One of the things about chatting about short fiction on Sundays is that I can dance around through all sorts of anthologies, read for a week, and by no means will I have any shortage of good tales to discuss every Sunday. I’m trying hard not to repeat the same anthology week after week, but there are some – like Nothing Looks Familiar by Shawn Syms is one I know I’ll be revisiting.
Varying the tales in tone and voice in a single-author collection of short fiction can be challenging, but by the time you’re two tales into this collection, you know this isn’t going to be a problem.
“Four Pills,” by Shawn Syms
Syms has a real talent for character. In a few deft lines of dialog, a thought or two, or even just a descriptive turn of phrase, these wonderful, broken, damaged – and still sublimely sympathetic – characters burst into life for the reader.
In “Four Pills” the main character is an addict, on the edge and hoping to find enough cash to have a good time – or meet up with a friend who can supply the pills needed for a good time – and there’s little that’s going to get between him and the goal.
He is not a likeable man, and yet – with Syms at the helm – there’s empathy enough to involve you. I think that’s what I’ve come to expect the most from a Syms story; these are not people I would trust, nor would I necessarily feel comfortable around them, but I would not regret meeting them. It’s an interesting trick to pull off.
Until next time, keep it short…