Neil Gaiman’s latest short story collection is titled, “Trigger Warning.” In the introduction he explains why he decided on this title. He starts the introduction by saying, “There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking rather about those images or words or idea that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming.” (Gaiman, xi). He goes on to talk about the idea of a trigger warning and the fact in some way or another we all have things that trigger us in some manner. Some are more sever then others but some smell, sound, image or word is going to bring up the past for us and is going to remind us of a moment in our lives. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad.
I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s stories because they explore the darker side of life. He states that he wonders that if in the future his books would be given some type of warning labels. His work can be dark and twisted and for some people I can see why they can be disturbing. He states he titled this set of stories “Trigger Warning,” in order to beat people to the punch. Yes, some of Neil Gaiman’s stories are hard to read and can make you squirm. Some of them are hard to understand and figure out what they are trying to tell you but in the end they are not only about the darker side of life. There is always some type of light to counteract the darkness as well. Just as there is in life.
Neil Gaiman’s stories give the reader a different way of looking at the world around them. He gives people the ability to safely explore the darker side of themselves or the world. He also creates stories where certain things seem like they may actually happen to us. This can be unsettling but also puts the reader on guard. Not everyone is going to warn you of certain disturbing aspects like Gaiman does here.
One of my favorite stories in this collection was “The Thing About Cassandra.” There is a young man who creates a fake girlfriend when he is young in order to fit in better. Years later people start telling him that they have seen this girl, that she is real. The man is confused and feeling like he is losing his mind for a time. He made her up yet people have seen her and she is upholding the story he created. He meets her still wondering what could be happening. The whole time the reader is wondering if this is just some freaky coincidence or if he somehow created her by creating such a detailed story about her life. In the end the reader is left wondering who is real, who is not and if it matters.
As with his other collection Gaiman provides an explanation for each of his stories and poems origins. He gives us a glimpse into where he gets his inspiration. These explanations may help to tone down the darker sides of some of the stories. The reader gets to learn that many of these stories didn’t come from a dark and twisted place. They grew out of curiosities and questions or simple prompts. I like these explanations. As a writer myself it is always interesting to me to see where people get ideas for stories. It can also show that just because a writer writes a bit darker stories or some things that make you uncomfortable does not mean they themselves are dark or intimidating. These explanations can help put a line between who the writer is as a living breathing person and his writings and imagination.
If you have read any of Gaiman’s other story collection and enjoyed at least one of the stories I highly recommend this collection as well. Yes, some of them are weird, odd or hard to comprehend. Some leave you hanging with no answers, forcing you to come up with conclusions yourself. But they are a fun adventure to go on and they may help you see the world around you just a bit differently.