Tim Pratt: Sympathy for the Devil

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Tim Pratt Sympathy for the Devil
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An anthology of stories The Devil is known by many names: Serpent, Tempter, Beast, Adversary, Wanderer, Dragon, Rebel. His traps and machinations are the stuff of legends. His faces are legion. No matter what face the devil wears, Sympathy for the Devil has them all. Edited by Tim Pratt, Sympathy for the Devil collects the best Satanic short stories by Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Stephen King, Kage Baker, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Kelly Link, China Mieville, Michael Chabon, and many others, revealing His Grand Infernal Majesty, in all his forms. Thirty-five stories, from classics to the cutting edge, exploring the many sides of Satan, Lucifer, the Lord of the Flies, the Father of Lies, the Prince of the Powers of the Air and Darkness, the First of the Fallen… and a Man of Wealth and Taste. Sit down and spend a little time with the Devil.

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Tim Pratt, Neil Gaiman, Andy Duncan, Richard Butner, Charles de Lint, Holly Black, Stephen King, Natalie Babbitt, Sarah Zettel, Mark Twain, Elizabeth M. Glover, Charles Stross, Scott Westerfeld, Jan Wildt, James Morrow, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Jeffrey Ford, Robert Bloch, Michael Chabon, David Ackert, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Nick Mamatas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kage Baker, Carrie Richerson, Kris Dikeman, Kelly Link, China Miéville, Scott Bradfield, John Kessel, Theodore Sturgeon, Jonathan Carroll, David J. Schwartz, John Collier, Dante Alighieri

Sympathy for the Devil


Thanks to my publisher Jeremy Lassen for agreeing to let me turn my love of devilish things into a book, and to my agent Ginger Clark for expediting the deal. Many thanks also to the authors (and their representatives) who were kind enough to allow me to reprint their work. Special thanks to John Joseph Adams for giving me advice (both theoretical and practical) on the care and feeding of anthologies, and to the many readers and writers who suggested devil-related stories for me to consider-I wish I could have included more of them. And, as always, much love to my wife Heather Shaw for her support and help in carving out time for me to do projects like this.

And, most importantly: Thank you, Satan! I couldn’t have done it without you.

Introduction by Tim Pratt

I’m a big fan of the Devil.

I like stories about the Adversary in all his incarnations. Most of the stories in this book are about the Capital-D-Devil in his various guises, from the fiddle-playing trickster of Charles de Lint’s “Ten for the Devil” to the hard-nosed businessman of Carrie Richerson’s “… With By Good Intentions” to the hitchhiking prankster of Jeffrey Ford’s “On the Road to New Egypt” to the mindless gnawing monster of Dante’s Inferno.

There are funny devils (“A Reversal of Fortune” by Holly Black, “The Power of Speech” by Natalie Babbitt, “Faustfeathers” by John Kessel), scary devils (“The Professor’s Teddy Bear” by Theodore Sturgeon, “The Price” by Neil Gaiman) and just plain weird devils (Kelly Link’s “Lull”, Jonathan Carroll’s “The Heidelberg Cylinder”, Richard Butner’s “Ash City Stomp”). There are classics here (“That Hell-Bound Train” by Robert Bloch, “Thus I Refute Beelzy” by John Collier, “The Bottle Imp” by Robert Louis Stevenson), and stories published within the last few years (“Nine Sundays in a Row” by Kris Dikeman, “The King of the Djinn” by David Ackert and Benjamin Rosenbaum). There are even a few deal-with-the-devil stories, though not as many as you might expect; I could have filled another book with the best of those easily, though.

There were a few narrative pairings I couldn’t resist, like putting Stephen King’s “The Man in the Black Suit” next to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” the story King says inspired the piece. And consider the scientifically-savvy title character of Mark Twain’s “Sold to Satan” as compared to the scientifically-thwarted villain of Elizabeth M. Glover’s “MetaPhysics.”

For the sake of variety I included a few edge cases-the Devil as seen through a glass darkly, say-like Michael Chabon’s dark oppositional deities in “The God of Dark Laughter”, the self-proclaimed Great Beast 666 (better known as Aleister Crowley, or “Alick” to his friends) in “Summon, Bind, Banish” by Nick Mamatas, and the mysterious furious unnatural force at work in China Miéville’s “Details”. It seemed appropriate-after all, the Devil appears in many guises, from long-suffering employee of God to prideful fallen angel to pure malevolent force of nature to suave collector of souls.

When I first conceived of the idea for this anthology, I knew I’d have no trouble filling the pages, because just about every writer of weird short fiction has taken a crack at the Devil at some point (even I have, though modesty forbade me including any of my stories here), and I had to leave out as many good stories as I put in. I don’t have time or space to list all the great stories you should read, but I’ll mention a few: “The Playground” by Ray Bradbury, where the Devil doesn’t explicitly appear, though I personally think he must be the one making those dark deals beneath the swings and behind the merry-go-rounds; “The Howling Man” by Charles Beaumont, which was made into a classic Twilight Zone episode, but don’t miss the original story; “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benét, which is so famous it’s been parodied on The Simpsons, but read it if you haven’t; both Natalie Babbitt collections about the Devil, The Devil’s Storybook and The Devil’s Other Storybook-it was hard deciding which of her short funny pieces to reprint here; The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, which is great reading even if you’re not particularly interested in Christian apologia; “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates, even though the author herself insists the character Arnold Friend is not precisely the Devil… and I’d better stop now, or I’ll be here all day.

These 35 stories (and a chunk of a poem) only begin to illuminate the many facets of Satan, Lucifer, Shaytan, the Lord of the Flies, the Father of Lies, Old Nick, Mr. Scratch, the Tempter, the Old Serpent, the Lord of this World, Old Hob, the Prince of the Powers of the Air and Darkness, Mephistopheles, First of the Fallen… and a Man of Wealth and Taste.

Turn the page, and allow him to introduce himself.

The Price by Neil Gaiman

Tramps and vagabonds have marks they make on gateposts and trees and doors, letting others of their kind know a little about the people who live at the houses and farms they pass on their travels. I think cats must leave similar signs; how else to explain the cats who turn up at our door through the year, hungry and flea-ridden and abandoned?

We take them in. We get rid of the fleas and the ticks, feed them and take them to the vet. We pay for them to get their shots, and, indignity upon indignity, we have them neutered or spayed.

And they stay with us, for a few months, or for a year, or for ever.

Most of them arrive in summer. We live in the country, just the right distance out of town for the city-dwellers to abandon their cats near us.

We never seem to have more than eight cats, rarely have less than three. The cat population of my house is currently as follows: Hermione and Pod, tabby and black respectively, the mad sisters who live in my attic office, and do not mingle; Princess, the blue-eyed long-haired white cat, who lived wild in the woods for years before she gave up her wild ways for soft sofas and beds; and, last but largest, Furball, Princess’s cushion-like calico long-haired daughter, orange and black and white, whom I discovered as a tiny kitten in our garage one day, strangled and almost dead, her head poked through an old badminton net, and who surprised us all by not dying but instead growing up to be the best-natured cat I have ever encountered.

And then there is the black cat. Who has no other name than the Black Cat, and who turned up almost a month ago. We did not realise he was going to be living here at first: he looked too well-fed to be a stray, too old and jaunty to have been abandoned. He looked like a small panther, and he moved like a patch of night.

One day, in the summer, he was lurking about our ramshackle porch: eight or nine years old, at a guess, male, greenish-yellow of eye, very friendly, quite unperturbable. I assumed he belonged to a neighbouring farmer or household.

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