Friday, 20 May 2011

A Collection of "Uncannies"

Tales that make a reader pause have been the mainstay of short fiction since family groups gathered round a fire during the long dark nights of winter to hear stories embellished by the natural special effects of flickering shadows and moaning wind. When a wrong decision could mean death, maiming or starvation, these tales were teaching stories, lessons to be learned for the good of the group.

A tight-knit group identity may have faded in our modern lives but short fiction of an uncanny nature, including ghost stories, often retain the same moral core… upset the balance and consequences will ensue. What I enjoy about the form is the different tones that can be employed to convey stories to to the reader.

Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark contains five very different stories written in tones from the quirky to the odd to the sociopathic. But, given the same circumstances, would you act so differently?

* Our Tyke: selling a shop isn’t easy when everyone knows it's haunted
* The Lake: a sight-seeing detour not in the brochure
* Doppelganger: the ghost in the machine
* Harvester World TZ29-4: caught in the trap of an off-planet deployment
* Contribution to Mankind: sink estate joy-riders; it takes only one to make a difference

Here’s an opening excerpt from Our Tyke, which is based on a radio interview I heard many years ago. Yes folks, Britain is haunted, and this is a fictionalised account of a true story
    I put the carton on the bench and started to turn away as Mike’s voluble protestations were cut in two by a rusty bolt shooting through the air at head height, thunking against the tool cabinet and dropping on to the bench in plain view.
   Mike looked from one to the other of us. ‘What the hell are you doing? It could have taken someone’s eye out.’
   Letting free a sigh, I leaned against the bench. George closed his eyes, but I didn’t see any point in carrying on this charade.
   ‘It’s not us, Mike. It’s Our Tyke. He’s just letting us know he’s there.’
   ‘Tyke? What are you talk—?’
   Then it dawned on him, and I thought he was going to swallow his teeth. George placed his hand over his closed eyes. It was going to be left up to me.
   ‘Oh, come on, Mike, don’t give us that. The entire town knows that Grenfeld’s Cycle Shop is haunted. It’s hardly a surprise.’
   ‘Haunted, yes… but… haunted…?’
   I gave a theatrical gesture, a cross between surprise and dismay. ‘What do you expect a ghost to do?’
   ‘I don’t expect it to throw things. Nobody said it was a poltergeist. What else is going to come crashing on top of us?’
   ‘Calm down. It’s not a poltergeist, it’s a boy.’
   ‘A boy? You’ve… seen him? It?’
   I looked to George for assistance – after all, it was his place, I only worked there – but he’d turned to the bench with his head in his hands.
   ‘Sort of,’ I said.
   ‘Sort of…?’ Mike’s voice might have been controlled but his eyes were out on stalks. I couldn’t believe his reaction. He wasn’t seeing the funny side at all.
   And then a tin of nuts and bolts flew off a shelf behind us and exploded on to the concrete floor. The workshop filled with a terrifying yell from Mike and he headed for the door, slithering and skating over the small pieces of metal still in motion. As his cry died I realised that the air was vibrating with a child’s quiet giggling. George followed Mike, but I stood there, staring up at the shelf that had held the tin. There was nothing to see except a space and a fluttering cobweb, but I was certain that Our Tyke was still in evidence. I tried to sound like an aggravated father.
   ‘You’re really going to regret that, young man. You should know better.’

Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark is 99c / 70p
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If anyone wants to leave a comment I’ll be dropping in to reply. Thanks for reading!


Lindsay Townsend said...

Spooky, Linda!

I've downloaded the collection to our kindle and am looking forward to reading it.

Linda Acaster said...

Hey, thanks, Lindsay. I had a good time with them.

LK Hunsaker said...

Nice, Linda. :-) Although I don't read horror, I understand the point of it: the message, the adrenaline rush, the release. And your little tyke sounds like a fun spirit. Are these actual horror or milder ghost stories?

StephB said...

Linda, your horror anthology sounds awesome. I love a good horror story. Where did you find your passion for writing horror?


Linda Acaster said...

Where did I get my passion for writing horror?? Living with my fam... No, don't print that - LOL!

I called the stories "Uncannies" because they're not actually Horror stories, especially in the accepted sense. The only one which would come in that genre is the title story 'Contribution to Mankind', but the horror is within normal life, not from beyond the veil, even if there is a ghost involved. It is an exploration of how a life can edge due to an incident five years back that has been allowed to fester.

'Our Tyke' is quirky, and quite poignant. 'Doppelganger' came out of trying to explain how we writers build different characters from within ourselves. 'The Lake', I guess could be termed chilling, as it deals with stuff that has no explanation.

'Harvester World TZ29-4' came out of the merging of info from two different TV documentaries I watched quite a distance apart. Y'know how it is, there are times when nuggets of seemingly unusable info just lodge somewhere and then shake loose. I felt it had to written in the future for it work properly, so extrapolated and it turned into a full-blown SF.

There's a free excerpt of 'Torc of Moonlight' included in the collection, as it fits the "Uncanny" epithet, but even that doesn't deal truly in ghosts.

Oddly enough, hubby was telling me tonight over dinner that earlier today he'd been in on part of a conversation about seeing ghosts. One of our acquaintances lives in an 'old hall' built in the 17th century, the only surviving building of a mediaeval hamlet. Don't think plush, though. I've heard her say they go to bed in their coats in winter. Anyway, she said she remembers going upstairs as a child and seeing a shepherd and his dog on the landing. The dog she liked, but not the man, and she told her parents about them - who weren't a bit surprised.

Wait until I see her next. Knows a writer and has never mentioned this!!

Linda Acaster said...

Why are my comments always longer than my blog posts??

LK Hunsaker said...

Linda, that sounds like something I can read. I'm a big chicken (aka horribly suggestible) but I like eerie stuff if it's not nightmarish. I'll find it at SW. ;-)

Savanna Kougar said...

Linda, impressive collection. Your excerpt is priceless.

Linda Acaster said...

Thanks for dropping by you two. I've never been drawn to writing about demons, etc. Slasher movies never interested me. I like my oddballs to be real life nudged slightly left-of-centre.

Thought the quirky Our Tyke would work as an excerpt to show that. I mean, how would *you* react if having a ghost around was a normality, like a stray animal that comes round for food occasionally?