The October Country
“...that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay.”
Few authors are better qualified to usher in All Hallow’s Eve and October itself than Ray Bradbury. Quite a few of his short stories and even some of his novels revolve around the holiday, and many more tales are evocative of that autumnal chill in the air. And so, whether that autumnal chill is present or not, today’s vintage spotlight turns to Bradbury’s seminal short story collection, ‘The October Country.’
Ray was at home in various genres, but if you dig his weirder, more macabre tendencies, this is the volume for you. Malevolent winds, mysterious upstairs neighbors, supernatural families, and a lethal newborn are all found here. The dark vibe is to be expected, considering these stories originated in the pages of pulp magazines like ‘Weird Tales’. Beautifully written, they may not be among Ray’s most respected work, but they’re typical of his boundless imagination and frequently unsettling. This is one of his earliest collections, published in 1955, and in truth is mostly a repackaging (with some revisions) of tales from ‘Dark Carnival’, his very first book, which was released under August Derleth and Donald Wandrei’s small press publishing venture, Arkham House.
For me, Bradbury was a gateway author. In his short story ‘The Exiles’ (found, among other places, in his excellent collection ‘The Illustrated Man’), he name-drops authors I had never heard of at the time: Bierce, Blackwood, Lovecraft, Asquith. This single tale sent me in new directions, searching for the creators that influenced Bradbury, and finding an entirely new and ever-widening world of strange fiction that I still explore today. Even if you’re not ready for quite such an epic journey, you should give these unusual and eerie stories a chance. Halloween is coming.