Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman

( 7 )

Overview

A griffin, a werewolf, a sunbird . . .

These are just some of the fantastical creatures you'll encounter within these pages. From the cockatoucan, whose laugh rearranges an entire kingdom, to the roving shapeless Beast that lurks in a forest, herein is a collection of rare and magnificent species. Each one will thrill, delight, and quite possibly unnerve you. Selected by master storyteller Neil Gaiman, the sixteen stories in this menagerie will introduce you to a host of ...

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Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman

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Overview

A griffin, a werewolf, a sunbird . . .

These are just some of the fantastical creatures you'll encounter within these pages. From the cockatoucan, whose laugh rearranges an entire kingdom, to the roving shapeless Beast that lurks in a forest, herein is a collection of rare and magnificent species. Each one will thrill, delight, and quite possibly unnerve you. Selected by master storyteller Neil Gaiman, the sixteen stories in this menagerie will introduce you to a host of strange, wondrous beings that have never existed anyplace but in the richness of the imagination.

With stories from Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, E. Nesbit, and many more, Unnatural Creatures will benefit the literacy nonprofit 826DC.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Lisa Martincik
A werewolf, a cockatoucan, a giant snake, a blot—all these belong in the Museum of Unnatural History, the storefront for the 826DC nonprofit organization. Of course these unnatural creatures exist only in fiction, the kind of creative writing supported by 826DC and beloved of superstar writer Neil Gaiman, who curates this volume with the help of Maria Dahvana Headley. Sixteen short stories by sixteen authors, from old to brand-new, beloved to awaiting-discovery, each assured to raise hairs, produce chuckles, or both. Gaiman introduces each story with an author bio and/or story anecdote; clearly some of these stories are beloved standards for him while others are exciting new introductions, giving a personable air to this delightfully creepy and playful book. Some tales are newly produced for this volume, and some are decades old; the breadth of topic and style makes for fascinating reading. Likewise some authors may be very familiar to seasoned readers (Peter S. Beagle, Samuel R. Delany, Diana Wynne Jones) while others are more recent standouts (Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Okorafor) or recently-minted (E. Lily Yu). A couple of the stories strain the definition of "short story," changing the book's pacing in a way sticklers may find disagreeable. Unnatural Creatures is a chameleonic anthology with something for everyone to love and someone for every reader to discover. Reviewer: Lisa Martincik
Kirkus Reviews
Gaiman gathers 16 stories featuring magical beasts and monsters--dangerous ones, mostly--as a benefit volume for a creative writing program, 826 DC. The Newbery winner contributes his name and selection duties, a short preface, quick introductions to the tales and a previously published short--an homage to R.A. Lafferty featuring a captured phoenix and a jaded group of epicures--to the project. Other entries, all but three of which are reprints, range from Frank R. Stockton's "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" and other older classics to Peter S. Beagle's eerily elegant "Come Lady Death," Avram Davidson's chilling closet fantasy "Or All the Seas with Oysters," a Chrestomanci tale from Diana Wynne Jones and artfully discomfiting contributions from younger writers (including the co-editor). Each opens with a small, dark, fine-grained image of a creature or partial figure that sets an appropriately ominous tone for what follows. Light on new material but solid choices overall--recommended for daylight reading only. (author bios) (Short stories. 10-14)
Publishers Weekly
In this striking anthology of 16 stories of strange and incredible creatures (most previously published), Gaiman and Headley have included several classic tales, such as Frank R. Stockton’s delightful “The Griffin and the Minor Canon” (1885), which concerns the unlikely friendship between a monster and a minister; Saki’s mordant werewolf tale “Gabriel-Ernest” (1909); and Anthony Boucher’s astonishingly silly “The Compleat Werewolf” (1942). There are also fine stories from such major contemporary fantasy writers as Peter S. Beagle, Samuel Delany, Diana Wynne Jones, and Gaiman himself. Particularly pleasurable are the stories by newer writers, such as Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Smile on the Face,” which demonstrates the benefits of channeling one’s inner hamadryad; E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” an animal fable with a sting in its tale; and Nnedi Okorafor’s original story “Ozioma the Wicked,” which concerns “a nasty little girl whose pure heart had turned black,” but who nonetheless saves her village from a monstrous snake. Teens with a yen for the fantastic would be hard pressed to find a better place to start. The collection benefits literacy nonprofit 826DC. Ages 13–up. (May)
Booklist
“In true Gaiman fashion, these stories are macabre, subversive, and just a little bit sinister. His fans will eat this up—ravenously.”
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The 16 short stories in this anthology contain accounts of delightfully fantastical creatures, ranging from the familiar (werewolves, mermaids, griffins, and unicorns) to the chillingly mysterious (an ever-expanding, flesh-eating blob; a strange bird that spurs unpredictable changes to its surroundings; and even Death herself). Classic science fiction and fantasy authors Anthony Boucher, Frank R. Stockton, Peter S. Beagle, E. Nesbit, and Diana Wynne Jones are represented, as are contemporary authors such as Nnedi Okorafor, E. Lily Yu, and Gaiman himself. From the first page, Gaiman appeals to a sense of imagination, prefacing each story with a brief personal commentary, causing readers to stop and ponder questions they never knew they had. Who would a griffin eat? What does a phoenix taste like? What happens when you question an invisible dragon? Why are there always too many coat hangers? All of these questions, and more, are answered here. Some of the stories are silly, some heartbreaking, and some profound, but all are guaranteed to make readers' hair stand on end.—Liz Overberg, Darlington Middle School, Rome, GA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062236296
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/23/2013
  • Pages: 462
  • Sales rank: 224,763
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books for readers of all ages, and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award and the Locus Award for Best Novelette for his story "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains." Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Biography

Neil Gaiman thought he wrote comic books. But a newspaper editor, of course, set him straight.

Back when he was riding the diabolical headwinds of his popular series of graphic novels, The Sandman, the author attended a party where he introduced himself as a comic-book writer to a newspaper's literary editor. But when the editor quickly realized who this actually was -- and the glaze melted from his eyes -- he offered Gaiman a correction tinged with astonishment: "My God, man, you don't write comics, you write graphic novels." Relating the story to theLos Angeles Times in 1995, Gaiman said, "I suddenly felt like someone who had been informed that she wasn't a hooker, that in fact she was a lady of the evening."

Gaiman's done much more, of course, than simply write graphic novels, having coauthored, with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, a comic novel about the Apocalypse; adapted into hardcover the BBC miniseries Neverwhere about the dark underworld beneath the streets of London; and, inspired by his young daughter, put a horrifying spin on C.S. Lewis' wardrobe doors for Coraline, a children's book about a passageway into a magical, yet malevolent, land.

But it is The Sandman that is Gaiman's magnum opus.

Though he had told a career counselor in high school that he wanted to pen comic books, he had a career as a freelance journalist before his first graphic novel, Violent Cases, was published in England in 1987. DC Comics discovered him and The Sandman was born. Or reborn, actually. The comic debuted back in 1939 with a regular-Joe crime fighter in the lead. But in Gaiman's hands the tale had a more otherworldly spin, slowing introducing readers to the seven siblings Endless: Dream, Death, Desire, Destiny, Destruction, Despair and Delirium (once Delight). They all have their roles in shaping the fates of man. In fact, when Death was imprisoned for decades, the results were devastating. Richard Nixon reached The White House and Michael Jackson the Billboard charts.

Direction from newspaper editors notwithstanding, to Gaiman, these stories are still comic books. The man who shuttled back and forth between comics and classics in his formative years and can pepper his writing with references to Norse mythology as well as the vaudevillian rock group Queen, never cottoned to such highbrow/lowbrow distinctions. Comparing notes on a yachting excursion with members of the Irish rock band U2, the writer who looks like a rock star and Delirium and the rock stars who gave themselves comic-worthy names such as Bono and The Edge came to a realization: Whether the medium is pop music or comic books, not being taken seriously can be a plus. "It's safer to be in the gutter," he told The Washington Post in 1995.

In 1995, Gaiman brought The Sandman to a close and began spending more time on his nongraphic fiction, including a couple of short-story collections. A few years later he released Stardust, an adult fairy tale that has young Tristan Thorn searching for a fallen star to woo the lovely but cold Victoria Forester. In 2001, he placed an ex-con named Shadow in the middle of a war between the ancient and modern dieties in American Gods. Coming in October 2002 is another departure: an audio recording of Two Plays for Voices, which stars Bebe Neuwirth as a wise queen doing battle with a bloodthirsty child and Brian Dennehy as the Angel of Vengeance investigating the first crime in history in heaven's City of Angels.

Gaiman need not worry about defining his artistic relevance, since so many other seem to do it for him. Stephen King, Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison are among those who have contributed introductions to his works. William Gibson, the man who coined the term "cyberspace," called him a "a writer of rare perception and endless imagination" as well as "an American treasure." (Even though he's, technically, a British treasure transplanted to the American Midwest.) Even Norman Mailer has weighed in: "Along with all else, Sandman is a comic strip for intellectuals, and I say it's about time."

The gushiest praise, however, may come from Frank McConnell, who barely contained himself in the pages of the political and artistic journal Commonweal. Saying Gaiman "may just be the most gifted and important storyteller in English," McConnell crowned Sandman as the most important act of fiction of the day. "And that, not just because of the brilliance and intricacy of its storytelling -- and I know few stories, outside the best of Joyce, Faulkner, and Pynchon, that are more intricate," he wrote in October 1995, " but also because it tells its wonderful and humanizing tale in a medium, comic books, still largely considered demimonde by the tenured zombies of the academic establishment."

"If Sandman is a 'comic,'" he concluded, "then The Magic Flute is a 'musical' and A Midsummer Night's Dream is a skit. Read the damn thing: it's important."

Good To Know

Some fascinating factoids from our interview with Gaiman:

"One of the most enjoyable bits of writing Sandman was getting authors whose work I love to write the introductions for the collected graphic novels -- people like Steve Erickson, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Mikal Gilmore, and Samuel R. Delany."

"I have a big old Addams Family house, with -- in the summertime -- a vegetable garden, and I love growing exotic pumpkins. As a boy in England I used to dream about Ray Bradbury Hallowe'ens, and am thrilled that I get them these days. Unless I'm on the road signing people's books, of course."

"According to my daughters, my most irritating habit is asking for cups of tea."

"I love radio -- and love the availability of things like the Jack Benny radio shows in MP3 format. I'm addicted to BBC radio 7, and keep buying boxed CD sets of old UK radio programs, things like Round the Horne and Hancock's Half Hour. Every now and again I'll write a radio play."

"I love thunderstorms, old houses, and dreams."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 10, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portchester, England
    1. Education:
      Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    A respectable selection of mythical short stories. "The Car

    A respectable selection of mythical short stories. "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" was one of my favorites, mixing incredibly accurate knowledge of real bee biology and behaviors with the sentience and history of a fantasy plot--truly remarkable. The Sunbird story by Neil Gaiman is really well done, but be aware that it is not a new piece, appearing previously in his collection Fragile Things. The first story in the collection, with a title both unpronounceable and unspellable, has an interesting premise, but missed the mark a bit for me--the spot made for a great sinister premise, but the execution of its portrayal broke up the flow of the prose too much for me to find it truly frightening.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2013

    Blah

    30 people like it but no one wrote a reveiw now i dont what its about besides mythical creatures

    1 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2014

    This book is perfect for reading before bed. You won't have that

    This book is perfect for reading before bed. You won't have that need to read an entire book in one night and screw up your sleeping schedule. I never knew I could find short stories to be as satisfying as a full novel. Loved it.   

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2014

    Cassi's cottage

    A small, black cottage set in the clearing of a dense thicket of trees. The second anyone touches it without cassi's permission, they get turned to dust.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 23, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    I don't know who was more interesting- the creatures, or the individuals who encountered them.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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