One day a few years from now you’ll be busy with something and these stories will come back to you.
Who wields the pen? A new novel from the award-winning author of A Stranger in Olondria.
“An apocalypse may not come in an instant but gradually, as structures erode.”
— Lois Tilton, Locus
Who Are The People in the Castle? Tue 12 Apr 2016
It has been eight years since we published our first Joan Aiken title, The Serial Garden, and five (where does the time go?!) since the second, The Monkey’s Wedding, was released. Today is the publication day for our third Joan Aiken collection, The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories. The book came about because […]
Who isn’t jealous of Jeff? Fri 8 Apr 2016
Ben Loory, author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, just sent us this! “No one writes more beautifully about American nightmares and dreams. Every story is great but my favorites are “Word Doll,” “Rocket Ship to Hell,” “The Last Triangle,” and — especially — “The Prelate’s Commission.” Ford takes ideas that most […]
One for the Poets Thu 7 Apr 2016
Tor.com just posted a Joan Aiken story from The People in the Castle. It is creepy, funny, fantastic, and as Tor says, “darkly lyrical.” It is for poets, would-be poets, for writers, I suppose, of all sort, and writers’ families . . . “Patrick was a poet, perhaps I should explain. Had been a poet. […]
trade cloth · 256 pages · $24 · 9781618731128 | ebook · 9781618731135 · Edelweiss
New: Read the introduction and title story on Tin House.
Here is the whisper in the night, the creak upstairs, that half-remembered ghost story that won’t let you sleep, the sound that raises gooseflesh, the wish you’d checked the lock on the door before it got really, really dark. Here are tales of suspense and the supernatural that will chill, amuse, and exhilarate.
“The particular joys of a Joan Aiken story have always been her capacity for this kind of brisk invention; her ear for dialect; her characters and their idiosyncrasies. Among the stories collected in this omnibus, are some of the very first Joan Aiken stories that I ever fell in love with, starting with the title story “The People in the Castle,” which is a variation on the classic tales of fairy wives.”
— Kelly Link, from her Introduction
“[A] haunting and wondrous book.”
— Emily Nordling, Tor.com
“If you’re looking for speculative short fiction of a decided literary bent, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying source than this assembly of fantastical work by the peerless, prolific Joan Aiken (who died in 2004), assembled from across her storied career. The magical and the everyday collide in these short, evocative tales, which, in marvelously efficient, elegant prose, find unsettling strangeness lurking just around the corner from normal (the ghost of a puppy is trapped in an abandoned storage box, fairy queen squat in overgrown forests). A slim, seriously moving collection.”
— Joel Cunningham, B&N SF&F
“A welcome anthology of fantasy stories by a 20th-century master. The author of the beloved classic gothic for children The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Aiken (1924-2004) also wrote hundreds of works of popular fiction that spanned the genres, from fantasy to horror to historical fiction, including several Jane Austen sequels. Naturally the tone of her books and short stories varies with their content, but its main notes include sophisticated, spritely satire and the darker moods of literary fairy tales. Fans of Wolves will recognize the honorable orphans and cruel guardians who populate these tales. Typically the wicked meet with fitting fates and the innocent triumph, though for Aiken, a good death counts as a happy ending. She plays with the contrast between the eldritch and modern culture and technology: ghosts and dead kings out of legend who contact the living by telephone, a doctor who writes prescriptions for fairies, a fairy princess who’s fond of Westerns. Her metaphors and similes surprise and delight: “the August night was as gentle and full as a bucket of new milk”; “He was tall and pale, with a bony righteous face and eyes like faded olives”; across a field, “lambs [followed] their mothers like iron filings drawn to a magnet in regular converging lines.” Sprightly but brooding, with well-defined plots, twists, and punch lines, these stories deserve a place on the shelf with the fantasies of Saki (H.H. Munro), Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Susanna Clarke.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“There’s so much to love about this slender collection… The juxtaposition of mundane and magical…feels effortless and fresh. The language is simply splendid, so evocative, as though the stories were actually very dense poems. And it brilliantly showcases Aiken’s affectionate, humorous, deft portrayals of female characters… Aiken’s prose is extraordinary, impossible to do justice to in this small space. Her skill with the language of folk tales—specifically the oral storytelling native to the British Isles—is unparalleled… These stories both feel very 20th century and somehow timeless.”
— Publishers Weekly, Boxed, signed review by Rose Fox, Senior Reviews Editor
Table of Contents
Introduction by Kelly Link
“The Power of Storytelling: Joan Aiken’s Strange Stories” by Lizza Aiken
The Dark Streets of Kimball’s Green
The Lame King
The Last Specimen
A Leg Full of Rubies
The Man Who Had Seen the Rope Trick
The Mysterious Barricades
The People in the Castle
A Portable Elephant
A Room Full of Leaves
She Was Afraid of Upstairs
Some Music for the Wicked Countess
Sonata for Harp and Bicycle
Joan Aiken (1924–2004) was born in Rye, Sussex, England, into a literary family: her father was the poet and writer Conrad Aiken and her siblings, the novelists Jane Aiken Hodge and John Aiken. After her parents’ divorce her mother married the popular English writer Martin Armstrong.
Aiken began writing at the age of five and her first collection of stories, All You’ve Ever Wanted was published in 1953. After her first husband’s death, Aiken supported her family by copyediting at Argosy and working at an advertising agency before turning to writing fiction full time. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Women’s Own, and many other magazines.
She wrote over a hundred books and was perhaps best known for the dozen novels in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series. She received the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards for fiction and in 1999 she was awarded an MBE.
Cover art “The Castle in the Air” by Joan Aikman, 1939. © Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis
Praise for Joan Aiken’s stories:
“Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising, this collection-like the mermaid in a bottle-is a literary treasure that should be cherished by fantastical fiction fans of all ages.” — Publisher’s Weekly
“Darkly whimsical stories…Aiken writes with surpassing spirit and alertness, her elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Each story has a surprise or twist. Many are ironic, go-figure pieces. They are just like real life, only more so. VERDICT: This book will appeal to readers of short stories and literary fiction. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal
“Aiken’s pastoral meadows and circus chaos, gothic grotesques and quirky romances… have a dream-like quality executed with a brevity and wit that is a testament to her skill as a story-teller.” — California Literary Review
“From a bottled mermaid brought home from a sailor’s adventures at sea to a vicar reincarnated as a malevolent cat, fantasy is combined with magic, myth and adventure to form weird, wonderful and immersive tales.” — For Book’s Sake
Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1924-2004) wrote over a hundred books and won the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards. After her first husband’s death, she supported her family by copyediting at Argosy magazine and an advertising agency before turning to fiction. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Argosy, Women’s Own, and many others. Visit her online at: www.joanaiken.com | The People in the Castle.
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“Beautiful, descriptive prose enriches tales of ghosts, loss, and regret in this leisurely collection.”— Publishers Weekly
“Rooted in Chabi’s voice, the story is spare, fierce, and rich.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“If you are ready for the experience of Prodigies, it is definitely ready for you.”
— Carmen Maria Machado, NPR
“In an era of bright, simple adaptations, Was is different—melancholy, beautiful, and yes, full of heartaches and nightmares.”
“Jama-Everett has a knack for braiding issues of spirituality and race throughout a compelling fantasy landscape.”— Leilani Clark, KQED
“A ravishing, profane, and bittersweet post-apocalyptic bildungsroman transcends genre into myth.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Sublimely lyrical Jacobeanesque dialect . . . readers who enjoy
symbolism and allusion will cherish Gilman’s use of diverse folkloric elements to create an unforgettable realm and ideology.” —Publishers Weekly
“Lightly flecked with fantasy and anchored in vividly detailed settings.” — Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year
“Califa: riotous carnival world of soldiers, drunks and magick.”— Kirkus Reviews
Ben Jonson has written the part of a lifetime for the Prince of Wales: he will play Oberon, the King of Faerie. It’s only theater. What could go wrong?
It was morning and the power was not yet on. Zach and Renee lay in the heat of the bed listening to the city wake outside the building’s windows.
World Fantasy Award winner
“Glows with intelligence . . . though not for the faint of heart.”
—Booklist (starred review)
A young man has to choose who to love, who to leave in the 1926 General Strike in Britain.
“Waldrop is probably the single most remarkable writer I know of who non-genre readers remain largely unfamiliar with.”—William Gibson
“Howard Waldrop is the Studebaker Golden Hawk of genre fiction, a classic of structure and design. His unique stories autopsy the entrails of our eccentric past and reveal, often in oracular fashion, insanities to come.” — Lucius Shepard
“Combines humor and compassion in 17 short, intricate gems.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Loch Ness’s claims pale beside the super-exciting discovery made by Emma . . Expert mystification, the tender conscience and burning courage of the young, tantalising details, make this a compelling tall story.”
Elemental Logic: Book 1
Spectrum Award winner
Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award nominee
“DeNiro has already garnered a reputation as a genre-bending experimental author with an indescribably quirky but captivating prose style.”—Carl Hays, Booklist
“The most startling, original, and entertaining short story writer in science fiction today.”
—George R. R. Martin
Indies Choice finalist.
Locus Award finalist.
Los Angeles Times Best of the Year.
“The beautifully evoked sense of lives lived under the eye, not only of prying neighbors, but of God, with all the terror and possibility that entailed.”—Publishers Weekly
Shirley Jackson Award winner.