CategorySwanwick Michael

Stories: Conclusion

Having reached the end of Stories (click here for the index of my posts), it’s time for a few remarks in closing. I’d characterise this as a solid anthology — a broad range of material, and nothing particularly bad (Gene Wolfe’s is probably the weakest story, and even that has a certain amount of interest). However, more stories fall into the ‘quite good’ bracket ( as opposed to the ‘good’ bracket) than I’d have liked, and this is what makes the anthology solid rather than spectacular for me.

What, then, are the best stories in Stories? Roddy Doyle and Jodi Picoult do interesting things with fantasy, and demonstrate how fruitful the results can be when ‘mainstream’ writers try their hand at the fantastic. Michael Swanwick, Jeffrey Ford, and Joe Hill contribute perhaps the best-told tales; and Kat Howard’s piece is a strong debut.

Finally, how far does the anthology meet its stated aim: to collect stories that encourage readers to ask ‘and then what happened’? Quite well, I think — for all the criticisms I might make of some 0f these stories, they’re rarely dull. I’m wary of saying that any anthology has ‘something for everyone’ — but I think Stories comes close.

Michael Swanwick, ‘Goblin Lake’ (2010)

Reading Michael Swanwick tends to remind me that I should read him more often, and that’s what happened with this story.

‘Goblin Lake’ has the atmosphere and style of a folktale, but with a metafictional twist. During the Thirty Years’ War, a soldier named (of course) Jack is, for a prank, thrown into a lake whose waters are said to change anything they touch. Beneath the surface, Jack finds a whole other world where time passes rather differently, falls in love with the king of the lake’s daughter, and so on.

Except it’s not ‘and so on’, because the world is not as Jack thinks, and he has a decision to make. This is a beautifully told tale, which engenders a frisson of that true fantasy feeling towards the end as one allows oneself to consider, just briefly, what it might mean if the story were true. Yes, I must read more Swanwick…

Rating: ****

Elsewhere
Michael Swanwick’s blog

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