I learned my lesson last year when I attempted to read “The Man Who Got Off the Ghost Train”, a World Fantasy Award nominated novella from Kim Newman. “The Man Who Got Off the Ghost Train” was part of The Man from the Diogenes Club collection and rather than jump in and read the nominated story first, I started to read all of the Diogenes Club stories. By the time I had finished five or six stories and was about to read “The Man Who Got Off the Ghost Train” I was so sick of the Diogenes Club that no matter how good that novella may have possibly been, I was unable to give the story a fair shake. All of the frustration and disappointment of the earlier Diogenes Club stories overwhelmed any fair reading I might have been able to give that novella.
So, the lesson is that when I grab a collection or anthology in order to read a nominated story, I will now read that nominated story first and then read the rest of the collection or anthology. I may lose something if the story is part of a series of linked stories, but at least I won’t be burned out on that author or collection when I get to the nominated story.
This lesson has served me well this year. The Robert Shearman story “Damned If You Don’t” is midway through Tiny Deaths and reading it first allowed me to come into the story fresh. Same with “The Cambist and Lord Iron” from Daniel Abraham and “The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change” from Kij Johnson.
There was a certain amount of disappointment when I saw that not only was a novella from Kim Newman nominated for the World Fantasy Award, but also a new Diogenes Club collection was nominated. This is not to talk bad about Mr. Newman or those readers who enjoy his work, but I am very much not one of them.
But, since I view major award nomination lists as a good reading list, I figured “what the hell” and gave Mr. Newman another shot. I read “Cold Snap”.
The story benefits from not having read the previous stories in The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club. “Cold Snap” is the last story in the collection and I am quite positive that had I attempted to read the rest of them that the book would have been tossed across the room long before I got to “Cold Snap”.
Without really talking about the story, since I’m really disinterested in discussing the Diogenes Club at any length, I semi-enjoyed “Cold Snap”. The over-description of flamboyant clothing was not there, and getting into some of the secret societies was interesting, as was the threat of the Cold demon that was about to freeze the planet. There is just something about the story, and the larger world of the Diogenes Club that simply falls flat for me as a reader. I’m not sure what, except that I certainly was not going to start from the front of the book and read any of the other stories. I’m pretty much done with the Diogenes Club until the next major award nomination (Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy), and may that nomination not be soon. I am content with that decision.
The initial lesson from last year was a very good lesson to learn. If I felt the need to read a collection or anthology in order just to reach the single story I wanted to read for some award list, I would be a very frustrated reader.