COOKIE TIDBITS IN THE LITERARY AISLE OF LIFE, Or Why Reading Anthologies Can Tickle Your Tastebuds
By Linnea Sinclair
I watched an interesting discussion about short stories and anthologies on a reader list the other week, and was surprised by the number of readers—avid, frothing-at-the-mouth-over-characters-and-plots kind of readers—who had either never tried or really disliked reading short stories and anthologies.
I’m an avid reader. Always have been. I’m old enough to remember when kids’ cereal boxes came complete with a miniature picture book glued to the back. (Oh, joy! Oh, rapture!) I’ve been known to read dictionaries, encyclopedias, and, when desperate, the backs of toothpaste tubes. If it’s got words, I want it.
So it struck me as a tad odd to encounter people who inhale novels yet balk at short stories or novellas.
While I understand the basic tenets of the objections—“I want to spend more time with the characters than a short story allows… There’s not enough for me to get involved in the story…”—I will admit they baffle me a bit.
My pantry has more than a few boxes of tasty things (as does my freezer) that I’ve tried—taken a chance on—from the apron-wearing saleslady at the grocery store. Delicious little delicacies I might not have ever known about.
So I invite those of you a bit skittish about anthologies to think of them as tiny paper cups full of possible delights. A sampling. A temptation. A mini-experience that might lead to something even more grand.
Anthologies and short stories are a terrific way to discover a new author, or a new series by an author you already know. Approach them the same way you do that paper cup full of cookie pieces: this isn’t the whole deal but a sampling. Something to whet the appetite. Not a full seven-day vacation in the author’s fantasy realm, but a quick and fun overnight getaway that might make you want to come back for more.
(Or not. The reverse is also true. If you find the author’s style not to your liking, at least you didn’t waste $7.99 on an entire novel you’re not going to want to read.)
With anthologies, you get a store-full of cookie samples in one fat volume. You can try one tasty treat a day. You can sample a story on your lunch hour and have a total experience right there in the middle of your usual pandemonium at work: opening scene, hot conflict, happy resolution. No dragging yourself back to your desk wondering if the character will solve the mystery or save the galaxy. But a complete mini-adventure, all yours.
Of course, there’s another reason behind my gentle pleadings on this subject. I have a short story (really, more of a novella) coming out November 2010 in Songs of Love & Death: Tales of Star-Crossed Love. This is a fabulous anthology edited by two of the biggest names in the business: George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. It also contains stories by some other big names in the business: Jim Butcher, Jo Beverly, Carrie Vaughn, M. L. N. Hanover, Cecelia Holland, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, Marjorie M. Liu, Jacqueline Carey, Lisa Tuttle, Mary Jo Putney, Tanith Lee, Peter S. Beagle, Yasmine Galenorn, and Diana Gabaldon. And, oh yeah, me.
A former news reporter and retired private detective, Linnea Sinclair writes fast-paced science fiction romance for Bantam Dell, including the RITA® award-winning Gabriel’s Ghost and her latest bestseller, Rebels and Lovers. When not on duty with some intergalactic fleet—or playing human slave to her spoiled felines—she’s usually on the third barstool from the left at www.linneasinclair.com.
For romance readers, it’s a chance to sample the exotic flavor of SFF. For SFF readers, it’s a chance to find out that romance isn’t all about bodice-ripping.
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From “Courting Trouble,” by Linnea Sinclair:
What in hell was Serenity Beck doing here? The answer was in her green uniform with its silver star emblem on the sleeve. She was ship’s crew, very likely ship’s pilot.
Death threats he could handle. But Serri Beck was trouble; a seriously unexpected complication. And one that made his chest go tight and his breath hitch.
If Nic thought Serri disliked him six years ago, there was no doubt in his mind that she was really going to hate him now. Damned shame he couldn’t return the favor. But six seconds of watching her sprint past him just destroyed six years of his hard-sought sanity. And might well destroy his career.
He almost flexed his wrist to contact Leonoso. But he couldn’t—not for thirty-eight hours. Mission rules. Cursing himself silently, he waited for a boxy anti-grav cargo auto-pallet to whirr by before slipping out of the shadows to follow her. Some rules were about to be broken.
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I hope you’ll give Songs of Love & Death a nibble (it will be available in hardcover and ebook). It has zero calories, and is definitely good for your heart and your brain.