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Small Bites (Book)

Writers often spend pages and pages, thousands of words, coming up with just the right atmosphere and descriptions. Those works that wind up shorter than 10,000 words are usually called “short stories,” while longer works become “novellas” or “novels.” Some stories, however, don’t need so much space to hit the reader like a gut punch. Some, in fact, weigh in well below the accepted definition of what makes a short story. Within one or two pages, less than 1,000 words, the authors can make the readers feel disturbed, disgusted, even horrified. Welcome to the world of “flash fiction.”

When I got this book in my hands, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. The premise of Small Bites seemed interesting, a collection dedicated to brevity, but I didn’t know how well it could possibly work. I was greatly and pleasantly surprised to find the stories in this book captivating and true to the spirit of horror.

Small Bites is broken down into three sections. The first, called “Zombies,” contains sixty-three stories that tell of dealing with the walking dead. Themes touched on in this section include undying love, necrophilia, cannibalism, dealing with that horrible smell, and any other subject one of the recently deceased could encounter. There is even a truly disturbing story about an aborted baby who returns to life that is sure to horrify even the most jaded of readers. Also included are some truly humorous offerings as well as a few real groaners.

The second section, “Animal Attacks,” features sixty-six stories of when our pets, as well as other critters, turn on us. Included are stories about swarms of mosquitoes, wolves that just won’t go away, and even one about what really goes through the minds of cats. There are also stories that make us chuckle and groan with their own humor and bad puns (witness the “Aunt-Eater”), some of which work and others that don’t.

The final section is called “Were Creatures.” Put aside any images you may have of page after page of brooding werewolf stories for wolves are the least of people’s worries. Included in this section are tales of were-parakeets, were-roosters, were-spiders, and any other were-creature a person could conjure as well as a few no sane person would ever think of. A personal favorite is the “were-toaster” (yes, you read that correctly) featured in the story “We’re Were Anonymous.”

Most important about this book is its purpose. The book was self-published through Coscom Entertainment by professional horror writers to aid another. Horror author Charles Grant, whose career has spanned over thirty years, was stricken with Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and the proceeds from this book go into a fund to help cover his mounting medical costs.

Though there are some rough spots in this collection, the whole of it is well worth the read. And because it is flash fiction, it is the type of book a person can read anywhere without having to stop in the middle of a story. The stories in Small Bites can be easily read in five minutes but still pack the punch of longer tales. In all, this collection is well worth the read and an excellent chance to show support of one of horror’s best-respected names.

Small Bites
Edited by Garret Beck and Keith Gouveia
Coscom Entertainment, 2004
475 pages

3 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit