As a gentleman literary curmudgeon, I prefer the winter months. Cold mornings and dark rooms lead to cozy evenings. No children begging to go outside and play. No ungentlemanly yardwork to get done. The only domestic urgencies are coffee and books at dawn and scotch and books at dusk.
Once Spring emerges all this loveliness changes. Moments alone in my cave are a rare pleasure. My mind languishes with trips to the park and the fertile ground of imagination is lost to the drudgery of backyard shenanigans. Bundle up tight, gentle reader, it goes on like this for a few months.
But there is an escape, dear friend. Short stories are the perfect reading companion for days spent lost in the bleary bleakness of the great outdoors. Below I list a few of my favorite (mostly fantasy) collections that will bring the darkness back.
- Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life and Others provides 8 science fiction short pieces that melt the barriers between science, philosophy and religion. In one dramatic piece, the Tower of Babel is built in order to gain access to heaven and where do you think it led?
- Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen is a collection of retold fairy tales, subtle ghost stories and all levels of the fantastic. With a prose that makes even the most fantastic seem as normal as driving down you will be asking for more. Which is good because you will love The Faery Handbag in her collection Pretty Monsters or her edited volume Steampunk! An Anthology Of Fantastically Rich And Strange Stories.
- Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is going to seem a bit off-kilter for this list but she has two things going for her. 1) She is Canadian and 2) She weaves tales that seem so clear, you would swear it happened to you…because maybe it did…And fellas, (yeah?) you need to read some Alice Munro at some point in your life, so cowboy up and read. [If you like it then pick up Open Secrets]
- Neil Gaiman’s Stories: All New Tales is an eclectic collection of imaginative fiction including everyone from Peter Straub, Chuck Palahniuk, Roddy Doyle, Diana Wynne Jones, Stewart O’Nan, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley and Jodi Picoult (and creepy additions by Neil GAiman and Al Sarrantino). A wide diversity of authors answering the question “What happened next…”
- Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is a completely blind thrust but after reading her debute novel Swamplandia I am convinced this book will blow minds.
- Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes: three Winter’s Tales collects three folkish tales (“Jack Daw’s Pack,” “A Crowd of Bone,” and “Unleaving”) steaped in myth and the wild.
- The New Weird edited by Ann VanderMeer is perfect for those of us that are tired of the old weird. [Looking for more weird? Try China Mieville’s Looking for Jake: Stories.]
- Susanna Clark’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu: And Other Stories are nine stories set in the alternate nineteenth-century England made popular by her break-through novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The stories are dark, enchanting and well-stocked with Faerie plus amazing artwork by Charles Vess.
- Margo Lanagan’s three short story collections; White Time, Red Spikes and Black Juice are wonderful examples of speculative fiction with pieces of dystopia, science fiction and portal fantasy mixing together into something abrasive, weird and exciting.
- Etgar Keret’s The Nimrod Flipout contains stories that are brief, wonderfully odd and by most standard definitions, weird as hell. Dare to go deeper? Then check out The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God and Other Stories.
Bonus: For the graphically inclined check out The Best American Comics of 2011 for short graphic novels that span the gamut [although 2007 had me laughing so hard I spilled my scotch].
Domo loves Spring by Lawa