Each year, magazine editors submit entire issues of their publications to the O. Henry Prize Stories series editor, who reads through the multitudinous works of short fiction and chooses just twenty stories to be included in the collection. The editor then forwards the twenty stories in manuscript form to three jurors who independently read each of the stories without knowledge of the works' authors or the publications in which they appeared. The jurors each select a favorite and write a short essay about their choice. These essays are also included in the collection.
Anthony Doerr, an author well known for his attention to the natural world, reimagines China's Three Gorges Dam project, in which villages were flooded and millions of residents displaced, through the eyes of his narrator, known simply as "the seed keeper."
"The Necessity of Certain Behaviors"
In Shannon Cain's story, which first appeared in the New England Review, a woman's separation from her eco-tourism group lands her in a remote village in which she finds the rules of society and intimacy more appealing than those of her own world.
Ha Jin spins a tale in which a Chinese-American musician learns something about love and artistic inspiration from his girlfriend's parakeet.
"A Change in Fashion"
Steven Millhauser's sardonic entry seems less of a story and more of an article clipped out of a fashion magazine from the future. "A Change in Fashion" employs no actual characters in describing the "Age of Concealment," a period during which young women's fashion took a drastic (and rather humorous) turn.
Published with the goal of strengthening the art of the short story, The O. Henry Prize Stories continues to distill some of the finest short fiction available. Included commentary by the writers' on their work as well as the essays by the jurors' on their favorites make this book an annual must-have for short fiction lovers.