I really do enjoy short stories, and when a book is a collection of short works by one of my favorite fantasy authors I’m really interested.
Laughter at the Academy is a collection of short works by Seanan McGuire, author of the October Daye series, Wayward Children series, Ghost Roads series, InCryptid series, and more!
Like nearly every collection or anthology of short stories I’ve ever read, there are some stories I really liked, some that didn’t do anything for me, and some that were a pleasant enough way to pass some time but maybe not particularly memorable.
My two favorites were “Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves” and “The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells.” “Down, Deep Down…” bears a resemblance to Into the Drowning Deep (as written by Mira Grant – McGuire’s pseudonym) – one of my favorite dark fantasy novels. In the short story, we are in the future where all-female submarine crews see women being modified to become mermaids.
“The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells” makes McGuire seem quite prescient as the story is about a pandemic. She writes in her introduction to the story:
I also believe that the modern world’s disdain for quarantine
and willingness to support structures which encourage its violation
is going to do a great deal of damage one day…and that with new
diseases emerging regularly from a variety of sources, that day may
not be particularly far in the future.
The story is copyright 2011 and the introduction was probably written in 2018 or 2019. This story also connects to a series of books written by McGuire as Mira Grant (the Parasitology series).
I didn’t care at all for “#connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere” – a short story told through a series of tweets. Style over story just never works well for me.
I think that one of McGuire’s strengths is her ability to plot a story and the natural progression or growth of her characters. These things are more easily seen in longer works and sometimes, due to the nature of a short story, we don’t see these things as often in this collection. We see it best in “Down, Deep Down…” – which is the longest of the works here.
But it is fun to see the growth in McGuire’s craftsmanship and her ability to really capture the nuances of individuals.
Although McGuire notes in her introduction that “All these stories take place outside my pre-existing universes…” I’ve already noted a connection to two series, and other stories, such as “Driving Jenny Home,” which feels like it could be a Ghost Roads story, have a tendency to lean heavily toward some of her pre-existing universes, even if they don’t fall directly in.
Looking for a good book? I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Seanan McGuire’s Laughter at the Academy for first-time readers of Ms McGuire, but for those who enjoy her books, this is a really variety pack – a little bit of all the different styles she writes.
This book contains the following:
“Laughter at the Academy: A Field Study in the Genesis of Schizotypal Creative Genius Personality Disorder (SCGPD)”
“The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells”
“Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage”
“Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust”
“Frontier ABCs: The Life and Times of Charity Smith, Schoolteacher”
“We Are All Misfit Toys in the Aftermath of the Velveteen War”
“Each to Each”
“Bring About the Halloween Eternal!!!”
“Lady Antheia’s Guide to Horticultural Warfare”
“Driving Jenny Home”
“There Is No Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold”
“In Skeleton Leaves”
“Please Accept My Most Profound Apologies for What Is About to Happen (But You Started It)”
“Threnody for Little Girl, With Tuna, at the End of the World”
“From A to Z in the Book of Changes”
“Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves”
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
Laughter at the Academy
author: Seanan McGuire
publisher: Subterranean Press
hardcover, 376 pages