Literary Matters: Charles de Lint’s Digital Short Fiction

Cross-possted from Sleeping Hedgehog.

Being the Manager for the Green Man Pub here at the Kinrowan Estate and afternoon barkeep (as I’d be a piss poor Manager if I didn’t keep my skills up), I frequently (when it’s quiet) like to read short fiction as I can usually finish a story in ten or fifteen minutes. And I keep a lot of Charles de Lint’s fiction, both novels and short stories, on the iPad I use for managing the Pub.

(You ask what my favourite novel by him is? It might be The Little Country, as it has one of his most appealing musicians in Janey Little. Or it might Seven Wild Sisters or Medicine Road, both involving some or all of the Kindred Sisters. Or perhaps Someplace to Be Flying…)

One of the true blessing of the digital age is that authors can release single stories for their readers to purchase. Not collections, as usually their publishers retain rights to those, but rather material that has often not been available. Take the matter of ‘Companions to the Moon’ which first appeared in Realms Of Fantasy, June 2007 and not available again ’til now. It’s set in Newford in 2007 and has record shop owner Mary believing her common-law partner is cheating on her. Oh, that it were that simple, as Edric is a musician whose out-of-town concerts happen every full moon.

But it’s not just reprints: Jack in the Green is an original novella that’s set in the fictional Southwestern desert city of Santo del Vado Viejo, and is available here for the first time in any format. Much of his fiction of late, including the superb The Mystery of Grace novel, portions of Forests of The Heart, and Medicine Road are set in the desert Southwest USA. I don’t want to spoil anything here, so suffice it to say that there’s a unique twist on the Robin Hood tale, one involving (not surprisingly) things mortals are well advised to avoid.

An original short story, ‘Dog Boys’, is set in the same city. The new boy at Rose Creek High is trying to avoid getting into anything involving the Latino street gangs and the kids from the rez, but he can’t help it when a girl from the latter is being harassed by one of the street gang members. Fortunately he’s much more than he thinks he is.

Some of these tales, such as ‘The Butter Spirit’s Tithe’ have been reprinted elsewhere (This was in the excellent 2009 Muse and Reverie collection), but I’m including it here as it’s a great tale and features Conn O’Neill, who’s attempting to make a living as a Celtic guitarist (a hard task as any working musician will tell you — at length if they’ve had enough whiskey) until he offends without meaning to a vengeful spirit that curses him for seven years, at the end of which his soul is promised as a tithe to the fearsome Grey Man. Conn’s only hope lies with his musical partner Miki Greer who, having having lost her brother to such a being in Forests of the Heart, is determined not to have it happen again!

Finally we have a story written by de Lit in honour of one of his favourite musicians — Joe Strummer. “This is Radio Clash’ first appeared in Taverns of the Dead where it written as a memorial to Strummer. Set in 2002, guitarist Sarah Blue meets a strange trumpeter Eddie Ramone in a bar and is given a chance to return to a pivotal moment in her life to correct one of her deepest regrets. Not quite as bad as meeting someone at the crossroads at midnight but does have serious consequences.

All of these, save Jack in the Green, are a mere ninety-cents in the USA and Canada, and the equivalent in the UK (the first time I’ve seen any such fiction available in all three territories!) for iBooks, Kindle, and Nook apps. These are all excellent introductions to his fiction and should give a good feel for if you should read his longer works. Now if I’m hoping he’ll put up my all-time favourite story by him, ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’, which he based on ‘The Buried Moon’, a fairy tale included by Joseph Jacobs in his More English Fairy Tales.

Pardon me — I must go now, as Jenny, one of my bar maids, has three orders for Irish Coffees, a popular drink here as this ‘Cold Haily Night’.

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