Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Short Story Anthologies
I was just over at Spinetingler filling out a survey for their award nominations this year.
As you may recall, I had a story in the list in 2011 and I'd like to tell you that it really gave me an enormous lift. Why not go over and share the love you have for your favourites so that they can get some of the praise you think they deserve. A poll such as this deserves to be taken, so take a few minutes of your day and pop over.
While there, I was struck by my answer in the 'Short Story Anthology Multiple Author' box. I was stuck.
The thing is, there's something about my reading habits that makes a choice difficult.
When I come to a collection by an individual, I tend to read from beginning to end in the way I would a novel. I have no idea why that is, but it could well be that I sense the author has a reason for offering things up in a particular way.
I don't approach multiple-author anthologies in the same way. Instead of in straight lines, I tend to read them much in the way I mow a lawn - in random patterns determined mostly by the patches of long grass that catch my eye.
That's where the problem lies in picking out a list.
I tend to graze these things. Pick out an author or a title I fancy, or maybe a really short one if I lack time. That kind of thing.
When I considered my list, I thought about including collections where I'd read more than 75%. That's as far as I got.
There's another factor making any choices difficult.
Short story anthologies have really mushroomed. It makes sense, too. Sites and magazines putting up great work have decided to turn that into something different and I applaud that. Not that it helps in making choices.
The final factor involved in my keeping my colours low is that the anthologies I've read through are ones I've been involved with. So that's where I have to start.
Pulp Ink. This was a labour of love. It was a tremendous learning curve in different ways and working with Chris Rhatigan was a real treat. The other factor that meant it remained ever-engaging was the pure quality of the work. I learned a little about writing, too, somewhere along the line. It's my favourite of the year. Totally biased, but I can't help it. It's now made over 300 sales and that makes it pretty respectable for a 4 month run.
Another collection I read through is Grimm Tales. That was for different reasons. It started out as a competition, so I was there to check out the opposition. I was lucky enough to win that, but if you check the intro (by Ken Bruen, no less), you'll see that the prize could have gone in many different ways. This also brings something out about an anthology that I tend to like, which is an overall theme. It makes me less likely to be a dipper if I feel I'm following a thread.
Speedloader. Now there's an anthology with a difference. It only has 6 stories in from 6 contributors. What that means for me as a reader is that I'm not going to dip. I was really honoured to be part of that one, especially as it was the debut from Snubnose Press who are fast becoming one of the main players when it comes to creating a mark of quality on a book. The collection is simply superb and Plastic Soldiers was my favourite short read of the year.
There have been some cracking charity efforts out there - Brit Grit Too, Off The Record, Lost Children and Shaken. It makes a lot of sense and the fiction is brilliant.
And there's more.
The Best American Noir Of The Century
Laughing At The Death Grin
Beat To A Pulp - Hardboiled
Crimefactory: The First Shift
Kung Fu Factory
It's a great list. I'll have missed things out - post them in the comments if you have something burning inside that you need to share.
A mention is also needed for the Mammoth Best British Crime series.
Editor Maxim Jakubowski deserves a medal for putting these together. The result is always quite amazing. Like all anthologies, you won't love every one of them, especially where the net is cast as widely as this, but these are books that should be in the collection.
I had the honour of being in Volume 8 this year and I'll have that doubled when I appear in Volume 9. Volume 9, by the way, is to be released on February 2nd this year and can be pre-ordered if you follow the link. It also happens to include one of my favourites from Pulp Ink, Kate Horsley's 'Jungle Boogie'.
Which seems like a nice way to complete an imperfect circle.