A very good story you should all go read right now

Mary Aileen (@patchworkmouse) pointed to this story on Twitter, and I happened to see it, which is very nice because I’m not spending a lot of time on Twitter just at the moment.

I clicked through and read the story. So should you.

Oh, I just noticed now, after I read it, that it’s by Naomi Kritzer. No wonder it’s good.


The Thing About Ghost Stories


The most interesting thing about ghost stories is that almost everyone has one.

The other really interesting thing, to me, is that they’re nearly all terrible stories if you try to take them as stories. A good story has a beginning, some buildup, and then a resolution or a twist or something at the end. Ghost stories go, “This creepy and inexplicable thing once happened to me. The obvious explanation is that I dreamed or imagined it; I am certain that I didn’t dream or imagine it.” Or in some cases, “I used to live in this house where creepy stuff happened all the time. Then we moved.” Every now and then you’ll hear a story with a ghost that has a beginning, middle, and end, but those are most often urban legends: “One day we were driving along and we picked up a hitchhiker.” (Beginning.) “As we drove, we had this creepy conversation with the hitchhiker.” (Middle.) “Then we reached our destination and the hitchhiker had vanished from the back seat.” (Twist!) That one’s not a real ghost story. It did not happen to your cousin, no matter what he says.

It feels like ghost stories should mean something, but it’s not at all clear what. I managed to get about a hundred pages out of the question, “What do these mean, anyway?” when I wrote my doctoral dissertation to get my PhD in Folklore, all without reaching an actual conclusion. My mother helpfully pointed that out when she read the manuscript.

“If I give them a real answer, they’ll just complain about it,” I said.

“So just tell me, Leah,” she said. “What do you think ghost stories mean?”

Click through to read the rest.

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16 thoughts on “A very good story you should all go read right now”

  1. That is a good story, thank you for pointing us to it.

    Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Martin Caidin’s Ghosts of the Air which is a compilation of some very strange stories experienced by pilots and other people around airplanes. Some with documentation, as they were WWII pilots and everything got documented. – although footnotes to said documentation are lacking, unless they’re actually endnotes – anyway, interesting stuff in there

  2. Allan Shampine

    Heh. I thought this was, in fact, a long blog entry by Naomi Kritzer. Even when I was a third of the way through and the narrator introduced herself as Leah when she was collecting ghost stories, I assumed that she was using a pseudonym while talking to a lot of strangers. I didn’t really twig to this being a fictional ghost story until the conversation with the medium in the cafe, which made me skip to the end to check if this was fictional or not. Which, given the topic of the story, is very fitting.

  3. Allan, since I didn’t look at the author’s name, I had the hardest time deciding if it was fiction or not — I think I was about a quarter of the way through before I realized it even COULD be a story. I can’t remember when I said to myself, “Oh, yeah, this is definitely a story!”

  4. It’s a lovely piece of writing. It so much reads like a research memoir, til the very bear the end.

  5. It has the same difference between folklore and fairy tales that you get with fairies. Tales of the Good Folk that allegedly happened to real people had the same anecdotal quality.

  6. Ditto, thank you for passing along the link. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by this author before, bu I’ll go take a look at what’s available now.
    I love the way this blog community, and especially Rachel’s recommendations leads me to discover new authors.

  7. Allan Shampine

    Hear, hear Hanneke! I’ve gotten so many good recommendations on authors and books from Rachel’s blog.

  8. Hanneke, Kritzer’s Freedom’s Gate trilogy … I think the official name is, let me check … The Dead Rivers trilogy. I don’t like that title much, so I never remember it. But! It’s a fantastic epic fantasy trilogy. Here’s my review.

  9. I get all MY new author recommendations here too — or from some of you via Twitter, on occasion. For YEARS, all my favorite new authors have come from your recommendations!

  10. Oh if *that’s* the case… have you read W.R. Gingell? She writes mostly romantic fantasy, and is one of a number of excellent Aussie fantasy writers. (Andrea, Höst, Garth Nix come immediately to mind.) Most recently I read the “Shards of a Broken Sword” trilogy, but the Two Monarchies series is better. Her current series is UF set in Tasmania.

  11. Well, I think I’m going to try Gingell’s UF series. I like the idea of the Tasmanian setting. Thanks for the pointer!

  12. Peter, what’s the title of the UF series? I DNF her Spindle but it had enough promise I’ll give the author another try.

  13. I’d start with two monarchies. The UF is really long and not finished, and I don’t like it quite as well. And anyway, Tasmania turns out mostly to mean Hobart.

  14. Well, finished is a big draw, no doubt about that. Sure, Two Monarchies it is.

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