Tuesday, September 30, 2008

World Fantasy Award Nominee: Tiny Deaths

Tiny Deaths
Robert Shearman
Comma Press: 2007
Nominated for the 2008 World Fantasy Award: Collection

Before the double World Fantasy Award nomination (for this collection and for the story "Damned If You Don't"), I had never heard of Robert Shearman or this collection, but as major award nominations provide excellent opportunities to read that which I would never have otherwise encountered, there is something to be said for a World Fantasy Award nomination.

In the comments I've made about some of the stories in Tiny Deaths I have mentioned that the stories are "one-trick ponies" and that they are "charming, but just a little twisted". Neither is a bad thing, though "one-trick pony" could be read as such.

The thing is, the stories of Tiny Deaths are one-trick ponies. In nearly every case they have one thing about them which twists the story: the woman giving birth to furniture in "So Proud", reincarnation of Natalie as an ash-tray in "Ashes to Ash", a woman who has to die individually for each person in her life in "Favourite", and a television that bleeds in "Static". The rest of the story is normal, more or less, and the stories are short enough that Shearman is riding the one trick, the one main "idea" of the story. What makes all this work is that each story is short. Shearman never overstays his welcome in any given story. He gets in, tells a quick story, and gets out.

The reader is left with the brief pleasure of each story and gets to move on to the next.

This also means that outside of three stories ("Mortal Coil", "Damned If You Don't", and "Tiny Deaths"), the rest of the fiction in Tiny Deaths is not exactly memorable. The stories here are more than pleasant to read, but they are light reading. Again, not a knock. The world needs light reading and good stories which serve their purpose and entertain. At no point is there a sense that Shearman is trying to do more than any of the stories should be doing.

The point is, the fiction in Tiny Deaths works.

I may be a little surprised by the nomination, but these are delightful, charming, yet just a little bit twisted stories and they are a pleasure to read.

Having already read the Ellen Klages collection Portable Childhoods, I'm not sure that Tiny Deaths is strong enough to win the World Fantasy Award. It is, however, a solid collection and worth the time to check out. Comma Press is a UK publisher, so it may be difficult (or expensive) to find a copy in the United States, but if available, check it out. There's some good stuff in here.

Reading copy provided courtesy of Comma Press.

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