the uncanny

by uzwi

L reports, “As a child I often found a piece of fiction deeply odd, an iceberg the visible ten percent of which indicated a hidden ninety, only to discover a few years later that I simply hadn’t understood its social or emotional subject matter.” That’s the effect she looks for in her own fiction under the designation uncanny. “It’s always produced by some relational shift of the elements & you have to withold the later moment of understanding.” I say that I think we’re describing the same thing & that I find it easiest to do in a near-to-mainstream short story; though most of the time it’s a quarry pursued & not quite caught. L isn’t beyond abusing what she calls “uncanniness theory”, but says she’s neither content with anyone else’s definitions nor interested in whether the product meets theoretical conditions. “A story tries to open an angle of vision that shouldn’t be there. Look along it. That’s the best I can offer.” In case that fails, she makes sure there’s always plenty of other stuff–horror, the bizarre, people & actions seen from wrenched perspectives, jokes, allusions & narratives that work themselves & the reader into unpleasant corners. “All the gubbins,” she writes to me, “provided traditionally by that kind of fiction.” I write back that the word gubbins dates us both; while she decides that, as a child, she was “a precocious reader but a backward human being.”