Dependency! Dependency! Joanna Russ’s “The Little Dirty Girl”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

This week, we’re reading Joanna Russ’s “The Little Dirty Girl,” first published in 1982 in Terri Windling and Mark Alan Arnold’s Elsewhere, volume 2 anthology. Spoilers ahead.

“Oh yes I do,” said the Little Clean Girl. “I live up the hill and under the hill and over the hill and behind the hill.”

Summary

Narrator writes to an unnamed correspondent. Does correspondent like cats? She’s allergic to them, yet they flock to her, twine around her ankles, demanding. She dislikes children (no, she feels awkward around them), yet little boys often make her their confidante. She’s exposed to these aggressive felines and youngsters on her daily therapeutic walk. The doctor says her back will eventually heal, but ...

Mothers, Love, Bones: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Any author who wants to write horror has a decision to make. Supernatural? Splatter? Is this horror featuring men with rusty weapons who chase down helpless people, or is this a ghost story by a campfire? Is there a cosmic battle driving humans mad? Is there a curse? A serial killer? A hook hand? Revenants? Demons?

Samantha Hunt’s third novel, Mr. Splitfoot, is a horror story, though the kind of horror that tends to bob and weave with the reader. This review will be split, like a cloven hoof. I will speak in vague generalities for about five paragraphs, and then I will dig into spoiler territory. This is a book that relies on surprise and plot twist, so if you haven’t read it, and would like to, be warned.

Mr. Splitfoot is a rural Northern Gothic—which is basically a southern gothic but with more snow ...

[Spooky Ghost Noises]: Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James

How have I missed M.R. James? I love ghost stories, I grew up reading horror, but somehow I’d never even read James’ most famous story, “Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad”. But part of my original plan for TBR Stack was to work my way through the teetering towers of tomes that have made my apartment increasingly unlivable awesome, and I finally got to James! I’m not going in any particular order for this column (that way lies madness) but since I’d just read Colin Winnette’s brand new ghost book, The Job of the Wasp, I figured I’d keep the trend going. Luckily among my many stacks of books is the the 1992 Wordsworth Classics edition of James’ Collected Ghost Stories—a collection I greatly enjoyed.

We all agree that telling ghost stories at Christmas is one of the greatest holiday traditions of all ...

Haunting the Body: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones It begins, like so many hauntings do, with a house. Junior’s house, though, is not your typical haunted home: it’s not old, has no secret compartments or hidden historical artifacts, and no one has died there. Junior lives with his mom and his little brother Dino in a modular house, cheap and small and different from a trailer only in that it stays put. “You can leave the reservation,” he overhears his mom say, “but your income level will still land you in a reservation house.” And just like that, they’ve brought their ghost from the reservation as well. When Junior sees him one night, dressed in full fancy dance regalia, he knows immediately that the ghost is his dad. He also knows that he’ll do whatever it takes to make him come back. Stephen Graham Jones’ new Tor.com novella, Mapping the Interior, is a ghost story ...

Matronly Ghosts and Haunted Mansions: Kit Reed’s Mormama

When Dell Duval wakes, he has no idea who he is. He has no ID, no memories, only a note with a Jacksonville address and a flash drive of unknown contents. After a brief stint living on the streets and researching the house on May Street in Jacksonville, Florida, he moves into the basement and makes tentative contact with its occupants. Living in the old Victorian are Lane and her son Theo and their three ancient widowed, dictatorial aunts. Lane sees the house as a temporary refuge after her husband absconds with all her money. Theo is bored, lonely, and angry at everyone. The aunts want Lane and Theo to stay in the house forever, and react unpleasantly when they refuse. As Theo soon discovers, there is something evil about the Ellis House. It’s haunted by the ghost of a woman known as “Mormama;” almost every night she comes to ...

Matronly Ghosts and Haunted Mansions: Kit Reed’s Mormama

When Dell Duval wakes, he has no idea who he is. He has no ID, no memories, only a note with a Jacksonville address and a flash drive of unknown contents. After a brief stint living on the streets and researching the house on May Street in Jacksonville, Florida, he moves into the basement and makes tentative contact with its occupants. Living in the old Victorian are Lane and her son Theo and their three ancient widowed, dictatorial aunts. Lane sees the house as a temporary refuge after her husband absconds with all her money. Theo is bored, lonely, and angry at everyone. The aunts want Lane and Theo to stay in the house forever, and react unpleasantly when they refuse. As Theo soon discovers, there is something evil about the Ellis House. It’s haunted by the ghost of a woman known as “Mormama;” almost every night she comes to ...

The Horror of Cocktail Parties: F. Marion Crawford’s “The Upper Berth”

upperberth Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at F. Marion Crawford’s “The Upper Berth,” first published in The Broken Shaft: Unwin’s Annual for 1886. Spoilers ahead.
“I remember that the sensation as I put my hands forward was as though I were plunging them into the air of a damp cellar, and from behind the curtains came a gust of wind that smelled horribly of stagnant sea-water. I laid hold of something that had the shape of a man’s arm, but was smooth, and wet, and icy cold.”

Summary A group of gentlemanly diners grow weary of the usual postprandial chat about sport, business and politics. Just as the party’s breaking up, Brisbane speaks. He’s a man’s man, tall ...
Illustration by Leanne Tucker

The Horror of Cocktail Parties: F. Marion Crawford’s “The Upper Berth”

upperberth Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn. Today we’re looking at F. Marion Crawford’s “The Upper Berth,” first published in The Broken Shaft: Unwin’s Annual for 1886. Spoilers ahead.
“I remember that the sensation as I put my hands forward was as though I were plunging them into the air of a damp cellar, and from behind the curtains came a gust of wind that smelled horribly of stagnant sea-water. I laid hold of something that had the shape of a man’s arm, but was smooth, and wet, and icy cold.”

Summary A group of gentlemanly diners grow weary of the usual postprandial chat about sport, business and politics. Just as the party’s breaking up, Brisbane speaks. He’s a man’s man, tall ...
Illustration by Leanne Tucker

A Life in the Day: Revealing Release by Patrick Ness

release-crop What a fine time of it Patrick Ness fans have been having! There was the first series of his Doctor Who spin-off, Class, which has been called “a British Buffy” with a touch of Torchwood. Then there was the film adaptation of his Carnegie Award winning novel A Monster Calls: an amazing movie that inexplicably bombed at the box office, shaming cinema-goers such as myself in process. As delightful as these diversions have been, however, Ness is about to get back to what he’s best at: books. His new novel, Release, is slated for publication in the UK in early May, and it takes place over the course of a single day:

It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedom from the release. Time is running out ...

release-by-patrick-ness-uk-cover

Altered Bodies, Familiar Histories: Kiini Ibura Salaam’s When the World Wounds

worldwounds The stories featured in Kiini Ibura Salaam’s collection When the World Wounds encompass a variety of styles and approaches to the fantastic and the speculative. Some explore familiar settings and relationships, while one opts for one of the most challenging feats in science fiction: accurately conveying a set of alien perceptions in terms that come off as both lucid and not overly expository. At times, the tendency of this collection to move from milieu to milieu means that the full scope of Salaam’s work is somewhat obscured; after finishing it, though, the full breadth of Salaam’s range becomes clear. This is a collection in which the most challenging of subjects are taken up, handled deftly, and turned into the stuff of compelling drama. In “The Pull of the Wing,” Salaam tells the story of a group of young, insect-like alien beings who go in search of knowledge hidden from them ...

Altered Bodies, Familiar Histories: Kiini Ibura Salaam’s When the World Wounds

worldwounds The stories featured in Kiini Ibura Salaam’s collection When the World Wounds encompass a variety of styles and approaches to the fantastic and the speculative. Some explore familiar settings and relationships, while one opts for one of the most challenging feats in science fiction: accurately conveying a set of alien perceptions in terms that come off as both lucid and not overly expository. At times, the tendency of this collection to move from milieu to milieu means that the full scope of Salaam’s work is somewhat obscured; after finishing it, though, the full breadth of Salaam’s range becomes clear. This is a collection in which the most challenging of subjects are taken up, handled deftly, and turned into the stuff of compelling drama. In “The Pull of the Wing,” Salaam tells the story of a group of young, insect-like alien beings who go in search of knowledge hidden from them ...

Haunted Places, People, and Books: Listening for Ghosts in Fiction and Non-Fiction

hauntingbooks “I spent several years traveling the country, listening for ghosts.” So writes Colin Dickey early on in his recent book Ghostland: An American History of Haunted Places. Dickey’s previous books have explored subjects like grave robbing and religious fanaticism before, and Ghostland falls into the same category: deeply entertaining, evoking a powerful sense of location, and juxtaposing (with apologies to John Ford) both legend and fact. Dickey’s book is structured around a series of profiles of different places, each of them haunted: hotels and mansions and jails, each with their own evocative strains of history. While Dickey does encounter a few mysterious phenomena, this isn’t as supernaturally-tinged a work of nonfiction as, say, Alex Mar’s recent Witches of America. Instead, his goal is more to examine why we’re so drawn to ostensibly haunted places, and what makes tales of hauntings so relevant over the years, decades, and centuries. What ...

An Uncanny Silence: Thin Air by Michelle Paver

Thin-Air-by-Michelle-Paver-UK It was on the back of the award-winning, six-part Chronicles of Ancient Darkness that Michelle Paver put out Dark Matter. A ghost story inspired by her lifelong love of the Arctic, it attracted flattering comparisons to the work of such giants of the genre as M. R. James and Susan Hill, and became, before long, a bona fide bestseller. That the author has now turned her hand to another tale in the same vise-like vein can hardly be seen as surprising; what can is the fact that it’s taken her six years and another complete children’s series, namely the Gods and Warriors novels. But given the strength of Thin Air, a short, stirring and altogether masterful narrative set on the sheer slopes of the world’s third-highest hill, if it takes another decade for Paver to perfect its successor, that’s a decade I’ll be willing to wait. It’s 1935, and ...

Me, Myself and I: The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

The-Last-Days-of-Jack-Sparks-by-Jason-Arnopp If Hunter S. Thompson had written a Blair Witch tie-in, it might have looked a little something like this. A gonzo ghost story that trades in unreliable narration and drug-fuelled devastation, The Last Days of Jack Sparks marks the original fiction debut of music journalist and now novelist Jason Arnopp, and has as its central character a man who made his name writing for the NME before properly letting loose in a few bestselling books. That’s where the similarities between the author and the authored end, however. I have reason to believe that Jason Arnopp is a genuinely decent human being, whereas Jack Sparks is an egotistical twit who, for his first trick, travelled the length and breadth of Great Britain on a pogo stick, offending everyone he encountered equally. Since then, he’s gobbled up gang culture and gotten close to a couple of Class A chemical concoctions, with similarly ...

The Evil Within: HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

HEX-by-Thomas-Olde-Heuvelt-US An ancient, archetypal evil meets a miscellany of modern motfis—such as surveillance and social media—in HEX, the first of Dutch wunderkind Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s five genre novels (of which this is the fifth) to be translated into the English language. You may well have heard of the aforementioned author already; after all, he won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2015, and was nominated for another unsettling short story, “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow,” two years previously. HEX is longform horror, however, and longform horror is hard, not least because the unknowable, on the back of which so much such fiction is built, can only remain so for so long before folks get sick and tired of not knowing. Yet in HEX, we know what would be unknowable in most horror novels from the get-go: the cause and the consequences of the ghost that has haunted ...
hex-uk

Frankenstein’s Origins Can All Be Traced Back to a Violent Volcano

Mount Tambora eruption Frankenstein origin Pop cultural renditions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein would have you believe that a bolt of lightning is what brings Frankenstein’s monster to life… but did you know that it was actually all thanks to a volcano? Mary Shelley first conceived of her modern Prometheus as a ghost story, dreamed up as part of a challenge with her lover Percy Bysshe Shelley and her stepsister Claire Clairmont on an incessantly rainy 1816 trip to Geneva, Switzerland. Fighting off cabin fever, they competed to see who could come up with the most chilling tale—Mary won, and published her novel two years later. Frankenstein Mary ShelleyNow, just in time for Frankenstein‘s bicentennial anniversary, a recent episode of BBC Radio’s In Our Time establishes more context for the story: In 1815, on an island in Indonesia, Mount Tambora erupted, throwing thirty-eight cubic miles of volcanic ash and magma into the air. The largest observed eruption in recorded history, ...

Lost in Hollywood: Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers

Medusa's-Web-by-Tim-Powers-US Damn near a decade since his last standalone, two-time Philip K. Dick Award winner Tim Powers paints a characteristically trippy picture of modern Hollywood in Medusa’s Web, a tense time-travel thriller about addiction and the fault lines that families straddle. The far-from-happy family at the heart of this narrative are the Maddens, under ancient Aunt Amity—a half-mad matriarch and erstwhile author who owns the deteriorating estate where the bulk of Powers’ tale takes place:
Madeline had moved out of Caveat seven years ago, leaving her aunt with Ariel and Claimayne and the solitary writing of her endless unpublishable novels. Scott had left six years before that, to get married, though when that Louise woman left him he hadn’t moved back in.

Neither Madeline, an astrologer, nor Scott, an artist, had planned to come back to the moldering mansion they left so long ago, but Amity Madden’s explosive suicide necessitates ...

Medusa's-Web-by-Tim-Powers-UK

Japan’s Folklore Chronicler, Shigeru Mizuki (1922-2015)

shigeru-mizuki

Have you ever been walking along and felt the creepy, unsettling feeling that something was watching you? You met Betobeto-san, an invisible yōkai, or folklore creature, who follows along behind people on paths and roads, especially at night. To get rid of the creepy feeling, simply step aside and say, “Betobeto-san, please, go on ahead,” and he will politely go on his way.

What we know of Betobeto-san and hundreds of other fantastic creatures of Japan’s folklore tradition, we know largely thanks to the anthropological efforts of historian, biographer and folklorist, Shigeru Mizuki, one of the pillars of Japan’s post-WWII manga boom, who passed away yesterday at the age of 93. A magnificent storyteller, Mizuki recorded, for the first time, hundreds of tales of ghosts and demons from Japan’s endangered rural folklore tradition, and with them one very special tale: his own experience of growing up in Japan in the ...

mizuki-shigeru-betobeto-san
"Umibozu", 1985.
clash
"Gegege no Kitaro" vol. 1, Japanese edition.
Shigeru Mizuki, with his Eisner Award (2012)
2b91a954e89d3c4bddf6bc145abe59d8

Your Guide to Ghosts From A to Z

To help celebrate Halloween, we’ve put together an informative-yet-creepy list of some of our favorite specters, shades, phantasms, and restless spirits from popular culture, literature, folklore, and myth. The list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, of course, and we hope that you’ll add in your own favorite ghouls and ghosts in the comments….

So without further ado, we present the spookiest, creepiest, most haunting collection of wraiths and phantoms this side of the underworld: Ghosts from A to Z!

A

BEIN_bb172396_500x313

“Ali the Cairene and the Haunted House in Baghdad”: One of several ghost stories told in One Thousand and One Nights, Ali the trader spends the night in a notorious haunted house…where the jinn end up being pretty cool, actually.

Annie Sawyer (Being Human, BBC): On of the three original protagonists on Being Human, along with George (a werewolf) and Mitchell (a vampire), Annie struggles ...

beetlejuice
the-muppets-christmas-carol
skyrim-draugr
ghosts-e
Art by George Grie
ghost_rider_-_keyart
ghosts-h
fieldofdreamst
b44d1a23-01aa-4e77-8486-7c825e3850c7
ghosts-l
alec_guiness_jacob_marley2
johncleese03
The Shining
pacman
1914d4d0a8bdbf1a7a09a7a4f7665355
the lord of the rings nazgul the witch king ringwraith the return of the king 1920x1080 wallpaper_www.wall321.com_70
did-you-know-ghostbusters-slimer-was-loosely-based-on-this-comedy-icon-535476
ghosts-t
Ghosts From A to Z
original
Art by Johann Wilhelm Cordes
ghosts-x
TakakoFuji
17o54czedhjt7jpg

Time Was: Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade-House-by-David-Mitchell-US

Though there have ever been elements of the speculative in David Mitchell’s fiction, his Man Booker Prize longlisted-last, released last year, was the first to fully embrace the form. Section by section, The Bone Clocks revealed itself to be “a soaring supernatural sextet” somewhat taken with time travel and very interested indeed in immortality. Unfortunately, the protracted finale of Mitchell’s sixth made a middling meal of the same fantastical flourishes that had been so appealing when presented with more measure—an oversight I’m pleased to say he sets right in his latest.

Not so much a novel as a collection of interlinked short stories, Slade House shares a world with The Bone Clocks—such that the Shaded Way has a pivotal role to play and Spot the Horologist is the game of the day—but where said setting was once an expansive canvas spattered with the stuff of science fiction, in ...

Slade-House-by-David-Mitchell-UK