Friday, July 04, 2008

Finishing Up

I'm not abandoning my short story per day reading for the summer, but I have read the last three stories in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror volume that I started with.

I'm not sure what the technical definition of a "novella" is (I'm sure K or Stix could help me out here), though I know it has to do with length. Ysabeau S. Wilce's story "The Lineaments of Gratified Desire" is described in the introduction as a novella. It's written in a style I wouldn't normally enjoy, but somehow it seemed to work for this story. Maybe it's just that as I started it, I realized it was quite long, and I was going to have to get through it, so I might as well enjoy it. Whatever. She writes in a kind of baroque, wordy style, which also includes a lot of offhand references and modern slangy words. I don't know quite how to describe it. Maybe a fairly random example will help:

"Ahead, a big red door, well barred and bolted, but surely leading Out. The bottom bolt snaps back under her tiny fingers, but the chains are too high and tippy-toe, hopping, jumping will not reach them. The demon is down the stairs, he's still shouting and steaming, and the smell of charred flesh is stinky indeed."

Nothing too long and convoluted there, but maybe you get the idea. One of my biggest issues with the writing is some of the word choice. She uses the word "hinder" several times to describe the buttocks. The first time, it comes from a child's perspective and makes perfect sense. But she uses it a couple more times in narration, and it just jumps out as being out of place. The story was a bizarre tale about bizarre people in a bizarre world. Without much to ground it, other than genuine human emotion, it still managed to succeed on its own terms. Enough about that one.

"Raphael" by Stephen Graham Jones might be my favorite story of the summer thus far. It's about a group of kids who form a kind of "scare club," who tell stories intended to scare each other. And, of course, things go horribly awry. If it ended with the kids' story, it would have been a really good story, but Jones takes it a step further, with one of them an adult, looking back, and the consequences of his childhood actions taking full effect on adulthood. Really well written and chilling.

I also liked "The Muldoon" by Glenn Hirshberg, the final story in the anthology. Another ghost story, with a couple cool twists and turns, and another story in which the protagonists (and narrator) are children. I'm not sure why, but I really like stories with children, even ones which aren't necessarily "children's stories." And this one clearly isn't.

So, I've finished the book, more than 250,000 words, as the cover proclaims. What to read next?


Anonymous K said...

I've never quite been confident in what a novella is. I think it has some of the unity of a story but is told in the more leisurely way of a novel. I think.

6:55 PM  
Blogger STOLTMAN said...

According to Wikipedia: "A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel. While there is some disagreement as to what length defines a novella, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000."

10:45 AM  
Blogger Kootch said...

Yeah, I knew that the Science Fiction writers had a particular definition for novella. As far as I know, they're the only ones who use the term "novelette" though.

4:02 AM  

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