As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to think of stories as children. Short stories are the most fun for me. They’re small enough to whisk up into the air and carry on my shoulders. I watch them grow up, I play games with them, I bandage their boo-boos, and they help me see all the old, familiar things I love about life through fresh eyes.
Novels, on the other hand, are stories that hang around the house for months after getting their college diploma—unshaven, sleeping past noon, emptying the refrigerator, generating dirty laundry, and refusing to go look for a proper job. I still love them, I just…wish…they’d…launch. You know, get married, have a few kids of their own, save the world, the usual.
Anyhow, this was my take on what happens when all the children come home for the family reunion.
Why an anthology? Most of these stories were published before, sometime, somewhere. What’s accomplished by hauling them all back in and putting them between the covers of a book?
If stories are the children of our mind, then an anthology is the family reunion. Almost everybody shows up—old and young, rich and poor, goody-two-shoes and rebels. The certified and the certifiable. Beauty to charm the savage beast, and ugliness sufficient to stop a clock. Line them all up for the big group photo, everybody says, “Cheese,” and you spend the next few weeks staring at the picture in wonderment, unable to believe that all these people could ever be kin.
And yet, a subtle, undeniable resemblance whispers in chorus from that sea of cowlicks and crooked smiles. We’re yours. Live with it.
There are practical reasons that have nothing to do with sentimentality. Short stories are wanderers by nature. They end up in obscure corners of the internet, in little hand-stapled paperback journals, or in magazines nobody ever heard of. Some get happily married into somebody else’s anthology. A competent detective might track down most of them, but an author shouldn’t make his readers work that hard. There are also stories that haven’t yet found a home, and their chances of adoption decrease as they age, even if they’re attractive, smart kids. They deserve a sporting chance, just like their siblings.
Or, sometimes your publisher e-mails you and says, “Hey, Fred, how about we do an anthology of your short stories?” and you say, “Sure.”
So where’s the family resemblance? What ties this pack of mongrel tales together, besides the fact I happened to write all of them? That’s a great question, one I asked myself as I read through the stories assembled for this collection. It finally struck me that the single frame that fit this picture was miracles, but not just any miracles. Quirky miracles. Odd, eccentric, freaky little things not fully explained by science or imagined in our comfortable philosophies. The stuff way out on the tails of the bell-shaped curve that rocks our world when it collides with the normal—and then we have to figure out what to do about it. That’s what all these stories are about, more or less.
So much for the family portrait. Next time, I’ll take a closer look at some of my favorite members of the clan, and maybe share a few gossipy tidbits, like embarassing behavior, felonies, and genetic mutations. You know, the usual.