Regardless of the actual date and the occasional properly hot moment in the sun it already feels like autumn around here - there's a chill to the mornings and a quality to the light that says summer is done with. It's suddenly properly dark before I'm ready for it as well - and all of that means a renewed interest in Weird tales, though it would be a stretch to say my interest in these ever really diminishes even through the hottest days - and the British Library collection is killing it with the current selection of titles, along with some nice looking things coming up from Handheld Press as well.
How I love it when Summer loses its grip. First up is Holy Ghosts - Classic Tales of the Ecclesiastical Weird edited by Fiona Snailham. There's lots of good stuff in here, including E. Nesbit's Man Size in Marble which must surely be in the running for most anthologized weird story ever - doesn't matter, it's a cracker and gets me every time (a collection of E Nesbit's Ghost Stories is coming from Handheld next year, it doesn't look to include Man Size in Marble this time, but - and I'm excited about this - it does a have a couple of things I haven't yet read in it).
It's almost surprising that it's taken so long for the weird series to focus on matters Ecclesiastical; what could lend itself better to the uncanny? That's not an entirely rhetorical question - if this series does anything it's show just how widely our collective insecurities can spread. It's interesting to note that the majority of this collection (7 of 11 stories) are by women.
Churches, like the home, should represent sanctuary. Turning that on its head is an effective device for giving the reader an agreeable chill, and then however peaceful a church may feel in the middle of the day, with probably kindly clergy around it's a different matter when the shadows begin to lengthen and the doors are shut. It's a world at once familiar and full of mysterious ritual; I have never visited a building that disturbed me more than Rosslyn Chapel with its countless green men leering from every corner. Something I feel sure M.R. James would have appreciated.
Edith Wharton goes for outright horror in 'The Duchess at Prayer', the inevitability of the ending making it no less terrible when it comes. Elizabeth Gaskell's almost novella-length 'The Poor Clare' is similarly easy to predict, but whatever faults it may have are mitigated by the specifics of the curse its heroine suffers.
Altogether an excellent collection and the perfect way to mark the changing season.