Yes, I am a day late on my very own thing – #SomeoneElseSaturday. Never call me punctual.
I actually had to think about this one; for the previous versions, I just recommended the shit I had been reading. The most recent one was Jonathan Maberry’s Assassin’s Code (and I still need to write something on Extinction Machine). However, I didn’t want to do two consecutive #SomeoneElseSaturdays on Maberry, as good as he is (and, for any newbies to Maberry and his character Joe Ledger, the fifth book is an excellent place to start). I wanted to be as wide-ranging as possible when trying to get this thing going.
So, as I sorted the family laundry, I studied my book cases for inspiration. And found two:
Mercedes Yardley & John Skipp. Specifically, their short story collections.
As should come as a surprise to exactly no one, I love short stories. During one of my bookcase organization binges (like Rob Fleming in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, I rearrange my books like Rob rearranges his records–when he needs to think things through and give himself a “fresh start”), I had a bookcase and a half of just anthologies and collections. I admire a writer who can take an idea and crunch it down to one solid punch; novels are like extended wrestling matches, and there’s skill there, but there’s a special skill in order to launch and land a fight-ending punch. A lot of writers don’t write shorts, or profess to not like them, and, to my mind, that’s an extremely narrow and limiting view. If you can’t, or don’t want to, get a reader to care and react in under 10,000 words, you’re kinda dicking the reader around (that might be an unfair statement; if so, I’ll own it).
There are two short story collections coming out in 2016 I’m ridiculously excited about, one I read in manuscript form, and one I just wanna get my grubby hands on: Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters and 13 Views of the Suicide Woods by Bracken MacLeod. But, since neither is in print yet, I’ll keep it to two others.
So! Let’s talk short story collections from two seemingly disparate sources.
Mercedes Yardley, a mother out of Las Vegas and the nicknamed “Ms. Murder”, offers a slim volume of cuts that straddle the line between whimsy and pitch-black dark fantasy. To me, these read like fairy tales for grownups, and I mean that in the best possible way. The tales are short, incisive, and to the point. Not a word wasted.
In a volume just as slim as Mercedes’s, Skipp’s The Art of Horrible People goes in the opposite direction, presenting stories that have both feet firmly planted in the here and now and then sprint into the world of the outlandish. Skipp got his start with former writing partner Craig Spector and wound up founding one of the most misunderstood movements in horror, splatterpunk. Still, for as bugfuck as the Skipp & Spector novels could and did get–and, with novels like The Bridge, that’s saying something–there’s a goofy insanity to these stories that can’t be matched, even in the supposed “quieter” ones, like “In the Waiting Room, Trading Death Stories”.
So, there you go: a day late on #SomeoneElseSaturday, but with double the fun.
Who would you recommend this week?
(Also, go buy my short story collection Bones Are Made to be Broken.)