Between 21st September and 14th October I read the following as part of my Short Story Challenge:

The Floating Order by Erin Pringle (Day 218-236)

Erin Pringle’s debut is a dark and brooding examination of the darker sides of human nature. Death is a constant companion as you work through these stories of mental instability, neglect and (possible and definite) murder. The dark subject matter never errs into the gratuitous. Instead, Pringle manages to create some very tender human moments in the midst of the distrubing events captured in the stories.

The eponymous opening story sets the tone for the remainder of the collection, the dark and compelling first person narration looping the reader into the thinking of a very disturbed woman. The ending leaves the narrator and the reader shattered, the whole story utilising Spanbauer’s ‘horses’ to build reader awareness of the theme, each image building tension prior to the crescendo of grief, alarm and pain that marks out the final words.

The remainder of the collection features stories of similar dark subjects, every so often a warm, tender moment lightening the load, providing space for the reader to breath before the reader is propelled into yet darker fictional spaces. This is not fiction for the faint-hearted. Having said that, neither is it relentless. I would recommend that every aspiring short fiction writer read Pringle’s ‘Sanctuary,’ the most tender of her stories while at the same time possibly one of the darkest. The gruesome discovery made by he removal man protagonist is tempered by his sympathy and his consideration for someone long dead. The reader is left considering the worst and the best of humanity in the same imaginary space.

While Pringle’s stories are largely well executed and successfully convey the mindset of her characters, sometimes they stray into the territory of the vague and it is these stories (‘Stay,’ and ‘Park’ being the worst offenders) that let down an other wise excellent collection. That said, having read the title story three times now, I can vouch for her work being able to support re-reading, and in some cases requiring it, in order to fully take in the sheer scope of her endeavour.

Her ability to believably create the inner voice of child and adult alike is remarkable and I look forward to reading more of her work and re reading these challenging, powerful stories.

Interzone #229 (Day 237-241)

Another enjoyable collection with some entertaining stories. This time though, only Toby Litt’s ‘The Melancholy’ stands out. It’s examination of existentialist AI is short sharp and bitter sweet. Compelling reading that stands out all the more for the simplicity of its concept and the complexity of its execution. Science fiction as it should be. Provoking thought as it entertains the imagination.