Friday, October 7, 2016

Unnatural Creatures - Edited by Neil Gaiman

Welcome back! I found myself missing my blog, so I stuck baby in her pack 'n play with a bunch of toys and grabbed my laptop. It's not her absolute favorite set-up, but she usually entertains herself for a few minutes, at least.

Needless to say, life has been INSANE. I'm slowly studying the ins and outs of owning one's own business, but that of course has to take a backseat to the technical writing that brings in a more immediate paycheck. Plus, you know, the crawling, babbling baby. Sometimes (very infrequently), I sleep.

I've been reading much more slowly than ever before (see above), but I did take the time to finish the Unnatural Creatures collection edited by none other than my favorite author, Neil Gaiman. It's safe to say that I've never read a more carefully-curated collection of short stories in my life. Every single story seemed like something that could have come from his own pen, which tells me there's a whole new list of authors I should be exploring.

Gaiman did include one of his own, "Sunbird," which is a delightfully odd little tale about the most adventurous foodies you'll meet. It was previously published in one of his own collections, but I always enjoy coming across it.

This is probably going to sound really weird, but even though I really enjoy writing short stories, I often have trouble focusing on anthologies enough to remember the individual stories long-term. So, for this review, I figured it'd be an interesting test to look over the table of contents once I'd finished the entire book in order to see which ones stand out the best in my mind. The list includes: "The Griffin and the Minor Canon," by Frank R. Stockton; "The Cockatoucan; Or, Great-Aunt Willoughby," by E. Nesbit; "The Smile on the Face," by Nalo Hopkinson; and my absolute favorite, "Come Lady Death," by Peter S. Beagle. Overall, save for one story ("The Compleat Werewolf), this was a really enjoyable read.

Better yet, when I did a little digging, I discovered that the proceeds from this collection benefit 826DC, a youth literacy nonprofit/Astounding Magic Supply Company. The 826 network is an amazing community, providing homework help, field trips, and writing inspiration to young explorers across the country. I had the pleasure of volunteering and later interning for 826michigan, the Ann Arbor branch that masquerades as a robot supply company. They even recently expanded to Detroit, so if you live in either area, stop in and say hi to the lovely staff!

So, in conclusion, Neil Gaiman's fingerprint + support for 826DC makes this one of my favorite short story collections ever. I'm excited for babe to be old enough to share it with her and watch her imagination run wild.

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