the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘short story


Will the person who mentioned this story to me please stand up?  Someone recommended or mentioned Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost, either on their blog or a comments section somewhere or on twitter, or maybe I read about this on or somewhere else, and I want to know who recommended this to me, so I can thank them.

I’m not sure if this story qualifies as vintage science fiction.  It was written more than 100 years ago, so it’s certainly vintage, but it isn’t very SF-y or even fantasy-y. It is a humorous ghost story.  In a round about way, i guess Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost is an ancestor of light hearted urban fantasy, non-horror ghost stories, and maybe even Casper the Friendly Ghost type stories?  It might also be an ancestor of another ghost story, but I’ll get to that one later! 


The Canterville Ghost isn’t very long and you can read it over at Project Gutenberg and there’s a free audio version on LibriVox as well.  Published in 1887 in the magazine The Court and Society Review, this story was Wilde’s first published fiction (he’d already published plenty of poetry).  The gist of the story is pretty straight forward – An American family is getting ready to purchase an English Country house.  The American father, Hiram B. Otis, isn’t pushed off when told that the house is haunted, he’s happy to buy the home, the furniture, and the ghost!

Mr. Otis and his family of Mrs. Otis, their oldest son Washington, their daughter Virginia, and their younger twin sons,  promptly move in, and are greeted by the ghost’s famous blood stain on the living room floor. 


What follows is a laugh out loud story of the ghost, Sir Simon, and his old fashioned attempts to scare away this decidedly modern American family.  Mr and Mrs Otis take every opportunity for product placement,  the twin boys play hilarious (and kinda mean) tricks on the ghost, and poor ghostly Sir Simon is so out of his league he literally can’t even.  


Sir Simon tries the classic trick of rattling chains in the middle of the night.  He’s greeted by a disgruntled and sleepy Mr Otis who tells the ghost to stop being so loud because people are trying to sleep, and oh by the way here is some branded oil for your chains, have a nice evening chap.   When Sir Simon screams and  groans all night, he’s approached by a helpful Mrs. Otis, who offers him a branded tincture to help with his sore throat and supposed indigestion.  I’m not describing it well, but it is hilarious! 

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This month’s Apex Magazine has a bragworthy table of contents.  Fiction by Aimee Ogden, Tobias Buckell, Mary Turzillo, Maureen McHugh and more, and non-fiction essays and reviews from Karen Lord, Mary Turzillo, and A.C. Wise.


You’ll need to check back on their website later in the month to see everything that’s being released for free, but right now, you can read the fantastic short story “Elena’s Angel”, by Aimee Ogden, and you can also read the interview I did with her.


But I want to turn this into a discussion. Go read Ogden’s story.  Or if you don’t have time, just read the Interview. or if you have lots of time, read both. And come back here and chat with me in the comments.   What did you think of the Angelic people in the story? Are they helpful? a hindrance? abusive? are they a gift, or something to be freed from?


And speaking of short stories, I’ve been enjoying some fantastic short story podcasts from Clarkesworld recently,  and hope to post reviews of them soon.

I’m posting my thoughts on the Hugo nominated short stories all week.  You can read Sofia Samatar’s nominated short story “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” over at Strange Horizons.  Click here to see how far I’ve gotten in my Hugo reading.

here’s what I thought:

She knows all the stories, the one where he hides her skin in a locked trunk, the one where it’s hidden in the attic, the one where it’s in his knapsack. And always in the end, the Selkie finds her skin and returns to the sea. Our narrator knows these stories like the back of her hand, yet she adamantly refuses to share them with her closest friend Mona. And since her Mom left, she could really use a friend who isn’t interested in Selkie stories.
There was that magical moment when I realized exactly what the title was referring to. In Selkie stories, the reader is always meant to feel sorry for the Selkie who is trapped on land, and such stories reach their end when the Selkie finds their skin and returns to their underwater family. We’re rarely shown the other side of the equation.  It’s not “loser” as in “shape of an L on her forehead”, it’s “loser” as in the one who lost something, the one who found themselves on the losing side of a conflict, of history, of the law, of magic.
She’s a little jealous of the Selkies in the stories, I think. That they inevitably return to their families like nothing ever happened, and that their families want them back. Everyone in “Selkie Stories are for Losers” seems to have something they are trying to return to, and failing. Here on land, we don’t have a choice – life marches on, leaving us behind.
I loved the unpretentious, fearless, nothing-to-prove writing style. Like the best magical realism, this could be the narrator’s exact experience, or it could be a coping mechanism for what’s happened in her life. Sometimes when reading magical realism, I really do think about the possibility that an unreliable narrator has come up with a coping mechanism. That’s not meant as an insult to the character or the story or the author, it’s just an added dimension for me when reading magical realism. It’s fun for me to think about what’s really happening in the context of the story, and what the narrator is just making up.
I read the story a few times, and never did learn the name of the narrator.  On the one hand, unnamed narrators are a pet peeve of mine, but on the other hand it means she could be anyone – my neighbor, the waitress at that little diner, the girl giggling with her friend at the corner store.

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.