"The true hallmark of great literature is great imagination, and as Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio prove with this outstanding collection, when it comes to great fiction, all genres are equal. Stories is a groundbreaking anthology that reinvigorates, expands, and redefines the limits of imaginative fiction and affords some of the best writers in the world—from Peter Straub and Chuck Palahniuk to Roddy Doyle and Diana Wynne Jones, Stewart O'Nan and Joyce Carol Oates to Walter Mosley and Jodi Picoult—the opportunity to work together, defend their craft, and realign misconceptions."
Nick's review was rave: Acclaimed authors, Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, bring together all new stories from the best of their contemporaries in a genre-defying collection of fiction of the imagination. Among others, Roddy Doyle, Joyce Carol Oates, Stuart O'Nan, Lawrence Block, Chuck Palahniuk, and Peter Straub all have pieces here. Gaiman's own contribution, the tale of a dwarf seeking revenge, is just one of many excellent stories. To any loyal Neil Gaiman fans, or anyone looking for daring, intelligent, imaginative stories on par with the best: pick this book up.
Megan had the opportunity to interview one of the contributing author, Kat Howard. Here is that piece:
Kat Howard, whose contribution to Stories, "A Life in Fictions," is her first professionally published story, describes the book like this:
"I think Stories is best described as it is in Neil's introduction: This is a book for people who ask "...and then what happened?" Everyone I talk about this book with has a different name in the Table of Contents that makes them say "Wow! That person has a story in here? This must be a great book." Because of that, I feel very safe in saying, if you like good stories, you will like this book."
A Conversation with Kat Howard
Q. Why or when or how did you start telling stories? What do writing and story telling mean to you?
A. In a way, I've been telling stories my whole life. I recently moved, and as I was sorting through my things, I found stories from as far back as second grade. I made the decision to pursue writing seriously about three years ago, mainly because I had run out of excuses for why I shouldn't.
For me, telling stories is a chance to tell the truth about something. I don't mean truth in the sense of "these are the facts of what happened," but truth in the sense of "This is what's real. This is how things are."
Outside of writing fiction, I have a PhD in English Literature, specializing in what was written between approximately 1350-1650. One of the things I've learned from my critical studies is that good stories endure, and form an ongoing dialogue as people continue to read them. My writing is my attempt to participate in this dialogue.
Q. How did it feel to place a story in such an amazing anthology. What made you write that story?
A. How it felt? Am I allowed to say it felt like the top of my head blew off? This was the first story I ever sold, and to have it wind up in here is such a thrill. I am so honored to be part of such an excellent and talented group of writers.
I wrote this story in response to what is almost certainly an apocryphal quotation attributed to Queen Elizabeth I. In response to the performance of Shakespeare's Richard II on the eve of Lord Essex's rebellion, the Queen is said to have remarked, "I am Richard II, know ye not that?" I had run across this story many times, but reread the quotation on a plane to San Francisco, and thought, "what if you really were a character in someone's story?"
Q. What makes you write?
A. The need to tell stories.
Q. What other projects are you working on?
A. I have a novel, But I Linger On, Dear, that's sort of Buffy meets Camelot with fencing. I am currently putting that through a final revision, and then I will be performing the beginning writer ritual of querying agents. When I am wearing my academic hat, I am in the early stages of a book length project on Shakespeare and Neil Gaiman's Sandman.
Q. How can stories change the world? Change your life?
A. Oh, this is a very big question, and probably better left to those more erudite than I am. But to attempt it, I think it goes back to what I said earlier: Stories tell us the truth. The best stories do this in a fearless and uncompromising manner. If you are brave enough to read them, then of course you are changed as a result.
Kat Howard is a writer who recently moved to Stony Brook, New York, where she will teach medieval and speculative literature at SUNY Stony Brook. She's a former competitive fencer and a 2008 graduate of Clarion (UCSD). Her short fiction will also appear in Weird Tales this summer. She keeps a blog called Strange Ink.