Jul 14

At Books on the Nightstand, we’re dubbing 2013 “The Year of the Short Story.” In celebration, Ann is reading one story a day, for the entire year. We’ll also be highlighting new story collections, lit magazines, and online resources for short fiction. 

Best of Connie WillisMichael chose the story for this month, and I’m so happy that I did.

The story is “Fire Watch” by Connie Willis. It’s about a historian that can travel through time, though not always to the places he wants to go. It’s a conceit that informs several of Willis’ novels, including Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. I suspect that even those who don’t usually read science fiction will find this story enjoyable.

Originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, it won the Nebula in 1982 and the Hugo Award in 1983, both awards for Best Novelette. Both awards define “novelette” as a story between 7,500 and 17,500 words.  (A novella is 17,500 to 40,000 words).

Short story length is something that I’ve been thinking about lately. As a side-effect of Project Short Story, I’ve been gravitating to shorter stories, and finding myself impatient when reading longer stories.

I’m thrilled that Michael chose this story, because I’ve been reading almost exclusively literary fiction lately.

The link will take you to the story online, but if you prefer to read it in physical form, it is available in the new collection The Best of Connie Willis, which Michael talked about in BOTNS episode #238.

Please give it a read and share your thoughts here.



  • Catelyn Lee Lanier

    This was such a fun read. I’d also highly recommend Doomsday Book; it’s one of my favorite novels of all time. It’s set in the same future world of time traveling historians except in it Kivrin gets stuck in the Dark Ages amidst the plague. So good.

  • Pat

    Once I got into this story, I loved it. I loved the sometimes comic, sometimes poignant, use of the cat. The idea of unlikely survivors and the seeming randomness of who survives history also grabbed me. Emailing this story to my father, who is a history professor.

    • Whanda Gerardo

      I am confused about the purpose of the cat

  • Amy

    I know I am slightly late, but the link is not working for me. Is anyone else having any success post-July?

  • Connie Willis always brings to light the “butterfly effect” in history. You can read her work for fun or read it and wonder about the deeper meaning of why some survive and some don’t. I really enjoyed her Blackout and All Clear.

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