It has finally cooled down over here in Yonago, Japan, after a late and hot end to the summer. The leaves are starting to fall and we can feel autumn in the air. This time of the year is one of my favourite times for reading and I like to bring in a Halloween theme to my selections for October.
I don’t read as much horror as I used to. As I get older, I find that I enjoy weird fiction more than the gore-soaked horror of my teenage years. So, what exactly is weird fiction? Instead of consulting wikipedia, here is a brief definition from Penguin Random House:
“It’s a literary style that can blend speculative fiction with elements of horror, fantasy, magical realism, Lovecraftian Cosmicism, and others to create a genre that is surreal and deeply unnerving.”
“There are deep roots to May Day, stretching back through the centuries. I find I have a taste for power in all its forms, […] and what is more powerful than a Queen?” (p.76)
This is the second novella by Aliya Whiteley that I’ve read this year. The first one was her stunning story The Beauty (2014) which left me in awe of its invention, its beautiful prose, and its genuine strangeness. The Arrival of Missives is not quite as strange as The Beauty, but it is equally as fascinating once it draws you in.
Set in a small village in England just after the First World War, this is the story of Shirley Fearn, the teenage daughter of a successful land-owning farmer. She attends the village school and has a crush on its teacher, the injured war veteran Mr. Tiller. Shirley dreams of escaping the traditional, sleepy village life and is exploring the possibility of training to become a teacher in a school in the next town. Continue reading →
“Humanity […] reflects the very strangeness of the land that grows, spores, seeds, and then dies around us. […] Whether reading crime, fantasy, horror, literary or science fiction, the realisation that anything is possible belongs within the land, and therefore within ourselves.” –Aliya Whiteley, ‘The Lay of The Land: Weird Possibility in the English Countryside’
The Beauty is Aliya Whiteley’s second novella. It was published in 2014 by Unsung Stories, a small UK publishing house that has since published her 2016 novella, The Arrival of Missives. It is a story I had been meaning to read for over a year, ever since fromcouchtomoon raved about it on her blog. Living in Japan meant it was difficult for me to get hold of a copy, so I was delighted to finally buy one during a recent trip to England over the New Year.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic England where something unspecified and deadly has happened to the women. A small group of male survivors are hanging on to existence as they attempt to come to terms with a world without women, and all that this entails. Nathan, the narrator, is a young storyteller whose nightly tales seem to be keeping “the Group” going. Until a walk in the forest leads to a shocking discovery for Nathan … Continue reading →