Shot Glass Stories is an anthology of fifty-one short-short (200-word) pieces by various writers from the Critters Bar forum. This is the sort of book where any issues of uneven quality are balanced out by the sheer number of stories and the fact that, if you don’t like one particular story, there’s another one on the very next page. Having said that, the overall quality here is pretty good. Rather than go into every single piece, I’ll pick out a few. In alphabetical order of author:
Serena Alibhai, ‘It Hits Hard’: This explores a different way of telling a story within the 200-word format, and it works well. A first-person narrator (I assume male) goes on about how he’s so much better than his ex-girlfriend.- but quite a lot is implied rather than spoken; and the piece builds into an effective character study.
James Boyt, ‘Coming to God’: A boy looks into a house, misunderstands what he sees and hears – and if I say any more than that, I’ll spoil the effect for you. But Boyt’s narrative voice is spot-on, and his piece is very funny indeed.
Robert Aquino Dollesin, ‘Scratches’: The nicely surreal tale of a boy who gets trapped inside his mother’s dining table, and is stuck there for years, unmissed and undiscovered. Raises a smile whilst still being genuinely unsettling; after all, what if you went missing and your loved ones really didn’t notice?
Jessica Patient, ‘How to Breathe on the Train’: An intense and vivid depiction of claustrophobia, which throws the reader right into the situation. Not pleasant to read, naturally; but superbly effective writing.
Sophie Playle, ‘The Green Fairy’: The tale of a five-inch-high (and shrinking) woman who makes a living dancing in cocktail glasses. Playle’s writing captures the feel of a fairytale, without being overly bound by the expectations raised by that term – and the ending raises a wry smile.
Ian Rochford, ‘Waiting at the Altar’: Put simply, a man waits at the altar for his bride-to-be. But it’s not that simple, and poignantly so. A quietly powerful piece.
Amy Roskilly, ‘Wildfire (Population 66)’: An evocative portrait of a small town destroyed by an unspecified catastrophe. Some striking prose; for example: ‘the townsfolk were following [the evangelist who visited town] like hungry strays, pawing at her floral dress like the very frills of its hem would save them.’ Really brings a shiver to the spine.
Colin Sutherland, ‘No Angel’: A plane is about to crash, but thankfully there’s a real, actual angel on board; so they’re all safe, right? Well, see for yourself; but this is an engaging idea, with a good punchline.
Frances Taylor, ‘Would You Rather?’: A story told mostly in dialogue, as a couple find out more about each other. But what makes this story work so well for me is its final sentence. Quite a few of the tales in this book have twist endings, but perhaps none as effective as this, which casts a whole new light on the situation.
Shot Glass Stories is available to buy or download here.