A creative writing student wonders what the difference is between two genres of fiction: horror and fantasy. Like his new girlfriend says: “Perhaps it’s like the difference between pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich?” But when he asks his tutor the answer he gets leads to a truer definition of “Horror” than he ever expected.
Judge a Book by its Cover is a fantasy/horror short story.
You can buy Judge a Book by its Cover in eBook format from the following retailers and several others to numerous to list!
Here’s a free extract from the start of the story:
“Perhaps it’s like the difference between pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich?” she said.
I looked up from the two novels that I held, one in my right hand and one in my left, and looked at her. She was Reason A for me to be in this bookstore. I held Reasons B and C in my hands. I had never spoken to her except a mumbled “Can I have this please?” when paying for my books. She had served me four times this semester, once a week on average, or 24% of my total visits so far, counting today. Would she serve me today, or was she scheduled to walk the floor to check for shoplifters?
She smiled at me. “You know there doesn’t seem to be much difference between them in theory, both cheese and bread cooked together, but everyone knows that they are different.”
She was just dressed in the shop’s staff uniform, plain black T-shirt and pants, with a small yellow bookstore logo above her left breast. Nothing special to look at, but I couldn’t take my eyes off that logo. I had read in Maxim that it was important to make eye contact and to be confident. Oh yeah and to smile, just like she was doing. She must have read the same article but the version for girls in one of their magazines.
“What?” I got out. Shit! I’d blown it already. Why had I said that?
Her smile started to slip into a puzzled crease. “Never mind, it’s nothing,” she said. “Anything I can help you with … sir?” Her voice had slipped from real warmth into the plastic “have a nice day” patter of a shop assistant.
I shook my head and she gave a fake smile and walked away. I watched her as she walked. “Wait,” I called. A tall heavily tattooed biker paging through part 2 of a Space Opera trilogy glared at me as if I were breaking a vow of silence. This is a bookstore, not a damn library, I wanted to yell at him.
She turned and walked back. The real smile had returned as well. “Pizza and grilled cheese sandwich? What did you mean by that?”
“Well I noticed those two books you picked up.” I nodded. “They are both by the same author, but one of them was from the Dark Fantasy category and the other was from Fantasy.”
“Dark Fantasy! Should be Horror,” I said. Damn there I went again. Was that patronizing, or pompous? Which was the right phrase? Should I ask her? No, better not.
“Yeah right, just a marketing play,” she said.
“You are so right.” I loved this girl. I was so sure we had a connection. We were made for each other. Where was her nametag? I so needed to know her name at the moment, to call her by her name. But she wasn’t wearing it. I had never seen her wearing it, I realized. I didn’t know her name. I called her Reason A.
“But I’ve read both of them, and apart from the cover, I couldn’t tell why one was classified as horror and one was classified as fantasy.” She stood nearer to me, coming round to stand right next to me in fact. Her arm was touching my arm through the fabric of our clothes. There was something electric. Probably static, I thought. “And I’m guessing,” she continued, “that you’re wondering the same thing having read what it says on the back. But you’re confused about the covers and the category.”
I didn’t know if I should get down on one knee and propose then and there.
We both turned to face each other though and like a sea parting the distance between us grew physically and metaphorically as the biker at the other end of the aisle put down the second installment in the space opera trilogy that he seemed to be half way through (he really did think this was a library) and grunted. He was looking at us with disappointment on his face. I knew that look; I had seen it on my pop’s face when I announced that I was dropping extra sports to write for the high school magazine.
He walked past us. He had a strong odor, a not unpleasant mix of whisky, tobacco and leather, but it made my nose tingle and I just stifled a sneeze.
“Horror has a supernatural element. Fantasy doesn’t,” he announced. And then he was gone, shouldering his way past a couple of ladies who lunch in the cookery section and then he was steaming out the door. A few seconds later I heard the roar of a Harley which receded slowly and seemed to linger long after it was gone.
Ten minutes later I would have gladly hugged that strange old biker, despite his sneeze-inducing stink. Carrie (that was her name) and I both nearly killed ourselves laughing. She had to drag me out of the store, she was giggling so much. She was worried that her boss would hear her and fire her or something. We exchanged numbers, and she asked me if I wanted to meet for a coffee. The rest was simple. All I had to do was to say yes, I couldn’t screw that up could I?
So I said yes.
I waved goodbye, and my feet didn’t touch the ground until I got to campus and I was walking up the steps to Professor Wolfe’s class. Then some sort of survival gene kicked in and I realized that I was about to walk in without having done the week’s assignment. I had dropped into the bookstore on my way to the library to do some last minute study, read through the passage to make sure I had something to ask and answer when the Professor lined me up in his sights.
The high of getting a date from Carrie though had boosted my confidence into the stratosphere. Hell, I had read Frankenstein once already. I’d seen the film too, I think, well hadn’t everybody, or was that The Addams Family? I had a question of my own for Professor Wolfe.
To buy a copy and read the whole story go to: