Spotlight Thursday: Unnatural Creatures Part 1

I love short stories. There’s nothing quite like a short story to give you a condensed look at an author’s unique vision, style and ideas. Short stories will suck you in their unique worlds and you will end up wondering where the hell a half hour went by the last page. They’re difficult to write and yet very rewarding; your imagination’s the limit!

Today’s post covers the first three stories within the anthology “Unnatural Creatures,” which was prepared by Neil Gaiman. Let’s get down to it!

Gahan Wilson’s Visual story presents a tiny ink-like blob on the linen cloth of a very uptight gentleman. A simple enough problem, if a bit annoying…only, the spot disappears. Later, it reappears and it’s bigger, at that. As you might imagine, the right and proper gent doesn’t take too well to that lapse in his perfect, orderly life. I won’t go any further with the spoilers, but suffice to say, the visual elements are a big part of the story;

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees
Tales of great civilizations seldom include slaver wasps familiar with the intricacies of cartography, but this is just one such tale. It’s written by E. Lily Yu, and it won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer—I assure you, it’s very well deserved. I learned loads about wasp cartographers thanks to this story –for example, that they see bees as their naturally subservient slaves. Wasps are also fairly cruel insects, as they cut the heads of bee envoys left and right!
But that’s okay, really—anarchist bees are here to help!

The Griffin and the Minor Canon

This one felt slightly more familiar to me in terms of…feeling. I don’t know much about Frank R. Stockton, other than that he lived and died well over a century ago, but his story is a look at a simpler world with small-minded people that are not all too different from today’s; cowardly and exploitative of those ready to face hardships for their benefit. Something in this story reverberates with me…perhaps it’s the loneliness of a creature that is the last of its kind, or the kindness of the Minor Canon.

Ozioma the Wicked

Nnedi Okorafor is yet another author whose works I was unfamiliar with until I read this story. It is about a girl who speaks with snakes, in modern times. She is thought a witch by all her fellow villagers, and shunned for it. This story gives me a glimpse at a world that I’m very unfamiliar with. Better yet, it awakens my curiosity, my hunger for a culture wholly different from mine; and that’s one of the many strengths of this particular literary medium.

I’ll wrap it up here for now; but I’ll be back with Short Story Talk next Thursday, showcasing more excellent stories worth your attention!

Every Thursday, I’ll showcase short stories by favorite authors, monthly ‘zines and anthologies I discover. The focus will be on fantasy and science fiction, as per usual.

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