Tag: eerie

Six Stories: La Reine D’Enfer

Halloween Special! I recently read Kathe Koja’s Six Stories collection, all of which were  spooky or unnatural in one sense or another, and I thought that these stories would be a perfect match for the week leading up to Halloween. Then I got sick, and healthy, and sick. So: post-Halloween Special!

This story is dark and horrifying, both in a social sense of the society it depicts, and the slow simmer of underlying supernatural darkness. Pearlie is a young lad who spends days scamming drinks and trinkets off the more well-to-do in taverns and nights as a prostitute. But one night he encounters Edmund, an impresario, a gentlemen running a theater company seeking actors – and agrees to play the role of the Dark Queen in his company’s play, La Reine D’Enfer: The Queen of Hell.

Koja does an amazing job at building the atmosphere of the setting’s time and place – London or any such bustling British city in old Victorian times. The characters feel spot on, and varied, a convincing jumble of temperaments, and speaking in convincing accesnts and dialect, with evocative idioms and slang.

There is also a lot going on at the thematic level as well. What struck me most, was how Pearlie transitions between  different forms of acting, from scamming and whoring to theater. From minor manipulations to striding on the theater stage manipulating the emotions of the entire audience, and to conversing with spirits, acting and power over reality are tied.

Obligatory Kindle Note: Read this on a kindle!

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Six Stories: Far and Wee

Halloween Special! I recently read Kathe Koja’s Six Stories collection, all of which were  spooky or unnatural in one sense or another, and I thought that these stories would be a perfect match for the week leading up to Halloween. Then I got sick, and healthy, and sick. So: post-Halloween Special!

This is a story that is on point for the entire duration, and has an amazing ending. But I don’t want to spoil it, obviously, so I will do my best to talk around it.

The story follows a farm boy who has made the long trek in from the countryside to the city, to find work in the theater. It is hard work, but our narrator is honest and hard working, and he slowly gains the trust of the theater actresses, actors, stagehands, and the owner-operator, Master Konstantine. At least, until an unsavory visitor named Pytor drives a wedge between the narrator and the rest of the theater.

The atmosphere is exquisite, and established very skillfully through the details of the narrator’s story, his manner of storytelling and speech, and his impressions of the other characters.

Obligatory Kindle Note: Read this on a kindle!

Six Stories: Remnants

Halloween Special! I recently read Kathe Koja’s Six Stories collection, all of which were  spooky or unnatural in one sense or another, and I thought that these stories would be a perfect match for the week leading up to Halloween. Then I got sick, and healthy, and sick. So: post-Halloween Special!

Remnants tells a story of someone living on their own in an abandoned house, crafting a world out of detritus and cast-off junk. The story felt much more spooky than creepy, with creepy describing the previous two stories, At Eventide and Baby. To me, the difference rests with the fewer hints of dark, supernatural wrongness. Instead, the prevailing mood is one of diminishment, sadness, and forgetfulness, buoyed by a touch of enchantment. There is still the mystery of exactly who the narrator-character is, what they have gone through, and how they came to their current state of affairs, and though this is not precisely revealed, enough information is presented for the reader to understand the current situation and make strong guesses at their background. And this ambiguity actually strengthened my sense of sympathy and sadness, in how much this person had lost so much that they cannot even recognize that loss.

The city inspectors’ visits show a clear difference between the view of most people in western culture and the point of view of the main character. A distinction between an enchanted, imaginary world, and the common view of material reality which ignores the beauty to be found in these scenes.

Obligatory Kindle Note: Read this on a kindle!

Six Stories: Baby

Halloween Special! I recently read Kathe Koja’s Six Stories collection, all of which were  spooky or unnatural in one sense or another, and I thought that these stories would be a perfect match for the week leading up to Halloween. Then I got sick, and healthy, and sick. So: post-Halloween Special!

Baby is pretty creepy. It is much more “nightmare fodder” than the previous story, albeit less so as the story winds towards the end, but dolls are just kinda creepy and uncanny. So a doll of a baby with unnatural powers and that can move and communicate its desires, and that hungers? That is super creepy.

That said, I really enjoyed and respected the resolution for several reasons. It was unexpected, simultaneously hopeful and touching but uneasy and potentially threatening. The ending also looped into the beginning of the story extremely well, and used the thread of history of the doll to seal the past and open the way for the protagonist’s future.

This is more of a note about Six Stories than any individual story, but the collection felt like a well-composed album rather than just a collection of similar stories. For example, the contrast between Baby and the previous story in the volume, At Eventide, contributed positively to my experience reading the stories. Structurally, At Eventide is two narratives interweaving, aiming towards a single point in time, told exclusively in third person, distant. Then Baby opens with the protagonist speaking straight to the reader, and the story isn’t a series of structured vignettes of the past as much as a fluid stream of experience and relived memories. Both stories are written skillfully, and share similarities in general tone and content, but are different from each other such that they feels fresh and distinct.

Obligatory Kindle Note: Read this on a kindle!

Six Stories: At Eventide

Halloween Special! I recently read Kathe Koja’s Six Stories collection, all of which were  spooky or unnatural in one sense or another, and I thought that these stories would be a perfect match for the week leading up to Halloween.

At Eventide is very creepy, but not in a scary way or a gross way. The creepiness originates from combining mystery and a slowly growing sense of menace and imminent confrontation, the building suspicion that something supernatural, unnatural, and wrong had taken place. And subsequently the confirmation that something indeed fucked up had happened, and we are witnessing the aftermath, the fallout, which does not dispel that sense of creepiness but reinforces it.

Koja has a strong command of provocative, unique turns of phrase that foreshadow and establish a very particular mood. Her word choice also simultaneously builds vivid, unique images that contribute greatly to the mood, while also providing foreshadowing and insight into the characters and plot.

Obligatory Kindle Note: Read this on a kindle!