Recently I’ve finished two (digital) volumes of short stories, Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness and Clockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness. It seems logical to me to tackle them in one go.
According to editor Mike Allen, Clockwork Phoenix collects
stories that sidestep expectations in beautiful and unsettling ways, that surprise with their settings and startle with the ways they cross genre boundaries, that aren’t afraid to experiment with storytelling techniques. But experimentation is not a requirement: the stories in the anthology must be more than gimmicks, and should appeal to genuine emotions, suspense, fear, sorrow, delight, wonder.
Reading the introduction and first two stories of the first volume, I felt a bit uneasy. This cup of tea wasn’t turning out to be a huge success, and I had another three volumes remaining. Then, I read the fourth paragraph John Grant‘s All the Little Gods We Are, and all was well:
I highlighted that last line, and read on. The rest of the story (about a man who dials the wrong number and gets an alternate universe version of himself on the phone) kicked my ass. Or pushed me into another existential crisis. It was that recognisable to me. Other favorites include Cat Rambo’s The Dew Drop Coffee Lounge, Vandana Singh’s Oblivion: A Journey and John C. Wright’s Choosers of the Slain.
In the second volume, I highlighted two passages from Catherynne M. Valente’s The Secret History of Mirrors, on the nature of tradition and religion, which made me chuckle:
And one from Forrest Aguirre’s Never Nor Ever, which deals with time:
But neither of those were among my favorite stories. I believe that would either be Six by Leah Bobet, or Tanith Lee’s The Pain of Glass. Or Ann Leckie’s The Endangered Camp camp, even.
Remember my initial unrest? It’s gone. It’s that Stephen King’s latest novel arrived, otherwise I’d have dug into the two remaining volumes right away.
- Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (edited by Mike Allen)
- First Line
- We begin with fire. (Mike Allen, Introduction)
- Clockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (edited by Mike Allen)
- First Line
- Below us the world burns, though the fires are not visible to the naked eye. (Mike Allen, Introduction)
As a stop-gap, I squeezed in Neil Gaiman’s A Calendar of Tales as well. Allow me to cite the introduction to explain this thing:
On February 4th 2013 Neil Gaiman embarked on a fantastic art project in partnership with BlackBerry and millions of his fans. He tweeted twelve questions to the world, one for each month of the year. From the tens of housands of responses he received, Neil picked his favourite answers and wrote twelve short stories inspired by them. Releasing these back to the world, Neil asked people to contribute art to illustrate the stories.
The result are twelve very short stories, vignettes, if you will, available for absolutely nothing. While it may not be exactly among Gaiman’s most unforgettable works, it’s still an excellent read.
- Neil Gaiman — A Calendar of Tales
- First Line
- Whap! “Is it always like this?”