What do women want? Well, if Pat Murphy is to be trusted (and we’re not saying she is), women are looking for trouble. And in this collection of powerful stories, they find it — at an archeological dig in the Southwest, in the urban alleys, in California suburbs, in the old West, in ironic fantasy settings.
Over the past 25 years, Pat Murphy has been writing stories that garner critical attention and win awards. Her work is difficult to categorize, living on the boundaries between genres. But her characters are easy to recognize. They are troublemakers, every last one of them.
I love writing short stories.
It is, I freely admit, a foolish vice. As a career strategy, writing short stories is just barely better than being a poet. There’s no money in it. If you want to make a living, better write a novel or two—or better yet, a series of fat books with similar themes. Short stories get no respect. Novels are reviewed; short stories, not so much.
But I love reading short stories. When I have fifteen minutes to spare, I can dive into a short story—experience another world, live another life—and emerge in plenty of time to get back to my real life.
And I really do love writing short stories. I can carefully examine every word and nuance of a short story, polishing each one. I can keep the entire piece in mind at once—no sprawling plot lines and extra bits that dangle off the edges. I can take risks and experiment—it’s only a short story; why not try something daring?
In many ways I think short stories are like the first little mammals in the days of the dinosaurs, way back in the Mesozoic Era. Short stories are hot-blooded little beasts, packing a lot of energy into a very small space. These furtive critters are always looking nervously over their furry shoulders at great hulking novels that could accidentally stomp them flat with one enormous reptilian foot.
Until recently, the life of a short story has usually been wretchedly short. Most of the stories reprinted here first appeared in magazines, enjoying a brief moment of glory when the magazine came out, then vanishing with publication of the magazine’s next issue. Short stories are the mayflies of the literary world—appearing briefly only to vanish again, ephemeral, a flash of light in the darkness.
But that’s changing.
With ebooks like this one, a short story can have a new life in electronic form. This, I think, suits the nature of the short story—ephemeral, experimental, a flash of light in the darkness.
Untreed Reads, the publisher of this collection, has been publishing some of my early short stories as ebooks. New readers and reviewers have been discovering and appreciating work that was unavailable for years.
As a lover of short stories (my own and those of others), I celebrate this wonderful new world. I say leave the bookshelves to the novels, those great and lumbering beasts. Let the short stories, small and agile, occupy the new spaces as they quietly plan world domination.