Although many of the stories in John Colliers Fancies and Goodnights are reprints from earlier anthologies and popular magazines, this volume represents Colliers main contribution to fantasy literature. These are witty, magical tales in which human foibles and short-sighted decisions lead to fittingly ironic endings.
“The Chaser”, a typical Collier story, features a young man, Alan Austen, who wants a love potion to aid him in entrancing a scornful woman. Despite the warning that her magically inspired devotion will turn into never-ending torment, Austen buys the potion. The end of the story suggests that Austen, years later, will return to the shop to purchase a vial of poison to escape his chosen trap.
In “Bottle Party,” a thirtyish dreamer purchases a bottle containing a female genie from a dusty antique shop. As his taste for the best that life has to offer grows stale, Franklin Fletcher orders the genie to bring him the worlds most beautiful woman. When the genie hints that she has another lover hidden in her bottle, Fletcher magically enters the decanter and is trapped by the duplicitous pair, who remain outside. As the genie and the worlds most beautiful woman take advantage of each others company, Fletchers bottle is returned to the antique shop. At the end of the story, a group of drunken sailors purchases the bottle, which they believe contains the worlds most beautiful woman, and abuse the released Fletcher unmercifully.
A decidedly sardonic afterlife is depicted in “Halfway to Hell.” Louis Thurlow decides to commit suicide after being rejected by his girlfriend. Distraught, he falls into a swoon, and his spirit leaves his body. Louis soon finds himself accompanied by a devil, whom he gets drunk and tricks into carrying away his rival. The next morning, Louis wakes up to discover that his rival is missing and that the pathway to his girlfriends heart is once again...
(The entire section is 475 words.)