A Year of Stories – Collection 2: Black Coral by Steve Spalding is a project with the intriguing premise that a story will be written each day of the year. Specifically, each weekday, but there are sections entitled weekend writing. I reviewed the work Spalding published for January and paid attention to two things. Firstly, did he write every day? Yes, and has been mentioned, sometimes on the weekend. Secondly, were the stories interesting or was it just a vocabulary dump? For January, yes stories were interesting, some more so than others, but I was overall impressed.
With this second selection, February 2016, I was more impressed. Not with the idea that he kept to his schedule, but that I felt the stories were much better. They captured my interest and imagination so completely that I was a bit upset about the story that disappeared. The last story in the collection, “WHIZZ BANG LAB’S (MOSTLY) PARADOX FREE TIME MACHINE,” has no text other than the title. Below the title are the same words (where the story should be) that appear in the comments following the title in a section titled “Afterthoughts.” Oops.
But the work before that was good. If I were to ask the author one question it would be “Do you read a lot of Chuck Wendig?” I see a similarity in the twistedness of some of the tales. Not that there is any copying, plagiarizing or any of that stuff, it is just that with Spalding we have another weird author. The two are not weird in the same way, they are just twisted (or artists).
Spalding writes afterthoughts for each one of his stories. I think this is also pretty impressive. If you have already written a story per day, you have immersed yourself in the story. Another question. Were these afterthoughts written on a day other than when the story was written? Not a problem, it doesn’t violate the one story-per-day self-pledge. Maybe the afterthoughts were written as part of the editing process. But if that is true, I want to know where my missing story is.
This was fun to read and I look forward to the next collection in the series. Overall, I would call this fantasy. Then I can avoid deciding which stories are sci-fi, which are horror, or which are ghost stories. Almost all will surprise you. It is a fast read with a lot of talent displayed in different theme directions (not genre). I would have given it five stars if the collection had stories alone. The afterthoughts, which sometimes added to the fun but sometimes pontificated, led me to choose four stars. The missing story didn’t figure into my rating. I just pouted.