Shorter

Nicola Presley, Acting Course Leader: Publishing, Bath Spa University

Shorter – stories by Will Ashon is a fun new short story app, comprised of 89 pieces of micro-fiction. Ashon, who has published two novels – Clear Water and Heritage – with Faber and Faber, writes the stories; the app is designed by artist/writer Julian Baker and is completed with drawings from Timothy Hunt.

The app randomly selects a story each time it’s opened with titles such as ‘Inhibited’, ‘Inconsequential’, ‘Threatening’ and ‘Unfaithful’. Readers may also choose from an index of one-word titles – perhaps designed to match their mood. In the story ‘Suspicious’, the character Max is caught on the toilet by his sister-in-law. Max is on his phone checking his emails, Facebook and Twitter, ‘looking for something, anything, that could take him away and out of there, however briefly’.

This app is designed for exactly that escape. Stories range from one sentence to a few paragraphs and are ideal for a quick dip-into when you’re at a loose end. They are full of odd and often hilarious little details. There’s ‘Parasitic’ in which Radovan’s shadow dresses up in ‘ludicrous outfits’, then abruptly leaves; the woman in ‘Adaptable’ who accidently gets turned into a fly and ponders how she is to continue being herself, until she happily finds the ‘dog shit’; and a man obsessed with pornography in ‘Furtive’ who has the ‘sense not to turn the professorship down’.

Perhaps my favourite story is ‘Legendary’ which features a man stuck on the top floor of a burning building. He reasons that if he dies, his reputation as a poet will probably improve. As with many of the stories, the brilliance is in the final line. ‘He had wet his trousers – not a circumstance conducive to the construction of literary legend – but was confident they would be dry before his body was found’.

Sharing options are limited. The app allows you to post to Twitter and Facebook that you’re currently reading the app but it would be great if you could share the title of the story you’re reading, particularly if you’re reading ‘Embittered’ first thing on a Monday morning. There are a few spelling/grammatical errors that will no doubt be addressed during the next update.

For 69p, this app represents excellent value for money; the stories never disappoint with their surreal take on early 21st-century life. I’m looking forward to reading the new stories which, according to the blurb, ‘will be added at unexpected moments’.

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