Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cat Calls (2010)

     "Cat Calls" marks my entry into the world of free short stories available via for the Kindle.  Nothing, other than it being a no-cost proposition merited adding it to my meager Kindle-friendly library.  That library sits at sixteen titles, one of which I guess I would have an author credit ("GM Challenge Compilation", available here) as I take up about three pages worth of the book with my prattle.  I, of course, do not have an actual Kindle, so these few titles are really just eBooks that aren't rendered via Acrobat as far as I am concerned.
     "Cat Calls" is a brief venture into the world of the supernatural, on a couple of levels that don't seem to make a great deal of sense – this is not a Reese's Peanut Butter Cups moment, at least not as written.  I imagine that Smith is writing for the audience that has made Twilight in the phenomenon others tell me it is.  It is monsters meet sexuality, but in a somewhat tame way (I wonder if I would feel that way were I a fifteen year old girl, though).  Smith doesn't overindulge in lengthy description, or rely on existing tropes to fill this brief piece; she has some decent dialogue and at least one instance of well crafted imagery.  At the same time, there isn't anything new within the piece, making it feel like the type of fiction everyone who styles oneself as an author think could be churned out to fill an order.
     I am more interested in the concept of marketing free short stories, or even treatments that serve as an introduction of sorts to future stories, as a means to grow an audience. The cost of nothing (but time) has to have some allure to people other than me.  I would likely never heard of Smith had I not done a search for free Kindle short stories.  What she writes about – werecreatures, psychic readings, vampires, and such – should have some level of appeal for me.  Hell, my newest PFS character is (apparently VERY UNOFFICIALLY) a weredragon, so I'm not opposed to shaeshifters.  But Smith seems to be writing not so much about the metaphors of how the journey into womanhood is beset with types of wild dangers, instead just making the supernatural elements the devices that direct the action.  Still, I would not have even known that much without this story being made available for free.
     I am curious as to how many people take the time to look for short stories when they are perusing the free section of the Kindle offerings.  Certainly, given the amount of public domain titles one can acquire for nothing – Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1881-82) was auto-added to the library when I set-up the Kindle program on the computer – it cannot be easy to convince people to dive into the unknowns first.  Granted, Smith apparently has enjoyed a fair amount of success before I stumbled across "Cat Calls", but to me she was an unknown author.  I am one of those who much prefers to wander about an actual bookstore than use a search engine to find something I don't know I'm looking for.  This of course would change if I were actually an author and had a book listed on, because then I would want all search engines to steer people to my material.
     I am likely to look for some other free offerings that are not of the 'old and distinguished' variety, and I'll try to do more justice to those than I have to "Cat Calls".  As much joy as I may get over the fact I can get Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) for free, I have no idea the quality of the translation and cannot mark-up the pages with my notes when using any sort of eReader.  It seems to me that the Kindle and its brothers are best suited for lighter fiction.

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