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Ghosts and Other Lovers
Lisa Tuttle
electric story.com, 188 pages

Lisa Tuttle
Lisa Tuttle grew up in Texas, where, as a young writer, she fell in with the notorious Turkey City gang. She sold her first short stories in the early 1970s, and received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1974. After five years as a newspaper journalist in Austin, she opted out of a life of financial security to write fiction full-time. In 1981 she moved to London. Her first novel, Windhaven, was written in collaboration with George R.R. Martin. This was followed by Familiar Spirit (1983), Gabriel (1987), Lost Futures (1992) and The Pillow Friend (1996), as well as by three short story collections. Lisa Tuttle is also the author of several non-fiction works, most notably The Encyclopedia of Feminism (1986), and a number of books for children, including Panther in Argyll (1996) and Mad House (1998). She now lives in a remote part of western Scotland with her family.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Ghosts and Other Lovers When you read Lisa Tuttle's Ghosts and Other Lovers, don't expect psychos with big knives stalking teenagers or putrescent flesh-eating corpses running amok, for this is a lady who claims M.R. James and Robert Aickman among her influences. These are, as the title suggests tales of ghosts and of relationships between people and ghosts. Consequently much more is made of atmosphere and character development than cheap blood and gore thrills. While Tuttle's stories have neither the erudition nor the exquisite sense of atmosphere of M.R. James and Robert Aickman, her 13 stories do a good job of updating the ghost tale to how we live now, and certainly do a lot more in terms of atmosphere than the vast majority of bestselling horror schlock out there today.

Lisa Tuttle, grew up in Texas, lived in London, England for ten years, and more recently has been living in the Scottish highlands. Outdoor scenes in a tale of standing stones which don't like to be disturbed ("Where the Stones Grow") and in a tale of old Irish mythology not having quite the power it used to ("White Lady's Grave") seem informed by on-location scouting. Similarly, the tales of adult relationships ("Jealousy," "Manskin, Womanskin," and "Turning Thirty" seem to be largely drawn from the author's experiences, with supernatural elements seamlessly added. In the same manner, tales of teenage women dealing with (i) an eating disorder and discovering good sex ("Food Man"), (ii) with an embarrassing and slimy skin condition ("Mr. Elphinstone's Hands"), or (iii) with precognition of a future relationship ("The Walled Garden") all have a ring of authenticity. In that way, most of these stories appear quite personal, many narrated in the first person.

Among my personal favorites is "Mr. Elphinstone's Hands," a story of a "poison" touch, where the (dis)ability to exude ectoplasm is conferred on an awkward young girl of the Victorian era by a man who leads seances. While similar to a subplot in Michael Arlen's Hell! Said the Duchess (1934), where a police detective who goes mad from an unwashable odour picked up from a Satanic presence, Tuttle's story captures very well the psychology of young Victorian women, and the unspeakable nature of certain bodily functions at the time. Similarly, in "Food Man," a teenager's relationship with an incubus born of food rotting under her bed, teaches her about sex and preys on her self-loathing, to ultimately turn her into a killer. As easily as these tales could have sunken to using graphic violence and gore, Tuttle avoids this, making for much better stories. On a more subtle note are the dreamy wistful ghost tales like "Lucy Maria" and "Soul Song" -- lovely tales of separation and rejoining. Perhaps the weakest of the tales is "Haunts" about a foursome of old friends who create a haunted house with a low frequency wave emitter -- the story really doesn't go anywhere, and the sudden development of a same-sex relationship with the narratrix at the end of the tale seems to come out of nowhere.

So, if names like Aickman, Blackwood, and James (or Vernon Lee, to mention a female writer) mean something to you, you'll find a kindred spirit in Lisa Tuttle, perhaps not one with the same Edwardian sensibilities and sense of atmosphere, but certainly one whose tales carry on the tradition of the ghost tale. Ghosts and Other Lovers is available in Rocket eBook, Microsoft Reader, and HTML forms from electricstory.com and will soon be available in book form (limited edition) from Sarob Press, for those of you who still can't read off a computer screen. Whatever your medium of choice, be assured that these tales are among the best new ghost tales out there.

Copyright © 2002 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

Table of Contents
Introduction: Real ghosts
Jealousy
Mr. Elphinstone's Hands
From Another Country
The Walled Garden
Lucy Maria
The Extra Hour
Where the Stones Grow
White Lady's Grave
Soul Song
Food Man
Manskin, Womanskin
Turning Thirty
Haunts


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