RED SPIKES is a collection of short stories from Margo Lanagan, author of TENDER MORSELS, that can teach any writer a lot about how to concoct a bizarre world, deliver a plot, build characters you care about, then take it all away in few short pages that make the reader want more.
These ten short stories mostly take place in worlds just different enough from ours to put the reader outside the comfort zone, yet forces them to relate to the cares, worries, and very real dangers that the characters face. Young Dylan, whose recurring childhood nightmare might have not been only in his mind, and the fierce warrior Queen from that shadowy world who seeks an exchange for the years she's been protecting him. A group of wandering souls stranded in the never-ending apathy of Limbo, collecting "brownie points" for escorting Miscreant Souls to the gates of Hell in the hopes of finally gaining admittance to heaven. A needy girl caught up in the streets late at night by a giant in search of eyelids, whose nightdress is sewn together from the gowns of missing children. Cerise, a child in our world who never fit the mold her mother had laid out for her, because she is a child of clay and her flesh soul-twin is stuck in the world of earth.
The stories are brief, haunting, and immensely powerful. Even better, in the acknowledgements Lanagan talks about the inspiration for each story, which as a writer I find illuminating. If you want to learn how to grab a reader, entrance and release them while being economical with words, definitely check this collection out!