Smoke: A Short Story - Bob Williams

Roughly a year ago I was browsing Jason (design god) Gurleys website to check out the covers he created. One, however, caught my attention more than others, Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker. Amish Sci-Fi was at the time something I wasn´t quite ready for yet, and even having the book on my Kindle by now, I´ve never gotten around reading it. Nevertheless, even Pennslyvania was a bit far-fetched for me back then, I was curious enough to dive deeper into Bunkers work, and subsequently bought all his books, read and enjoyed them too, and more to come in the future. Not only that, but I started to follow him on diverse social media accounts, simply to be up to date when it comes to his work.

When he started to talk about Apocalypse Weird somewhere around the end of last year I was excited. It simply sounded good and very, very interesting. Sometimes you get those special something vibe, and after reading most of the available AW books I know I was right to trust those authors involved. I simply like their passion, and the yeap, weirdness of it. Which then made me look more into other books available by those guys and gals, met some and more, and became a fan of many I would have never discovered otherwise.

With AW there is one aspect that is a bit overlooked, that is the fan-fiction aspect. Bob Williams´ story set in AW, The Descents, was a story that mildly amused me, and even more so entertained me. Now when I noticed he was taking the jump to publish a short story on his own, I bite into the bullet. I have collected many a short-stories and always loved reading them. It´s a special kind of art form, and if someone masters it I´m all for it.

So far I have associated Smoke with Paul Auster. And yes, you´re allowed to throw stones at me, I am a fan, even this one can be mind-numbingly boring at times, so go away. I know this myself. :-) Point is, I may have to rethink my stance on it, and accept that Smoke is a title that is not exclusive to Auster, but belongs to Williams as well.

Smoke is an extreme short short-story, like ´brushing my teeth takes longer than reading it´ short, but that´s okay. I´m not judging. Which makes the experience rather short lived, at least when it comes to reading. The thinking about it should under any normal circumstances take a bit longer.

It is almost impossible to really talk about Smoke without giving away spoilers, but our main character Daniel has to make a decision in his life that may change it forever. And there is jazz, which seems very appropriate under this circumstances, even I hope there is some Blues to be heard at times too. It´s a Hell Or Is There Heaven? tale, but in a playful manner of sorts, and me would think either way, closer the protagonist of Smoke won´t come to any of those.

Williams´ strength of characterization and his question about into which direction we are going, a ´how the heck did we stumble into this mess called life´, and even more so, ´what are we supposed to do now?´, makes Smoke cutting into the essence of being. It is a bit philosophical and basically the question cannot be answered, hence there is no real solution, otherwise the story would most likely contradict itself. Daniel has to choose, and he did.

Indeed, a day in one´s life can change a lot of things, may be everything, forever. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. We only have to let it happen.