January 25, 2012

Beautiful Prose

Posted in Writing at 11:22 am by Van Aaron Hughes

Someone at the Writers of the Future Forum asked for examples of “beautiful” prose, and I thought I’d cross-post my list of beautifully written short fiction here.

10 classics of beautiful prose:
Ed Bryant, “The Thermals of August”
Octavia E. Butler, “Speech Sounds”
Orson Scott Card, “Unaccompanied Sonata”
Arthur C. Clarke, “The Star”
Daniel Keyes, “Flowers for Algernon”
Ursula K. LeGuin, “Nine Lives”
Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
Bob Shaw, “Light of Other Days”
James Tiptree, Jr., “The Women Men Don’t See”
Connie Willis, “Chance”

20 beautifully written stories published since 2001:
Paolo Bacigalupi, “The Gambler”
Ted Chiang, “Hell Is the Absence of God”
Aliette de Bodard, “Blighted Heart”
Jeffrey Ford, “The Empire of Ice Cream”
Eugie Foster, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”
Nancy Fulda, “Movement”
Neil Gaiman, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”
Neil Gaiman, “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains”
Samantha Henderson, “Deutoroi”
Kij Johnson, “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”
Stephen King, “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away”
Kelly Link, “Magic for Beginners”
China Miéville, “The Tain”
Nnedi Okorafor, “Spider the Artist”
Susan Palwick, “Sorrel’s Heart”
Cat Rambo, “Magnificent Pigs”
Geoff Ryman, “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter”
Rachel Swirsky, “Eros, Philia, Agape”
James Van Pelt, “The Radio Magician”
Catherynne M. Valente, “The Harpooner at the Bottom of the World”



  1. Subhakar Das said,

    Interesting choice of writers and stories…will check out a few I missed. Thanks for the post!

  2. Ron Hosler said,

    Sad to say there are many of these I haven’t read. But I agree with the ones I have. If “Sorrel’s Heart” is more beautifully written than Palwick’s “Elephant” or “The Fate of Mice” there is a great deal of enjoyment to be had from all of them.

  3. This sounds suspiciously like your list on the dozen dazzling short stories panel at MileHiCon!

  4. Hey, Eileen, nice to know you were paying attention!

    Yes, most of the first ten were on my “Dazzling Dozen Stories before 1980” list, The Ed Bryant and Connie Willis stories are two of my favorites that I couldn’t include on that list because they were published just after 1980. And the whole second list is new, although I’ve mentioned many of them before in my Story Recommendations of the Week at the Fantastic Reviews Blog.

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