Thursday, October 13, 2011

Short Story Sorrow

(Excuse the lack of links; Amazon stole my widget.  I'll add them in tomorrow when my laptop is charged.)

I don't know why, but I'm just not a short story person most of the time. I wish I could come up with a general reason, but it seems more like I just have a series of less-than-pleasing short story experiences.  Although thinking about it, what I really don't care for is a book of short stories all by the same author.  It's not stories I don't enjoy, per se, but a book full of stories.  Especially by the same author--stories by the same author tend to have a very uniform flavor that gets redundant in a way that a continuously unfolding story of course does not.

So that's interesting; I seem to have had a little insight there.  This feeds nicely into the two books I want to talk about  here, one a surrender, one a thumbs up.  There's not a lot to say about the thumbs up that isn't said by the title: Zombies vs. Unicorns.  It's just what it sounds like, with an all star cast of YA fantasy/sci fi writers--Scott Westerfeld, Libba Bray, Libba Bray, Carrie Ryan, Garth Nix, Maureen Johnson, and Naomi Novik.  And those are just the ones I've read--Meg Cabot, Cassandra Clare, Margo Lanagan, and a bunch of others turn up, too.

Zombie stories alternate with unicorn stories as the two editors (Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier) argue about which is cooler.  I think that, objectively speaking, Team Zombie takes the prize, though mostly because a lot of the unicorn stories involve the undead.  Anyway, this is one of those things that I'm sure to get sick of soon, where someone decides to put together an anthology with a Theme and a bunch of people write stories about it.  The stories aren't all spectacular, but they're diverting and different and I'm having fun with it.

Surrender, however, is The Great Frustration, by Seth Fried.  I picked it up because the title caught my eye, and when I opened to a random page, it was the beginning of a story entitled "Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre."  It was a funny, charming beginning that looked like it might be satire.  And you know, it might actually be satire, but if it is, it's too heavy-handed for me to appreciate. 

It's about how every year the whole town goes to this picnic and a bunch of people get killed.  And everyone gets all upset and wails and laments, but then the next year they all go again.  And it's run by a big faceless corporation so no one ever gets held responsible.  It wants to be really observant and insightful, but it's just kind of hollow, like the profound things that you realize about the world when you're in high school.

As for my earlier insight about short stories by the same author having the same tone?  The first two stories in this collection are told in the first person plural.  It was just too much for me; I think I need a good literary magazine instead.

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