A few years ago, my best friend gifted me a collection of short stories written by Tim Pratt. The cover featured a small child, blonde, standing atop a pile of mechanical parts and reaching out toward a balloon. I didn’t think much of the gift at the time. I was grateful, of course – glad that my friend had thought of me – but I’d never even heard of Tim Pratt, let alone Little Gods.
The book remained on my shelf for a long time, collecting dust amidst titles such as Andy Weir’s The Martian (also a gift from my friend) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read them, but I had difficulty finding the motivation to read, at the time. I’d pull all of the books off the shelves, telling myself that I was going to read each one, only to eventually put them back untouched.
I don’t actually remember me what prompted me to pick up Pratt’s book when I finally did get around to reading it. I was probably bored, as I often am. Skimming through the table of contents, I tried to find a title that stuck out to me, but came up empty. I figured I’d start at the beginning.
Enter the titular short story, “Little Gods.” Originally published by Strange Horizons in 2002, this story follows an unnamed narrator as he struggles to deal with the murder of his wife, Emily. Stricken with grief, he becomes attuned to the world of – you guessed it – gods. After coming into contact with little gods, such as the goddess of heavy hearts and the god of guilt and bargaining, the narrator eventually comes face to face with the goddess of grief herself.
I won’t go into much more detail than that, in case you’d like to read the story yourself, but, at its core, this is a tale of finding hope after great tragedy. Even as his entire world falls apart and he’s convinced that he will never be happy again, the narrator is able to find hope. Though I’d never experienced the exact situation depicted, I had known grief – had been in the thick of it when I first read the story – and seeing things from this perspective changed me, somewhat. It made me want to be a writer, to tell stories that could have just as much of an impact. It was one of the first pieces that really spoke to me, as cheesy as that sounds.
If you’d like to read Tim Pratt’s “Little Gods” for yourself, you can do so here.