Your cart is empty.
Less is More: In Celebration of the Debut Short Story Collection

Less is More: In Celebration of the Debut Short Story Collection

I would have written a short story, but I did not have the time or skill.
—novelist who has asked to remain anonymous

Shut Up You’re Pretty, the debut short collection by Téa Mutonji and the inaugural book in the VS. Books imprint (founded by Vivek Shraya to mentor and publish BIPOC writers), was runner-up in this year’s edition of Canada Reads, CBC’s “annual title fight.”

The collection was brilliantly and passionately championed by actor Kudakwashe Rutendo, who spoke at great length about the collection’s many strengths: the precision of Mutonji’s language; the realistic rendering through clever details of the neighbourhood of Galloway in Scarborough, Ontario; and her connection with Loli, the collection’s central character, whose range of experiences—friendship, alienation, sexuality, objectification, grief, heartbreak—from ages six to twenty offers a varied, complex, and specific experience of Black immigrant girlhood rarely portrayed in Canadian literature.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the Canada Reads ride for publishers and authors (other than being selected for the shortlist and winning on the rare occasion that happens!) is hearing a diverse range of panellists discuss books at length on a high-profile media platform. At the same time, it can be challenging for publishers, whose entire job is understanding and putting out what they believe is the best in literature, to hear some of what we know to be features of the books we publish presented as weaknesses.

Short story collections are not “failed novels”—nor do they aspire to be. To expect a short story collection to do the things a novel does—have pages of introductory exposition, a three-act structure, a gradual yet deliberate winding down to a satisfying conclusion—is to miss the opportunity to appreciate the craft, skill, and unique ability of short stories to disrupt, shock, and stun readers in a fraction of the time and space afforded to novelists.

Short story collections are books with multiple endings and beginnings, and the best ones capture the stops and starts of day-to-day life. The sorcery of the short story writer is the ability to conjure the images, exchanges, and details of the quotidian that, upon re-examination, tell us something profound about our deeper selves and the world we live in.

At Arsenal Pulp Press, we’re proud to publish—and will continue to acquire—daring and bold short story collections that are worth reading and re-reading!

➢ Shut Up You’re Pretty




Featured Debut Short Story Collections

Perfect Little Angels


The stories in Perfect Little Angels offer a nuanced exploration of masculinity, religion, marginalization, repressed (queer) desires, and self-expression through the lens of (un)conditional love.

In elegant, otherworldly prose, Vincent Anioke captures the shocking violence and confrontational drama in the overt and covert power dynamics—between headmasters and students, brothers and sisters, mothers and sons—that shape our lives.

Many stories in this collection have already received individual honours: Anioke won the 2021 Austin Clarke Fiction Prize, and in 2023, he was a finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers from the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

Out now in Canada! (USA May 7, 2024)


➢ The Whole Animal


The Whole Animal is a bold, dark, and gutsy debut short story collection about the best and worst of human bodies and appetites (both literal and figurative). Corinna Chong’s characters grapple with how their physical forms and desires transform, confuse, fail, surprise (and, occasionally, delight) them as they search for identity, belonging, and autonomy.

Chong’s devastating short story “Kids in Kindergarten”—in which a woman who’s experienced a recent miscarriage comes to question her ongoing legacy friendship with a “very fertile” kindergarten teacher—won the CBC Short Story Prize in 2021.


➢ A Safe Girl to Love


A Safe Girl to Love contains eleven unique short stories featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love in settings ranging from a rural Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn. These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but never will it be predictable.


➢ Buffalo Is the New Buffalo


Buffalo Is the New Buffalo explores science fiction tropes through a Métis lens: a Two-Spirit rougarou (shapeshifter) in the nineteenth century tries to solve a murder in her community and joins the nehiyaw-pwat (Iron Confederacy) in order to successfully stop Canadian colonial expansion into the West. A Métis man is gored by a radioactive bison, gaining super strength, but losing the ability to be remembered by anyone not related to him by blood. Nanites babble to babies in Cree, virtual reality teaches transformation, foxes take human form and wreak havoc on hearts, buffalo roam free, and beings grapple with the thorny problem of healing from colonialism.


➢ Nowadays and Lonelier


Carmella Gray-Cosgrove’s nuanced and contemporary debut collection, Nowadays and Lonelier, explores the brutality of contemporary life in late capitalism and wonders how people might access hope, connection, and pleasure when confronted with non-stop injustice and despair. Besieged by addiction, poverty, mental health, aging, and loneliness, Gray-Cosgrove’s characters are not without resilience: they look out for their neighbours, show up for their daughters in moments of crisis, make daily phone calls to their difficult sisters, and brave long winter bus rides to visit their grandmothers.

Arresting, provocative, and emotionally astute, Nowadays and Lonelier offers vivid portraits of unsure yet hopeful people struggling to find a good life in a hard world.