Some of you may remember me banging on about ‘An A-Z of Possible Worlds’ back in October when it was released. A.C. Tillyer’s quirky box set of 26 interlinking short stories, each autonomous in its own right, sees each story presented as a small booklet, perfect for sticking in a bag or lunchbox to read in a spare five minutes.
While I have been dipping in and out of the collection since then, I decided that during this challenge was the perfect time to tackle the whole collection, so I am reading them in alphabetical order.
A is for Archipelago – A. C. Tilyer
Part travel writing, part fable, part cautionary tale, A is for Archipelago has no individual main character, you only really see the setting, a strange fortress on one of the islands, from a distance, and there is no dialogue. At all. If you believe all those sets of rules that dominate writing sites and provide the focus for endless forum discussions, this story should not work for just the reasons I have stated. Yet it does. Somehow, magically, the third person narration with its limited prescience, creates in the reader a sense of wonder and the vague nature of the events recounted mean readers can draw their own conclusions as to what happened and why. A short story that shouldn’t work yet clearly, brilliantly does. Awesome.
B is for Bog – A. C. Tilyer
Again, part travel writing, part fable, part cautionary tale with a chunk of history thrown in. Again no characters. Again, this tale of the Bog and the community that lives within it, as well as those around it, provide the focus of the action. These social groups take the place of individual characters, while the descriptive language, with its assured, matter-of-fact tone, creates a coherent and believable fantasy narrative. Again the rules of writing short fiction will tell you this story shouldn’t work. They are wrong.