Thirteen Stories is the inaugural entry in what I assume will become a series of short fiction anthologies. Released exclusively in ebook format, Thirteen Stories showcases a wide array of established and burgeoning Australian literary talents. Many of these stories have been sourced from other Australian literary journals (some were even published in other Busybird publications); others placed highly in short story competitions (of particular note, Louise D’Arcy’s ‘Flat Daddy‘ was the recipient of the 2010 Age Short Story Award). I think republishing high-quality and obscure (occasionally out-of-print) stories is a noble and worthwhile venture, as it will lead readers to some great stories from yesteryear.
Much of my 2013 was spent immersed in Australian short fiction, therefore I was familiar with a few of these authors (A.S. Patric, Laurie Steed, Les Zigomanis, Louise D’Arcy and the eminent Ryan O’Neill, to name a few). Others, such as George Ivanoff, Kirk Marshall and Bel Woods, were on my radar but I had not yet had the pleasure of reading them.
Overall, I would say Thirteen Stories is a strong and diverse (dare I say eclectic?) collection. Each story was highly readable; there was no air of self-importance (as can sometimes be the case with literary journals). The collection was entertaining and refreshingly no-nonsense. Reader enjoyment was always at the forefront, even in the more ‘literary’ stories. My personal highlights were Ryan O’Neill’s ‘Missing’, Patrick Cullen’s ‘How My Father Dies in the End’ and Bel Woods’ devastating ‘Mama Says We’re Modern-Day Romani Cos We Got a TV’ (this one packed a major wallop; I wasn’t sure about the voice at first, but was won over in a big way). George Ivanoff and Les Zigomanis enthralled with their terrific bookstore-themed sexual fantasties, ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome’ and ‘Bookstore Fetish’, but a special mention must go to Erol Engin for ‘The Sea Monkeys’, a charming story about parenthood and nostalgia.