The essential annual guide to the newest voices in literature
Selected by Venita Blackburn, Richard Chiem, and Dantiel W. Moniz
Best Debut Short Stories is an annual celebration of the most promising short story writers today. Selected by a panel of distinguished judges, these twelve stories are the 2023 winners of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, which recognizes each writer’s outstanding debut in a literary magazine.
The stories in this anthology encompass fraught family gatherings, death, inheritance, reproduction and birth, translation, secrets, and betrayals. They show us what we would rather not face: a grandmother’s repeated resurrection, the loss of a child, a family’s excuses for a predator. They direct our attention away from fluorescence and to the natural world: iguanas climbing into beds, a reflection in an orange, sweat like rain drops, gossamer petals, a child named Ant. They question how well we can ever know other people: partners reconsidering each other on the brink of divorce, an imaginary roommate. They remind us that some questions have no perfect answer: Why pretend not to understand someone in need? What can anyone do with anxieties over becoming a parent?
This year’s stories were selected by judges Venita Blackburn, Richard Chiem, and Dantiel W. Moniz, innovators of the short story form. Each story is accompanied by an introduction from the journal editor who first published it, providing insight about what’s exciting in fiction right now, and recognizing the vital work literary magazines do in nurturing new voices.