One of the most delightful developments in the world of publishing is the steady rise of the anthology. There was a time when collections of stories where simply an exercise in bulking out the pages in order to fill a paperback novel’s worth of story. This is no longer true, and we’ve seen a steady rise in skilfully curated collections that have a strong theme and message.
Not So Stories is a collection of tales inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories. Kipling’s work, though well-loved and charming is hardly timeless. To be blunt, it is a product of the time it was written and Kipling’s own, rather naïve understanding of British colonialism. The Not So Stories take inspiration from Kipling’s work, using a collection of culturally diverse writers to explore similar themes. The collection has been put together by David Thomas Moore, who is one of the most exciting editors in the field today. Moore has nurtured a line-up of interesting and evocative talent, to create a bumpy but extremely entertaining ride. Let’s take a quick look at some of the collection’s highlights.
It opens with the delightful How the Spider Got Her Legs by Cassandra Khaw. It draws the reader in as an almost perfect look at Kipling’s style, but one that tells a much darker and engaging tale. Khaw has a way that simply entices you in and uses the term ‘Best Beloved’ to its maximum effect. Also, it’s nice to see spiders getting good press.
Adiwijaya Iskandar’s The Man Who Played With the Crab is both a great little tale of talking animals and their protectors, and kick in the seat of the pants to some of the less savoury tropes of Steampunk. Fun, filled with surprises and has huge crabs in it.
Georgina Kamsika’s Saṃsāra is perhaps the most ‘Not So’ story in the collection, skilfully weaving all of the collection’s themes into one very personal tale.
Jeanette Ng’s How the Tree of Wishes Gained its Carapace of Plastic is a tour de force of the author’s talents, taking the tale of the Wishing Tree and plugging into a broader narrative. Sharp, quick and very well done, Ng excels at the short form.
Joseph E. Cole’s Queen is, at first glance, a classic tale of man’s inhumanity to beast. Scratch the surface, however, and the nuance becomes much louder and pointed. This theme is amplified by Wayne Santos’s tale Best Beloved. It’s a story about a clash of cultures in the most insidious way and pulls no punches, collapsing the romanticism surrounding the British Empire’s relationship with China. It’s also a lovingly brutal tale of horror.
Paul Krueger’s How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off is perhaps the angriest tale in the collection, being more a polemic than a story and Ali Nouraei’s How the Simurgh Won Her Tail is perhaps the gentlest and most charming in the book. The rest of the collection is just as possible, but we don’t want to spoil all of the surprises.
The Not So Stories are not aimed at children, but they should be read by any adult who was charmed by Kipling as child. Recommended.
NOT SO STORIES / EDITOR: DAVID THOMAS MOORE / PUBLISHER: ABADDON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW