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Neil Gaiman

2008 has been a productive year.

I've written a half-dozen short stories that I'm proud of. I think they represent solid growth in my ability to tell a story. I'm feeling more comfortable with my abilities to structure a tale and keep it moving through dialogue.

And I finished a good working draft on a novel of supernatural suspense set in the ranching community of Pendleton, Oregon. It feels like a solid work--I think I got the setting right, which is pretty gratifying.

And I've discovered the work of two amazing writers. I don't know why I hadn't read Neil Gaiman's fiction prior to picking up Fragile Things, but I'm now in the obsessive zone. You've all been there. It happens when you read an author's book and then you don't read anything else until you've exhausted said writer's full catalogue. I did that with Hiaasen. And Lansdale. And I'm never without a Stephen King novel on my bedside table.

Fragile Things is filled with, as the subtitle suggests, short fictions and wonders. Gaiman is a literary writer with an agile imagination. His writing has a fluidity--a cadence--to it that makes these stories a pleasure to analyze and digest. And his observational qualities are superb, allowing him to render characters that stick with you long after you've finished the story.

Gaiman knows his mythology. Many of these stories are re-imaginings of classic fairy tales and fables. There's some Lovecraft in him. Also some Bradbury. But make no mistake, just as Lansdale's stories are clearly "Lansdalien" in nature, these are all Neil Gaiman. "A Study in Emerald" is an entertaining (Hugo Award winning) exploration of the Cthulhu Mythos. It's high concept, high ambition stuff. Sherlock Holmes investigating monstrous royalty? Shoot...And he nails it.

"October in the Chair" is pure Bradbury. In this one, the seasons meet for a bit of yarning...

"The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch" is a wondrously creative blend of the freak carnival and the blind date gone bad...

"Feeders and Eaters" is a very weird tale. Think King's "Survivor Type" with a twist...

"How to Talk to Girls at Parties" is one of my new favorite stories (right up there with Joe Hill's "Involuntary Committal"--Hill, by the way, is the other new great writer I referenced above). That's not the kind of party you want to blunder into, and the final scene is achingly haunting...

The poetry is sharp. But the stories...the stories are amazing. I'm very sad that I'll be finishing it tonight.

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