USA Today has posted the cover reveal for Neil Gaiman’s new short story collection, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. In addition to an enigmatic cover—just what is that girl thinking?—the site also shared Gaiman’s introduction, in which he explains why he decided to beat everyone else to slapping a trigger warning on his writing.
The collection includes several already-published pieces of Gaiman’s work, plus a new American Gods story, Black Dog.
In the intro, Gaiman reflects on his fascination in watching the notion of “trigger warnings” move from the Internet to college campuses (as certain schools are now putting trigger warnings on syllabi). However, he also maintains that “the monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness,” waiting for a chance to sucker-punch us again. He also discusses the dilemma as a writer to avoid upsetting your audience while not handholding them; he mentions how his Sandman graphic novels had Suggested for Mature Readers labels, which mean that as mature readers, “you are on your own.”
Ultimately, he leaves the responsibility to his readers:
But so much of what we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: we need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.
We build the stories in our heads. We take words, and we give them power, and we look out through other eyes, and we see, and experience, what they see. I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me: stories which contained helplessness, in which people were embarrassed, or mutilated, in which adults were made vulnerable and parents could be of no assistance. They troubled me and haunted my nightmares and my daydreams, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.
Consider yourselves warned. Trigger Warning comes out February 3, 2015.