Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories from The Merry Sisters of Fate

I'm not exactly sure how I missed the Merry Sisters of Fate when it was running; I feel like I saw mention of it, and possibly read a story or two, but missed out on what many other readers experienced. (I think I had a critique partner who followed the group on livejournal.)

Reading The Curiosities, which collects some of the stories, is both a treat for readers and writers. In addition to the fantastic and diverse stories featured the reader also sees notes from the author and her critique partners. If you learn by studying the work of others, as I do, reading this collection is a course in how to write short fiction. The notes about the things the authors enjoy/struggle with in their own writing and what they admire about the work their critique partners do is a fabulous insight into their process (and a reminder of the value of having the right-for-you critique group.)

The stories vary in length, and because they come from a larger body of work some are technically stronger than others. They each do a thing well, but the gems of the anthology do multiple things well.

Included are stories written from the same prompt (King Arthur), showing that three writers will always write three different stories, and a discussion of how the individual authors treat writing prompts. Each story is enjoyable for different reasons and reading them together—as they are presented in the collection—shows how they divert as well as how they echo.

It's also intriguing to see the seeds of novels-since-released planted in the stories and the bones supporting the individual author's body of work in the tropes that appear again and again.

A favourite story from each of the authors:

"Puddles" by Tessa Gratton: A beautifully sinister story where the magic concept is elegantly delivered, and the reveal changes everything without the story exploding into something different. It's our world but if you peel it back it's so very strange underneath. By pivoting it turns what looked abrasive into an act of caring. (But I would read an entire novel of "Thomas All.")

"Rain Maker" by Maggie Stiefvater: Genius behaving badly. Ok, no. It's also how quickly and concisely Stiefvater characterizes everyone in this so that you get sense of who they are even if they never say a word. But mostly, it's the utterly perfect last line. (A single line that shows instead of tells the growth of that character.)

"The Madness of Lancelot" by Brenna Yovanoff: A tightly-structured story that uses a repeating hook to create the cadence of an old ballad. It's emotionally frank, but somehow surreal. (Yovanoff's stories juxtapose beauty in ugly worlds. They are often violent, but I never find them off-putting.)

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