Thirty-seven years ago, Stephen King released his first collection of short-story fiction under the title Night Shift. It is with this book that King revealed his inner, darkest demons through his words, forever changing the wicked path of the horror genre.
In 2015, King gives us his next set of sensational short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. At the beginning of each selection, King offers the reader an explanation of how the story came to be and why he included it. Some of his stories have been rewritten for an updated version (such as “Mile 81,” a fast-paced thriller involving a monstrous station wagon), while others were especially written for the short story collection (“The Dune” & “Morality”).
We never outgrow fairy tales. It’s just that as we get older, we want there to be more to the story of a princess who kisses a frog. Who does that?! And what about those 12 dancing princesses? Couldn’t they do –anything- to keep each other from a terrible fate?
Once Upon an Alphabet is as ambitious as picture books come. Author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers presents 26 short tales, each based on a different letter of the alphabet. An astronaut who is afraid of heights, a daredevil girl who laughs in the face of death, and a lightning-struck lumberjack are just a few of characters we meet.
It came from the woods. Most strange things do.
Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods is a collection of visual stories about the sinister things that come from the woods. From mysterious hauntings to creepy creatures, these tales will thrill even the most unflappable reader.
High and low culture collide in The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes. The literary journal has collected its humor pieces, featuring all sorts of short essays, lists, and ephemera related to classic literature.
Rudyard Kipling, an amazingly gifted British writer who was born in India, tells stories of ghosts, gods, reincarnation, and the joys and madness of the human spirit in the collection, Tales of Horror and Fantasy.
A birthday gift from the North Wind. A pie so feathery-light it carries people away. A cat on a mat that grants wishes to a poor girl and her grandmother. Elves in the shelves, mermaids in the bathtub and a tiger that’s faster than the wind. Joan Aiken’s A Necklace of Raindrops and Other Stories is a magical book that is probably one of the best read-alouds out there for kindergarten and early elementary grades.
The dying days of summer—hot and bright or fog-drenched and rainy—are a suitable time to escape to another century and into the Old World where vampires lurk in musty tombs and sometimes in the candlelight of high society. Michael Sims' collection, Dracula’s Guest, does include Stoker’s title story, but it is also a gathering of kindred pieces that lay out tales both plain and highly-embroidered of the pernicious beings known as vampires. These old school blood-drinkers do not sparkle handsomely in daylight and are decidedly and viciously carnivorous.
In Megan Whalen Turner’s Instead of Three Wishes, mere mortals go up against crafty fey and magical mayhem with only their mundane wits to protect them.
Selene was only trying to help the cantankerous old man across the street. He seemed frozen by passing cars and probably would have been hit were it not for Selene taking him carefully by the arm. She did not realize that that she was escorting elfin royalty.
Short stories are a tricky business. When done well, just a few pages of text can offer a tantalizing glimpse of another world, or immerse you in a scenario so familiar it feels claustrophobic. Creating a brief narrative that contains depth and nuance is a significant accomplishment. I’d venture to guess that only a few writers have managed to master the craft. For several years, my dependable favorites have been Ray Bradbury, Raymond Carver, Miranda July, Flannery O’Connor, and Etgar Keret. Since reading Smoke and Mirrors, this list now includes Neil Gaiman.
Smoke and Mirrors brings together a wide variety of Gaiman’s short pieces. In the introduction, Gaiman writes that “Stories are, in one way or another, mirrors. We use them to explain to ourselves how the world works or how it doesn’t work. Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come. They distract us from the things in the darkness.” I’d like to think that most of Gaiman’s stories live up to such lofty ambitions.