Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction

Editors: PanGaia magazine and Llewellyn publishing
ISBN: 0738712698/9780738712697

What's it about? It's a selection of short stories from pagan authors as collected by a panel of judges for PanGaia magazine.

What did I like about it? There was variety so if you didn't like the style of one author, at least you could look forward to the next, in addition to which no one piece was overly long or short.

My favourite stories were A Valkyrie Among Jews by April, which incidentally was the winning story according to the Introduction to the book, and Black Doe by Vylar Kaftan.

A Valkyrie Among Jews examines pagan identity and the conflict that sometimes arises between the birth religion and paganism of converts. In this instance, the pagan convert is a woman working in a Jewish retirement centre where she is surrounded by the religion of her upbringing. Black Doe was a very well written story about a woman who is shunned by her tribe at her own request in order to feel free, but has to turn to the gods for help. According to the author, the story was written in response to challenge to write about "survivor's guilt about food poisoning and someone getting a haircut" (page 209) and the author certainly delivers. It's also the last story, so was a real treat.

I would be interested to read more work from either of these authors, which I suppose is the purpose of anthology: to bring new authors to the attention of readers.

What didn't I like? All but two of the stories in the anthology.

I'm afraid most of the pieces held no interest for me, and I continued reading only so I could discuss them with fellow readers in the book club. I found myself half a page in on one story, and already hoping the next work was better.

Every story involved the supernatural or fantasy in some way, i.e. there was no real, modern world stories which I think has been mentioned by another reviewer, Eli, here. I kept hoping I'd find a piece that wasn't overtly pagan, fantasy or magical but it never arrived. I've read pieces by pagan authors which have not fantasy, science fiction, magical or pagan elements but are just very good stories. One, in particular springs to mind; it's about a girl working behind a bakery counter as life passed by. There is nothing in the storyline that would label it as pagan; it addresses ordinary concerns from a pagan point of view, i.e. the author. I guess, though, this is not the anthology to find such a narrative.

I do enjoy reading books with magic, the supernatural, myth and manifest deity, but I would dearly love to see writing from pagan authors which veers from the expected genres and, in this regard, I think this collection missed an opportunity.

Would I recommend it? I would recommend the two stories I mentioned above, just not the whole book.

Rating: 2½/5.

No comments: