I’ve been reading a short story anthology called The New Uncanny this week. There’s no horror in the amityville sense, nor gallons of gratuitous gore. These gems, as the subtitle suggests, are Tales of Unease.
In varying degrees, they sent tingles down my spine. Some happened as I read, others were slow burners that seemed fairly innocuous in content, but resonated hours later.
And if you’ve ever wondered where such ideas come from, then try looking at the source of inspiration for these stories. Comma Press commissioned fourteen established writers to create stories based on Freud’s 1919 essay, The Uncanny.
That fascinating piece of literary analysis was inspired by a 1906 essay, The Psychology of the Uncanny by Ernst Jentsch. Both essays based their investigations on a story by E.T.A. Hoffman, The Sandman.
Convoluted, isn’t it? But personally, I like a few twists along the way, and I shall definitely be keeping a copy of the eight tropes Freud listed. In case we don’t want to explore the essay, Ra Page gives us the ‘eight irrational causes of fear deployed in literature’ in his introduction to The New Uncanny (thought I’d best repeat the title, in case you’d forgotten what I started with). I make no excuses for copying them out here, but I hope you’ll still go out and get a copy of this anthology. There’s some lovely writing in it.
- inanimate objects mistaken as animate (dolls, waxworks, automata, severed limbs etc.),
- animate beings behaving as if inanimate or mechanical (trances, epileptic fits, etc.),
- being blinded,
- the double (twins, doppelgangers, etc.),
- coincidences or repetitions,
- being buried alive,
- some all-controlling evil genius,
- confusions between reality and imagination (waking dreams, etc.).