Summer Time and the Reading is Easy

When it's this hot and humid outside I like to hide under a tree and read a book. Of course when it's hot and hazy I'm hot and lazy and I might fall asleep at any minute so a short story collection is perfect. Stories that amaze, delight and stimulate my mind are the very best choices of all. Luckily for us we've got a wonderful set of remixed fairy tales, magical realism, InfernoKrusher and just plain odd stories to carry us through part of the July heat.

In celebration of her new short story collection Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link has released her first short story collection, Stranger Things Happen as a free online download, under a Creative Commons License. This means that not only can you read the book online (or download it) but you can also perform the stories, make them into poems, songs, films, or mashups. (Certain restrictions apply, see the CC license for details.)

Who is Kelly Link you ask? She is the fairy godmother of the InfernoKrusher short story art form. She is the winner of the Nebula Award, the James Tiptree Jr. and the World Fantasy Awards. But is she fun you ask? She is! The back cover promises, "These eleven extraordinary stories are quirky, spooky and smart. They all have happy endings. Each story contains a secret prize. Each story was written especially for you." Doesn't that sound perfection itself?

Her work is also evocative and deeply mysterious. She excels at taking familiar characters, like the Girl Detective, and putting them in strange new settings. In part one of Shoe and Marriage we meet a familiar prince who hasn't quite adjusted to married life. Characters in part two will be instantly recognizable to any fan of Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz.

Travels With the Snow Queen has more than just the Snow Queen and Kay. It also has Briar Rose and other characters from various old tales. This story is written in second person present tense and it has an absolutely hilarious list of things that you, the lead, are going to say to Kay, who has been spirited away by the Snow Queen, when you finally find him. One of my favorite items on the list is:

11. What exactly did you mean, when you said that it was fine that I had put on a little weight, that you thought I was even more beautiful, that I should go ahead and eat as much as I wanted, but when I weighed myself on the bathroom scale, I was exactly the same weight as before, I hadn't gained a single pound?

Another really fun quote refers to all the difficult questing that goes on fairy tales, like the poor girl who had to wear out several pairs of iron shoes before she could find her transformed boyfriend.

Ladies. Has it ever occurred to you that fairy tales aren't easy on the feet?

The very first story in the book, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose starts off like this:

Dear Mary (if that is your name),

Isn't that a wonderful beginning? It could mean so many things. It could mean that Mary is an imposter. However we find out that the narrator is having a spot of trouble and he's just not sure if it is her name.

I bet you'll be pretty surprised to hear from me. It really is me, by the way, although I have to confess at the moment that not only can I not seem to keep your name straight in my head, Laura? Susie? Odile? but I seem to have forgotten my own name. I plan to keep trying different combinations: Joe loves Lola, Willy loves Suki, Henry loves you, sweetie, Georgia?, honeypie, darling. Do any of these seem right to you?

All last week I felt like something was going to happen, a sort of bees and ants feeling. Something was going to happen. I taught my classes and came home and went to bed, all week waiting for the thing that was going to happen, and then on Friday I died.

Now you have to know what happens right? Get the book and find out. You'll be ever so glad that you did.