly suspect that the awards some of them won were very small and very local.

I'm primarily a genre fiction reader and went into this expecting it to be entirely literary fiction, so it was a nice surprise that a few of the stories were genre fiction: there was a little SFF and even one contemporary-set noir story.

The only stories I really liked were Joe Kilgore's "Twenty-Ten" and Larry Morris's "All in Good Time," although Curt Locklear's "Bee in the Car" was also fairly enjoyable, if a bit much. "Twenty-Ten" was the contemporary-set noir story I mentioned - none of the characters were likeable, but it was at least interesting and well-written. A failed actor was hired to kill someone and kept seeing the numbers 20 and 10 all over the place - clearly a sign, but of what? "All in Good Time" was a somewhat frustrating sci-fi story that made good use of the short story format. A scientist found himself reliving the same 15 minutes over and over and had to figure out how to get out of his time loop. "Bee in the Car" was a humorous story that shouldn't have ended well but somehow did. The protagonist, who was allergic to bees, ended up getting pulled over by a cop after driving erratically due to a bee in his car, and then the situation went downhill from there.

Most of the anthology was composed of stories that I thought were either okay/so-so or not great but also not terrible. There were a few stories that were truly not good, though, and made me doubt the "award-winning" aspect of this anthology. Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey's "The Enigma Chronicles - Remember the Future" read less like a short story and more like an outline for a novel. While Darlene Prescott's "Early Wanderings and Unholy Revelations" also didn't particularly read like a short story (and lacked focus), it was as least relatively interesting. Jan Sikes' SFF story "The Forgotten" was clearly aiming to be Meaningful and instead just came across as forced. Joseph Willis's "The Lesson" had an interesting idea (alternate history set in a world where academics and Debate Team got the money and recognition that sports does, while sports and physical fitness was undervalued) but read like a first draft. B Alan Bourgeois's "Authors Revelation" was another story clearly built around a specific message, but the author's decision to have the protagonist read a book by them (B Alan Bourgeois) and then praise that book made me cringe so hard that the message was lost on me.

There were also at least a couple stories that needed content warnings. Don't read Robert DeLuca's "Faithful Forever" if you're dealing with grief and suicidal thoughts. And Ernie Lee's "Heart Over Mind" gets massive content warnings for animal abuse (specifically dog abuse).

While, like I said, there were a few good stories in this anthology, overall there weren't enough of those for me to recommend it. The number of typos and other errors was embarrassing, and the okay/so-so stories weren't quite enough to overshadow the truly bad ones. And I really wish I could unread "Heart Over Mind" - I'm still upset and sick over it.

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