Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances is the intriguing, occasionally mesmerizing, new collection from Nail Gaiman.
Trigger Warning is the third volume gathering the peripatetic Gaiman’s short fiction. Written over several years for a variety of projects, these novellas, short stories and poems encompass fantasy, horror, mystery, science fiction, adventure and mythology. Gaiman spends time with familiar characters like Sherlock Holmes, Snow White, Cinderella, Doctor Who, his own Shadow Moon and even late author Ray Bradbury.
Time is a frequent topic in Trigger Warning. The ebb and flow of time, its ravages and effects and how people fight against it. It’s especially interesting, since these stories weren’t conceived as a collection and were crafted over a period of several years.
As with any collection of short fiction, some entries in Trigger Warning will land with more impact than others, depending on your tastes. And there’s something for every type of Gaiman fan here. Some stories are more plot- and action-intensive, exploring various dark corners of the universe. Others are brief character studies, exercises in tone or mood, burnished with a spike of the macabre.
Likely of most interest is “Black Dog,” the previously unreleased novella that closes Trigger Warning. Gaiman revisits Shadow Moon, the hero of American Gods. Wandering the English countryside, Shadow stops in a small town where he encounters a legend of a ghost dog whose appearance signifies death. Gaiman finds a clever way to tie an English ghost story to a facet of the original novel.
Also of interest will be “Nothing O’Clock,” a Doctor Who adventure that sees the Time Lord dealing with an insidious race intent on stealthily taking over Earth. A reader needs no prior knowledge enjoy this witty romp. “The Sleeper and the Spindle” puts a fascinating twist on the story of Sleepy Beauty. The title character’s affliction causes a sleeping sickness that engulfs everything around her. The only one who can take action is Snow White, warrior queen of the neighboring kingdom. “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” is a bittersweet contemplation on the importance and unreliability of memory, focusing on one man slowly losing his favorite author.
Trigger Warning features plenty of Gaiman’s feverish imagination. “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains…” recontextualizes an old myth about sacrificing one’s soul for gold as a tense Fae adventure with a wicked twist. “The Thing About Cassandra” is one of the more interesting pieces. A 30something artist finds he’s suddenly awash in contacts with the imaginary girlfriend he concocted as a teenager. Gaiman puts his own spin on a Sherlock Holmes story in “The Case of Death and Honey.” It follows the retired detective in a quest to solve the thorniest problem of them all: death itself. “Adventure Story” deploys an unexpected bit of magic as part of one man’s mourning his deceased father.
Gaiman indulges his experimental side with a couple of the stories in Trigger Warning. “A Calendar of Tales” grew out of a social media experiment. Gaiman composed 12 vignettes themed to each month of the year based on answers to questions he posed on social media. “Orange” tells an almost light-hearted tale of an alien infestation through responses to a police questionnaire.
Other entries in Trigger Warning are interesting character pieces. There are lots of nice, subtle moments to discover and Gaiman is never less than interesting. He can craft a vivid character in as few as three or four pages. Not every story is larger than life. They don’t all need to be.
As with Gaiman’s previous short fiction collections, the “Introduction” section is a crucial part of the Trigger Warning experience. The author provides insights into the genesis of each story, discusses inspirations and what was going on in his life at the time he wrote certain pieces, and gives some background of the original projects that housed many of these pieces. These observations are often as entertaining as the stories they support and are especially recommended for readers interested in the process of writing and the publishing world.
Trigger Warning is a great trove that will have especial appeal for those already in the Gaiman tent. It might not be the best introduction to Gaiman for newcomers. But once you’ve gotten your feet wet with The Sandman, American Gods or Stardust, come back and check out Trigger Warning.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on April 28, 2015.