I’ve read (and loved) Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series but had never read any of her short stories before this. What a treat they were! I’m typically not a fan of short stories as they tend to leave me feeling unsatisfied at the end, and oftentimes, I find that the majority of the stories in an anthology don’t resonate with me. That was so not the case here, and I loved pretty much every one of the twenty-two stories, though admittedly, I enjoyed some more than others.
I was genuinely impressed by McGuire’s ability as a short story writer and how she managed to pull me into every story in this collection. What made this collection especially fun for me was the mixture of genres. I went in, initially expecting them all to be sci-fi but was surprised (in a good way) to discover that there were also fantasy, horror, steampunk, and even mythology stories. It’s difficult for me to choose my favorite stories because I pretty much loved every one of them, which never happens when I read an anthology.
Some of the stories I especially enjoyed included:
- An LGBT ghost story in which a high school girl is having a difficult time letting go of her dead girlfriend. – Childhood toys that start a war – a real one.
- An intergalactic schoolteacher who protects the planet.
- A murderous plant woman who is not what she appears to be
- A woman who live tweets from a haunted house. This one definitely fell into the horror category.
- A robot with a mission who poses as a high school student and tries to blend in. An interesting take on the theme of bullying.
- An endless, eternal game of football and Halloween– an interesting and modern take on the Norse Valkyries Valhalla.
- A creepy urban fantasy reimagining of the Wizard of Oz.
- A dark spin on the Peter Pan tale.
- A collection of office memos – with an interesting and creepy catch.
- A portal story where a character has to decide whether to go or stay.
- A microbiologist who intentionally releases a deadly virus into the world.
- Sea creatures with not-so-good intentions – another horror story.
- An emotional story about a little girl and the world’s last tuna fish.
- There was also “From A to Z in the Book of Changes,” which is literally a collection of twenty-six one-word prompts for each letter in the alphabet, that Seanan McGuire then turned into a series of brief short stories. It’s something I’ve never seen done before and was a truly unique experience to read.
All in all, I found these stories engrossing, addicting, and spooky. I also loved that the author added in a brief introduction at the beginning of each story, providing background and her reasons/inspiration for writing the story. For me, Laughter at the Academy is an amazing collection of eclectic stories, some of them eerie and macabre, others heart-wrenching but all well worthy of a read. I appreciated the author’s lush, luminous prose, and her extraordinary storytelling, and I definitely plan on checking out more of this talented author’s short stories in the future.