A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 10 – How To Talk To Girls At Parties

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day ten – How To Talk To Girls At Parties, by Neil Gaiman

Read it online here:

How To Talk To Girls At Parties

It’s a rare pleasure when you start out reading something and you think you know what it is going to be about – about a third of the way you are still sure and then, all of a sudden, you realize you are lost on a dark road and on the way somewhere unexpected… somewhere interesting and wonderful.

Reading something by Neil Gaiman… well, I should have known better. The title, the opening gambit… a young teenager trying to find his way in the world of women, intimidated by a good-looking, silver-tongued friend who has a way with the ladies. We’ve all read this before… we’ve all lived this before.

Then, all of a sudden….

Read it and find out.

You know when you are sixteen and confused and ignorant and you say to yourself, “I don’t understand any of this. Jeez! These girls all act like they are from another planet.”

Well, be careful….

She looked at me with her green eyes, and it was as if she stared out at me from her own Antigone half-mask; but as if her pale green eyes were just a different, deeper, part of the mask. “You cannot hear a poem without it changing you,” she told me. “They heard it, and it colonized them. It inherited them and it inhabited them, its rhythms becoming part of the way that they thought; its images permanently transmuting their metaphors; its verses, its outlook, its aspirations becoming their lives. Within a generation their children would be born already knowing the poem, and, sooner rather than later, as these things go, there were no more children born. There was no need for them, not any longer. There was only a poem, which took flesh and walked and spread itself across the vastness of the known.”

I edged closer to her, so I could feel my leg pressing against hers.

She seemed to welcome it: she put her hand on my arm, affectionately, and I felt a smile spreading across my face.

“There are places that we are welcomed,” said Triolet, “and places where we are regarded as a noxious weed, or as a disease, something immediately to be quarantined and eliminated. But where does contagion end and art begin?”

Short Story Day 3 – A Study in Emerald

3. – A Study in Emerald
Neil Gaiman

Click to access emerald.pdf

Now we find ourselves with a short story set in a nonexistent past, but not of the past (real or imagined) – the story is almost a decade old (it won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2004) but it is a piece of the modern, internet world. You can call it a form of fan-fiction. As a matter of fact, it is a Crossover – the characters and style from Sherlock Holmes have been transplanted into the world of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Not only that… it is a world of alternate history. In it, 700 years prior, Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones have… well, if you want to know what they have done, you have to read the thing.

Finally, it is in a unique and modern form. It’s published on the ‘net as a PDF – in the format of a Victorian Newspaper, complete with odd and disturbing advertisements. Take a close look at the ads, BTW, they are full of interesting references.

Clever and cleverer. The short piece manages to cram a lot of (alternate) history and backstory in and around its detective yarn.

Be careful about that yarn… you are forewarned. Nobody is who you think they are. Black is white and white is black. See if you can figure it out. If you can’t, the Wikipedia Page will illuminate it all for you.

So it is all clever and as skillfully put together as a Swiss Watch… but it is worth reading? Of course it is. It is a lot of fun. It is a puzzle inside a puzzle, wrapped in a puzzle. It is a pastiche. It is a homage. It is the sort of think you will like, especially if you like that sort of thing.

I shall not forget the mirrored surface of the underground lake, nor the thing that emerged from the lake, its eyes opening and closing, and the singing whispers that accompanied it as it rose, wreathing their way about it like the buzzing of flies bigger than worlds.

That I survived was a miracle, but survive I did, and I returned to England with my nerves in shreds and tatters. The place that leech-like mouth had touched me was tattooed forever, frog-white, into the skin of my now-withered shoulder. I had once been a crack-shot. Now I had nothing, save a fear of the world-beneath-the-world akin to panic which meant I would gladly pay sixpence of my army pension for a Hansom cab, rather than a penny to travel underground.
—-from A Study in Emerald, by Neil Gaiman