Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Short Reviews

There’s some great fiction, great short stories on the internet. Many you can access fer free. To help find them, I’ll be reviewing some of the best. Will also take the opportunity to discuss what makes a great story.

FLUFF AND BUTTONS by Matt Smith is currently at ChiZine. Editor Brett Savory calls it “one of my favorites in a while.” That’s saying something. To me, it’s well worth reading but for different reasons.

The most intriguing, unique aspect of the story is the circular nature of the struggle. One species preys on another; kills them for nesting material. It’s a natural function, apparently done without animosity. Simply part of reproducing, maintaining the flock. But of course the others try to survive by killing the offspring of the first. An interesting dilemma.

Another marvelous twist is the circular way in which Smith treats the genre. In a speculative fiction setting, his characters could be anyone, anything. Androids, ancient middle-earth elves, Saturn moon dwellers; but they’re not. They’re teddy bears. Rather like care-bears gone bad. I wonder if the author isn’t taking a jab at the very genre he’s writing in.

But I don’t know or understand genre. Don’t know why the concept exists, what purpose it serves. The only genre’s that interest me are good writing and bad writing. Fluff and Buttons fits into the first category. Smith has done an excellent job of creatively re-inventing an important theme. Perhaps that’s the function of speculative fiction.

THE TEACHER by Paul Tremblay, is a paradigm. This is what a short story should be. This is what the ‘now style’ of writing is. Writing of course, is the key ingredient to writing. I want, need a story to tell me something, move me, make me feel something. But none of that’s gonna happen if I can’t read it. And...y’know, I quit reading a lot of stories...because of the writing.

Tremblay’s story actually hurt my feelings - didn’t know if I could write that well. But it also taught me a lot. If you wanna be a writer, try to live up to a certain standard. Make what you write...a polished, finished work of art.

More to it than that though, more than just fine writing. Matthew Tait of HorrorScope says “I’d be lying if I said I completely understood it...” But to me, the story is one of those societal cogs we need to get to know. Perchance we Westerners have no reference point for marking childhood’s end. Maybe we’re a society of overindulged perpetual adolescents.

Tremblay makes a definitive statement. Comes a time when school’s out, and... teachers, adults, parents...no longer have the answers. THE TEACHER is also at Chizine (archived). Is this a pattern? Well, good fiction is where you find it. There’s an interview with the author here.

A FACE TO AVENGE by George Karimalil is powerful stuff. Punches you in the stomach, knocks the breath out of you. Obviously every story can’t do that; and obviously you wouldn’t want them too. But when one does, you have to take note.

Set in the tumultuous years (aren’t they all tumultuous years?) but this during Gandhi’s march to free India from British colonialism. As if you were there - beaten, kicked, bloodied by the troops. As if you were - slave, bonded servant, suddenly seeing a light of freedom; after all those years, generations, centuries.

Dr. Karimalil doesn’t write much adult fiction. I think he’s published a number of children’s books which are widely read in India. But this one story is well worth the read, worth taking note of. Not just the writing, the excellent story, but that it’s important. Important to read, to know; it makes a difference.

It’s available at Litmocracy.com's archives (where you can also find a lot of stuff by the shamelessly self-promoting me). Writing is measurable, and so is our valuable time. Stories like this one, and those mentioned above, set a standard for creativity, style, message, and impact. There’s a lot of good writing on the web, but these I think, are some of the best.

No comments: