Monday, September 13, 2004

Endings, Madmen and New Victoriana

Just an addendum to what I said about the endings of short stories.

Specifically, I'm referring to Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald", which won a Hugo award for Best Short Story this year and which I recently read in Science Fiction: Best of 2003. (It was first published in the themed-anthology, Shadows Over Baker Street last year.)

Now, more or less everyone who reads this blog (which I can probably count with the fingers of an amputee-thief) knows Gaiman. So it shouldn't be surprise anyone to know that his short story is very good, very award-worthy in my opinion.

This is because in addition to the interesting story (centered on a particular idea, i.e. the intersection of Sherlock Holmes and the Lovecraftian Gods) the ending has the required punch that I've been looking for in past short stories.

I do admit that the story still has flaws-- the prose doesn't flow (though I should blame the other books I've been reading on Ye Olde English period like Kim Newman, Brian Stableford, and Susannah Clarke) and there's an assumption that the reader knows the Holmes/ Lovecraft universe.

However, the short story medium always has its limitations and the shortcomings are really just nitpicking on my part.

In other news, I picked up the fast-approaching cult-status and critically-acclaimed The City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer at-- of all places-- the Fully-Booked Store in Rockwell. Of course, this hardcover edition of the well-known postmodern fantasy book was done by a major publisher, Tor, so I should have expected it. And the piece looks fine-fucking-outstanding.

(FBS, which used to be a franchise of Page One of Singapore, also sells British and Canadian published books, unlike other local bookstores. Slightly expensive but worth it for those titles that aren't available in the US.)

*does a little dance of joy*

Also want to add that Vandermeer's thematic metafictional collection about the very weird City of Ambergris has generated some serious friction due to this puzzled reviewer in Strange Horizon and answered by the well-regarded critic Matt Cheney here:

Here we need to import (Mark) Rich's implied definition of "fiction that works": "the things that appear on the pages are there because they need to be there". This is a common enough argument for a certain kind of minimalist fiction, but it sounds more definitive and important than it is. Nothing needs to be there. No story needs to be written, no book needs to be published. Stories are written because writers want to write them, books are published because somebody chooses to publish them, and they are read because readers decide to read them. Necessity has nothing to do with it. Writing and reading are all beholden to choice and leisure. (italics mine)

Something to keep in mind when writing.

Lastly, FBS has jumped the gun on all the local bookstores by being the first to display Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, looking all nice in a black trade-paperback on their front tables.

Now let's see if people here will catch on to the 'Harry Potter for adults,' which one reviewer, Rick Kleffel, has dubbed as New Victoriana.

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