Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier

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Fancies and Goodnights Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

After a short career as a serious novelist, Collier turned in the 1930s to writing this type of short fiction, which examines human behavior in a shallow and somewhat moralistic way. A few of his stories are brutal and lead to the questioning of reality that takes place in more modern horror literature. For example, the detestable Princey family of “Wet Saturday” manages to get away with a senseless and cruel murder. After framing an innocent man and persuading him to try to escape, they call the police.

A similar kind of hypocrisy is the main failure of Big Simon, the protagonist of “Thus I Refute Beelzy.” His blindness to his sons evil dooms him. Big Simon, a doctor with “advanced” views of parental care, allows his son, Little Simon, to dabble in black magic. As punishment for bullying this information out of the boy, Big Simon is destroyed by the supernatural forces that his son has unleashed.

Although there are a few similarly somber stories in the volume, most of Collier’s work is lighter in tone. When the supernatural appears in these stories, it is rarely treated as an interruption of the rules of reality or as an important event in its own right; most often, the supernatural is taken as a matter of fact by the protagonists. Thus, like his contemporaries Aldous Huxley and Shirley Jackson, Collier uses marvelous or uncanny events as plot devices, allowing his characters to express their innermost selves freely. Unlike his contemporaries, however, Colliers interest in writing tightly plotted ironic stories takes precedence over the serious psychological examination of his characters. The people who live in Colliers...

(The entire section is 407 words.)