The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories is a recently published anthology of short stories written by young adult writers Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. In May of 2008, these writers created a website called Merry Sisters of Fate, merryfates.com, a place for them to post very short stories, about one a week. Most of the stories in The Curiosites come from that Website. The intent of the Website, I gather from the book’s introduction, is for the authors to write an unedited story a week in the spirit of experimenting with different approaches to writing. For instance, Gratton mentions that the story Thomas All, was her first attempt at using first person present tense.
Most of these collected tales have a tinge of fantasy or the supernatural. I say tinge because those elements are not always obvious. For instance in Cut, Yovanoff’s take on Snow White, the fantasy element could be merely imagined by the main character. Similarly, in The Madness of Lancelot, also by Yovanoff, the supernatural element seems to come from a town submerged in water, but maybe not. Yet some have more apparent fantasy elements like the ghost story Neighbors, also by Yovanoff and my favorite of the bunch; An Ash-Tree Spell to Break Your Heart, a Frankenstein story by Gratton; and The Deadlier of the Species, a funny zombie tale with a bloody end by Stiefvater. By the way, some of these stories make more sense if you keep the story’s title in mind while you read. It often provides an important interpretive context. Beyond fantasy, common themes include violence, relationships, violent relationships, lots more violence, surprisingly vicious violence, and college. I don’t recall any college violence, though. Overall, this collection evokes smoky moods of mystery with something unexpected always lurking under the surface, usually violence.
The stories are very good, but the book’s content is greatly amplified by comments the authors add to the margins. They remark on their own stories, offering insight into the creative process, and they discuss each other’s writing styles, picking on each other’s tendencies and minor faults, and exalting their abilities. These comments are often accompanied by sometimes whimsical artwork.