Stories Selected By: Neil Gaiman
Date Finished: 02.22.14
For Bigfoot, for the time travelers, for the pirates, for the robots, for any boring people (who obviously aren’t actually secret agents in boring disguise), for people in space rockets, and for our mothers –N.G.
First of all, buy this book. And while I adore places like Half Price Books and encourage giving books a second life, buy this book at full retail. I make this uncharacteristic and audacious command for one very simple reason: 826DC. This is the Washington DC branch of a series of non-profits which help underprivileged children learn to write and open their imaginations. Not only do the children receive individual tutoring on school projects and academic writing, but they are further encouraged and supported in creative writing and journalistic endeavors as well. Sales of this book benefit the organization…plus, it’s a good read.
Gaiman has collected sixteen short stories as part of what he calls the Museum of Unnatural History. Some stories feature standard mythical creatures – werewolf, phoenix, griffin– and some beasts are less conventional. Many of the stories were previously published, covering a span of years from 1885 (“The Griffin and the Minor Canon” by Frank R. Stockton) to three that were published with this anthology in 2013. The stories are set in all kinds of time periods and universes, yet they all feel like part of the same world. With so many different authors, I expected it to feel like flipping through a handful of Kindle samples. Instead, the stories feel perfectly comfortable around each other, a similar flavor running through them all that’s just, well, Gaiman-y.
I particularly enjoyed E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” (despite developing a potentially painful fascination with wasps nests), Samuel R. Delany’s “Prismatica” (despite a questionable unnatural creature), and Gaiman’s own “Sunbird” (despite developing a desire to run off to Africa in search of a mythical bird). There were several others that I had a lot of fun with and will return to again and again. A few will be skipped over on the re-read, but overall, it’s an excellent collection with a smart and often sideways way of looking at these fantastical creatures.
At the end of the day: Really, really for me