• Featuring a critical foreword by short story writer Edith Nisbet
• A carefully selected pair of short stories never before anthologised together
• Part of The Machine Book of Weird; a curated series of unsettling short stories, chosen to explore the condition of lockdown in existing literature
In E Nesbit’s time, many ghost stories were published in Britain in popular magazines such as The Strand. Hers stand apart because of the utterly plausible way she introduces peril and terror to comfortable relationships or familiar situations.
Man Size In Marble & The Mystery of the Semi Detached is published as part of The Machine Book of Weird: an ongoing series of short stories that explores the consequence of our sudden interior turn. We believe that the literature of the lockdown has already been written. A century ago, writers throughout the supposedly civilised world realised their once familiar, domestic world had changed profoundly and began to describe it in singular unsettling ways. In a rare act of literary criticism, Freud used the word ‘unheimlich’ to describe the disquieting, unsettling short fiction of his time. As has been noted by the critic Mark Fisher and others however, Freud structured his inquiry into this fiction on the stories themselves, unable to create a theory which superseded them.
What we might now call ‘the weird’ instead of the unheimlich is again a central concern of our locked down culture. We are all too aware that our interior reality — strangely similar to the anxious languor of the Edwardian drawing room — can be viewed suddenly and shockingly from the outside. (Indeed, it must be.) Not only have these stories endured, they are now more relevant than ever. We have collected the best of them in pairs — the funny, the horrific and the simply disturbing — to offer insight and commentary on the strange world we are now living in.