My new story of the week is "Molly and the Red Hat" by Benjamin Rosenbaum from issue 213 of Interzone. This short tale (only 3,200 words) is in many ways a compressed, modern day Alice in Wonderland focusing on a kindergartener named Molly and her quest for a thrown away red hat. Rosenbaum's world is seemingly torn from Lewis Carroll's mind; however, where Alice had to fall down the rabbit-hole to enter her fantasy, Molly's fantasies exists in parallel to her disturbingly real world. As the story progresses, Rosenbaum's meticulous craft blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy until it is difficult to say whether or not Molly's adventures truly happened. Is she the one imagining things? Or should we the readers question our own world's reality?
This is one of the most strikingly beautiful and lyrical stories I have read this year and showcases the power of concise yet mythical world building. I also found it ironic that less than a week after criticizing another of Rosenbaum's stories for being too short and lacking deep characterization--his "The King of the Djinn" from the new issue of Realms of Fantasy--I find myself in love with this equally short tale. In many ways the success of "Molly and the Red Hat" proves yet again how creating true-to-life characters is one of the most important aspects to successful fiction. And with Molly, Rosenbaum has definitely created the most fascinating and true-life kindergartener it's ever been my joy to read about.