Mr. C. S. Lewis had this to say about the places below the surface of our lives: “Nothing goes on in the in-between places, behind the walls and above the ceilings and under the floor…. But when you come out… you may find yourself… jolly well Anywhere!” (Digory Kirke, The Magician’s Nephew) Mr. Lewis taught me many things, but this may be the essential lesson for an understanding of fiction. It says to me that just as we can get anywhere from these shadowy places, that anything else might get in as well. Attics are similar. They are part of the house, but not. Neither one thing or another.
Attics are not necessarily creepy, unlike basements which are nothing but. I am from Florida, and anything underground is underwater, so when I confront basements, every horror movie I have ever, ever seen flashes through my mind. However, my attic experience is a little complicated, as are most things in your Irreverent blogger’s life. My house was built in a time when inspectors were much more generous, and nothing had to be any particular size. The sea captain who built it also built the ladder to the attic, and he must have had a sadistic streak. Unlike these modern pull-out staircases, this ladder is not for the faint of heart. Once the ladder has been conquered, the entrance to the attic is so designed as to require a sort of pull up to enter. Now, I have never been fit, not in childhood, not now. So getting into the attic for me has always been a difficulty. That being said, mine is not particularly creepy, but filled with bittersweet memories. So, attics are definitely outside of the life of the house and the family, and they certainly have the potential to be scary places.
Attic Toys, edited by Jeremy C. Shipp, plays upon this idea. “Toys in the attic”, as we know, is a euphemism for insanity, so this title is evocative. The first multi-author anthology I have read in years, Attic Toys has a relatively simple premise, dark fantasy/horror stories based around attic toys, including an undiscovered gem by Piers Anthony. We’ve discussed how horror is almost automatically considered irreverent, and the thought of the joys of childhood turned horrifically on their heads is an idea that is bound to offend someone. The toys here are not those with which you and I grew up. Here are stories about anthropomorphic toys, possessed toys, magical toys…. Perhaps we should discuss the creep factor of toys to adults as well? I don’t guess my 42 year old Pooh Bear would like that. In all seriousness, at least for a moment, there are stories here told from the point of view of the toys, which is definitely new to me. It’s difficult to tell too much about short stories without spoiling them, so I won’t. I’m going to suggest that you read them for yourself.
Attic Toys has stories that are simple, but effective. There are also a few that are much deeper, with excellent symbolic passages worthy of any “mainstream” author. There were even stories that moved me profoundly. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every story in this anthology, from the plainest horror tale to the more metaphysical. Rarely have I ever been able to say that about any collection. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I’d rate this book Heavenly.