Best of

To celebrate Fiction on the Web's 21st birthday, a charitable collection has been published featuring the best 54 stories that have ever appeared on the site. Download the press release here.

All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. This is possible thanks to Fiction on the Web's loyal patrons, whose contributions paid for the copy-editing, design and typesetting of the book.

You can buy the book from Amazon (UK link, US link).

"54 irresistible short stories. Buy 'em without a blink."
- Richard E. Grant

Featured authors

The foreword is written by author and educator Julia Bell, and contributing authors include:


The fifty-four stories collected here represent the diversity of the stories I publish at Fiction on the Web. The first story, "Above Candles", was the fifth I ever published, way back in 1996; over two decades later, when choosing the stories for this volume, I still vividly remembered the opening paragraphs in which a priest gives a penance to a young orphan for killing two hundred and twenty-seven men. (Three Hail Marys does the trick.)

Nine other stories made the cut from the olden days of Fiction on the Web, before I gave the site a major facelift. The rest are from the last five years. These stories lingered in my brain because they made me laugh out loud ("CLAM$", "Smart Car"), or openly sob in the middle of the staff canteen ("One Oh for Tillie", "What the Creek Carries Away"). Some evoked a sense of wonder ("The Bird on Silver Strand", "The Rooming House"), and some a visceral fear ("East", "War Baby").

These stories have transported me all over America - Alaska to Maine; Baltimore to Los Angeles - and the UK - Belfast to Scarborough; Glenlivet to London. Further afield as well: Canada, France, Nigeria, the Philippines, New Zealand. (The one set in the Philippines, "Gladiator", is about jungle children betting on spider battles.)

Let's not forget the crisply realised fantasy worlds, full of hardship and redemption ("Across the Oar", "The Place of Endurance"). And the magical tales that take place in a world that's almost ours, but with longer necks ("The Neck"), less solid walls ("The Wall"), or revenant relatives ("Relativity").

The themes of the stories cover huge swathes of the human experience. Love and betrayal ("Hearts and Darts", "The Kindness of Strangers"); justice and redemption ("One on One", "The Right of Wrong"); life and death ("Lost in Glass Slippers", "The Bridge"); sex with space aliens ("Purr", "Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle").

The stories are categorised according to the six genres I use at Fiction on the Web:
  • Funny stories - for when you need a laugh
  • Creepy stories - to make your hair stand on end
  • Fantastic stories - orcs, swords, magic and fantasy
  • Futuristic stories - many worlds of science fiction
  • Criminal stories - crooks and detectives
  • Real life stories - everyday life and relationships
But even within each category, several genres are explored. The "criminal" stories here include a heist, a noir, a caper, a courtroom drama, a corporate conspiracy, and a sweeping condemnation of corruption in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church. (The latter is "Vatican Bag Man".)

Some of my favourite authors are here: "The Debacle" by Beryl Ensor-Smith is one of twenty-five delightful comedies of hers I've published, about gossiping wives in small-town South Africa. I can't get enough of Hanja Kochansky's wonderful autobiographical anecdotes, as in "Goodbye Butterfly". And some authors have gone on to great things after featuring in Fiction on the Web: Rob Boffard has published a series of breathtaking science fiction novels. Rotimi Babatunde won the Caine Prize for African Writing, and has written plays staged in several theatres including London's Young Vic.

There is one story of mine in this collection. In 2013 I was asked to contribute a story for a horror anthology called Bleed, published to raise money for The National Children's Cancer Society. Bleed turned out to be brilliant, the highest standard of writing of any anthology I've been published in, but at first I thought it was a terrible idea: Can you imagine anything more depressing than reading a whole book of stories monstrously personifying cancer? I only wanted to contribute a story if I could come up with an angle that no one else would be exploring. So I wrote "Remission". It's a science fiction space tale, but also a metaphor for the less obvious side effects of dealing with a serious illness: loneliness, loss, fear, isolation, stress on family and friends. My baby daughter was very ill when I wrote it, and the story is infused with some of the trauma and desperate hopefulness I was feeling.

My daughter owes her life to the staff of St Thomas' Hospital and Evelina London Children's Hospital. So I'm proud to be able to say that all proceeds from the sale of this book - every penny - will go to Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

That is only possible because my patrons, those loyal few who donate monthly to Fiction on the Web, have paid for the editing, design and typesetting of this book. So I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John F. Furth, Ceinwen Haydon, Jeff Alphin, Jeff Weddle, Theresa Amarilio, Orion D. Hegre, David Valenzia, Andrew Smith, James Mulhern, J. H. Otterstrom, Kelly Shackelford, Charles H. Wise, Brooke Fieldhouse, Irena Pasvinter, Doug Hawley, Martin Green, Rob Boffard, Giovanni Valentino, William Belle, Shayne McClendon, Artie Knapp, Deborah Smith, Minkette, Gerald Warfield, Bruce Costello, Elizabeth Archer, Adi Bracken, Nancy McGuire, Julie Carpenter, Ted Morrissey, David Perlmutter, Laura T. Weddle, L. S. Sharrow, Alex Artukovich, Paul von Hippel, Steven Lucas, Melissa Davis, Tom Harrington, Tom Minder, Leo X. Robertson, Arun Dawani, Courteny L., Andrew Miller, Michael King, Paul Beckman, Monica Nelson, Pineapple Pineapple, David Haight, Mike Florian, Greg Szulgit, Gene J. Parola, Sharon Frame Gay, Patricia Crandall, John Mullen, Don Herald, Jerry W. Crews, Jim Bartlett, Seren Roberts, Katherine Parker, Anthony Billinghurst and Adrian Kalil.

Thank you to all the authors and especially the commenters who support Fiction on the Web. And thanks to Dave Aldhouse for the incredible animation on my Patreon page, Raffaele Teo for the elegant design and typesetting of this book, Julia Bell for contributing the foreword, Sue Tyley for her meticulous copy-editing, my Nomads for their continuing moral support, and above all Emma, for everything.

Coming soon

The Man Who Married Himself and Other Stories by Charlie Fish will make you laugh, cry, tremble with fear, but above all – think. Stories that address life’s big questions: How can I be a good person? What is freedom? Is this penny trying to kill me? This is the definitive collection of the very best Charlie Fish stories from the last twenty years. More information will be announced soon on this website.

No comments: