29 Oct 31 HORROR STORIES – “The Beckoning Fair One” (1911)
I have a love-hate relationship with the whole, “Is it supernatural, or is the protagonist going craaaaazy?” plot. It’s been done often and well — “The Horla”, “The Yellow Wall-paper”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” — but it still seems like a cheat. Isn’t it so much harder to render, in a believable way, something otherwordly scratching at the cold rim of the sky?
I stole that last line from Fritz Leiber.
I figured I’d have to choose at least one of them, so I chose the best.
Oliver Onions (his real name! Wow!) published this masterpiece in a collection called WIDDERSHINS. It’s about a struggling writer who moves to an abandoned house, and is soon assaulted by an angry, decidedly feminine spirit. You experience the assault on his identity, psyche and sanity with the sensation of being in a tunnel that’s collapsing around you.
Plus, Onions weaves deeper, even more disturbing themes into the novella. Like the idea that to be truly creative, you may have to risk insanity…or worse. The fact that Onions anticipated and repudiated THE ARTIST’S WAY puts him way near the top of this list.
Plus, the fact that this story is fucking scary.
And what a title!