August 10, 2012

Skins by Jess C Scott

Skins (flash fiction mini collection)

A 5000-word mini collection for animal lovers by author/artist/non-conformist, Jess C Scott. She will work at developing more stories with the subject of "animal rights" in mind.

Includes Savion (of a young hunter coming face to face with a prized red stag), Hachiko (based on the true story of a dog's loyalty), and Skins (featuring "Laer," the dark elf from Jess's Cyberpunk Elven Trilogy).

My Thoughts

Before I start this review, I should forewarn you that PETA and I do not get along.

Okay, that's a slight lie. PETA and I do not agree on some things, but we agree on the basic concept that animals shouldn't be abused. However, this is where we disagree: People should be able to wear what they want (this includes wearing animal fur or skin). 

There's the source of our arguments. Now you have been warned. If you do not want to read my review based on my partiality against animal rights (ish) then I understand completely.

Now that we cleared the air, I have to say this book wasn't my favorite. I expected that the author would approach both sides fairly, and unfortunately she didn't. 

I understand that animals have rights (of sorts), however, I think that in order to be fair as a writer, you should address both sides. Obviously, bambi doesn't have dreams of being a painter. Additionally we can assume that bambi doesn't want to be dinner either. 

What we all have to think and remember is that everybody has their reasons behind their beliefs. PETA members have their reasons behind why they don't want animals to be worn as trophies. On the other hand, hunters and people who wear animal skins have their own particular backstories as well.

Now I'm not saying that I think one or the other is wrong. I think we should all have the choice to choose what we want to do and belief. We shouldn't be discriminated or ridiculed because of what we choose. Some people choose to side with PETA, others choose to shoot animals or wear animal skins.

I'm sorry this is coming off like a speech or something (that is not what I intended at all), but I had to say it. I've been burning to say all of this while reading the book. So now I got all of that off my chest, it's time to get a little bit more nit picky and dissect this collection of poems and short stories.

Since this is a collection of short stories and poems, I clearly cannot put this into characters, plots and etc categories. Therefore, I'll stick with my nontraditional model of positive and negatives. 

Let's start with the positive:

1. It showed me my stance on the issue

I had no idea how solid I was on the animal rights issue. I thought I would be able to be objective. To a fault. I understand PETA and what their members are trying to do.

However, I found that I'm partially bias against PETA and their fight for animals. I know, it's completely out of the blue for me. I thought I would be so Stick to the mean evil Cruella Devilles out there but I'm not.

I'm partial because I live in the south. I'm surrounded by hunters and people who wear skins. It's not as black and white as this author portrayed it.

So I'm bias. And I know where I stand. I can definitely thank the author for that.

2. Poems Were Nice

I liked the poems. I wasn't overly impressed with them, but they did have a nice ring to them.

I wouldn't rely on my taste of poetry, since I can tend to be on the picky side. Just as another warning. I like a particular style. If it doesn't fall into it, then I tend to not like it. 

3. One story I really liked . . .

Although, I was tricked. I thought it involved cannibalism. Which wasn't true. Unfortunately. It would have changed my perception of the collection. One gleam of hope snuffed. I should have looked at the title, but I like to look at the title after I figure . . . 

Anyway, I like cannibalism. I have no idea why. I think I love the idea, but then when confronted with it in real life I freak out. However, I am fascinated with it. The human condition. What would drive humans to do so? And would some people need to be driven or just given an excuse . . . ?

Anyway, anyway, I'm veering WAY off track. Let's keep this simple: I liked one story out of all of them. That's something. Ish.


1. Too stereotypical

Like I mentioned before, I don't like it when a writer can't be objective about a difficult topic. Animal abuse and other such topics aren't so black and white. Unless it's a homeowner beating their dog.

I think we can all agree that's pretty black and white.

But once you involve the rights of folks to wear fur and to hunt animals . . . It's getting a bit gray area. And to portray hunters as somewhat unrealistic stereotypical hunters just kinda annoys me. At least make the characters realistic. Give them a voice. Give them some conflict. Or some inner conflict. Instead the author decided to force words and a script down their script which I didn't appreciate.

There's so many different ways to attack this issue. But making stereotypical characters (like the typical rich girl who has fur everything) is not a way to include readers. It's a way to make a statement that won't be heard.

Which brings me to my next criticism . . .

2. It got a bit preachy 

Just a tad. I could almost feel a speech coming on about how all people shouldn't wear skins and shouldn't kill animals.

The thing is: I don't read a book to be preached at. Heck, I don't even go to church to be preached at.

I read a book and go to church to learn more. I love learning (which is definitely a teacher trait) but if you're going to start standing on your soap box and start telling me what I should do . . .

Let me say it this way: It never works out well. 

If didn't work with my parents, it's not going to work with you. I'm rebellious. I don't like to listen. Especially at my age. I don't think of myself as a know it all, but I don't want to be told what to do, how to act, and most importantly, how to think.

I can think and act by myself. I can make my own mistakes. Don't try to warn me. Don't try to shout out and catch me.

I want to fall, fail and make a fool out of myself. Sometimes I do it on purpose (I'll fully admit it) and sometimes, I don't. 

However, either way, I want to do what I want to do and when I want to. 

Now that my brat rant is over, this book was a bit preachy for me. And as you can probably tell, I really, really do not like that.

3. Too predicable

Some of the stories I could see the plot from a mile away. I think even people who can't really predict plots could see the lay out of this plot from a gazillion miles away.

I mean, it's so obvious. We're talking animal rights. And most of the stories are from the animal's point of view. Except for Skins (for good reason), but still.

Just way too predicable. It really kills me that she didn't take a different approach with this. It could have had so much more meaning, make me examine my morals and make me question why I think the way I do.

Except she didn't. Unfortunately.

4. Too much additional comments and back story on poems and short stories

There was this middle part in the collection where it was nothing but poems and 55 word short stories. And on these poems and short stories, there are some comments and back story.

I understand dedicating stories and certain poems to people. I understand writing a short (and I do mean SHORT) background story to the story. Maybe two lines at the most. And I understand that this should only happen once in a while. 

Not on every single short story. Every poem. 

Just no.

I understand that sometimes you just have to explain what the poem is about and where the inspritation is. However, there is a time and place to put this information. Just not on the actual poem. If I'm curious, then I'll check out your website. Or even, your additional notes in the back of the book.

But if I'm not interested, then you shouldn't shove it in my face. 

So all those comments and back story shouldn't be there. It's just irritating.

Additionally, in these notes, there's no need to justify what you added in your book. You're the author. You're the publisher. You make your own decisions. You don't have to justify the decisions in your book. You can explain them, but at the end of the day, you have the creative right to listen to your character's and their story.

So that's that.

5. Skins

I'm sorry, I have to take a special issue with this short story in particular. I didn't really get it. I think there was so much more of a backstory involved in this one story that it was hard to follow what was going on.

For most of the short stories, we had realistic setting in the normal realm. Then, out of the blue, we are thrown head first into a world that's full of magic.


I guess you would have to read it to understand or at least understand the world a bit better. And I get the fact that she's trying to promote her other books with this collection, but this is not the way to do so. I was confused about the world, so I can't be the only one. 

Additionally, I didn't really get to know the main characters except that they didn't like furs. 

And then to end it with more violence, when PETA is against violence in the first place . . . It seems so out of place with the other stories. Especially since all of the other stories have animals as the main character, but this one doesn't. 

I just think it's a messed up flow issue. It didn't go with the other short stories or poems. And I don't think it gave us the impact that I think the author wanted. 

6. Nothing "wowed" me

As in, I didn't really fall in love with anything. The one thing that's sticking in my mind is the Unicorn Haiku and the fake cannibalism story. And even those two items didn't really blow me back and make me reevaluate my feelings towards animal rights.

So meh.

Overall: Would you recommend this book?

I would have to say no. Just on reflex. I would love to say that this book was awesome and considered both sides, but I think the author could have done so much more. 

She described in one part how one company ripped the skins off alligators to use their skin to make something. And that really stuck with me. I mean, THAT'S a story. 

Think about it. What does that person go through? How do they prepare to do it? How does the animal do? Do they use tranquilizers? Think about the sounds that the animal makes . . .

Makes you squirm. Makes you rethink your position on wearing animal skins. It makes you reconsider what you buy, right?

Think about THAT powerful visual. That would have been an awesome story to tell. I mean, if the worker could have some money problems and maybe this is the only job he has. Maybe he's an illegal worker and can't say anything. But maybe the worker is a PETA worker. Maybe living a hypocritical life.

Anyway, you can see the writer part of me just foaming at the mouth, right? And I know it would have  been SUCH a powerful story. It's just there sitting right on the surface to be taken and written.

However, this author didn't take an interesting approach. She just spat out format after format, script after script, same old same old. No no! Don't buy that! Buy this! Why? Because it's baaaaddd! Animal rights and all. 

I'm so tired of hearing that. I wanted something different. I wanted a different reproach on an old topic. 

Instead I got Captain Planet. 

Not a bad guy, but I did this already. Already heard all of it. Save the planet. Recycle. This is how . . . Blah, blah, blah. I get it.

Just for heaven sakes, say something different about the same old topic. Please.