Anthologies and Short Stories

March 2012 Prof. Jenna Hathaway

I am currently reading an anthology called Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions, which as a lot of my favorite authors and some whose stories I have never read before contributing to it. Personally, I quite like anthologies. It’s like getting to sample from a lot of writers at once. And as someone who reads as much as I do, it’s always important to be able to tell which writers are good and which aren’t (or just aren’t my type). Anthologies are the perfect way to find these things. By reading just this one book, you will have gotten to know at least a dozen authors or so.

I believe I have decided to buy an author’s book/series because I’ve read their story in an anthology and loved it. Thus I have discovered a new author to love. On the other hand, I have also known which authors to keep away from. If I end up not liking their short story, I would immediately cross off their name from my ‘to check out’ list, simply because of the reason that if I don’t even like this short story, how would I like an entire series they wrote? So you see, it’s a very effective way to sort through many authors at once and decide which ones you want to commit to. Of course, the technique doesn’t always work because sometimes some authors are just better at writing longer stories than short ones.

For example, I didn’t particularly like “Sunshine”, the short story Richelle Mead wrote in Kisses From Hell, telling the story of how the parents of her character from the Vampire Academy series, Lissa Dragomir, met. Ironically enough, it was “Blue Moon” in Immortal: Love Stories With Bite, another short story she wrote, that made me check out her VA series in the first place because I liked it so much. So yeah, writers can be fickle too with their talent. Usually this is a reliable method, though.

Anthologies are usually themed, and I think there are enough of them to fit everyone’s tastes. There are tons of anthologies revolved around vampires and supernatural stuff, of course, but there are also ones with less common themes, such as Corsets & Clockworks, which is an anthology with a steampunk theme. Because of the very different writing styles in these books, it’s difficult to truly love an anthology—some of the stories you will just not like—and yet the ones you do love will make the effort worth it.

Authors also often contribute stories that originate in their own series. Rachel Caine, for example, author of the Morganville Vampires series, always writes a short story set in the same world as that series in all of the anthologies I’ve read with her contribution in it (and featuring the same characters as well). It does make me wonder if she’s capable of writing anything else, but I digress. These stories usually give you an even better taste of the actual series and are more dependable to use as a standard on how the whole series would be like, as well as whether you would like it or not.

So if you’re on the fence about whether to sink your teeth into a new series or not, I would suggest reading some anthologies that contain one of that author’s stories. If you’re lucky, they would likely provide you with a free sample. If you happen to have already been familiar with the original series? Well, it just gives you something extra; a good reminiscence and continuance to the story you’ve known and loved, which is what happened to me with “Merely Mortal” by Melissa Marr, a short story set in the Wicked Lovely series' world, which I’ve read to the end. It was really nice to see the characters I’ve come to love again—it was like seeing an old friend—and indeed, it made me crack open the last book in the series again to have a nostalgic moment (and maybe tear up again at the wonderful ending).