Fiction Reviews

One Eye Opened in That Other Place

(2024) Christi Nogle, Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / Can$19.95 / US$16.95, pbk, 214pp, ISBN 978-1-787-58836-3


Flame Tree Press, like Titan Books, have a knack of bringing foreign authors to a UK audience. Previously they have published Christi Nogle’s The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future, but I would posit that One Eye Opened in that Other Place is a very different collection of short stories concentrating on the liminal, the spaces between other spaces, and also the spaces between states or transitions that someone might make, so is less supernatural, and horrific, more downright weirder than her previous collection.

Here we have a collection of 27 short stories, and some of them are very short stories of no more than 2, 3 or 4 pages. Apart from the stories themselves we also get their full publication history, content notes, and acknowledgements. Having read her previous collection, I’ve always admired Nogle’s ability to get the most out of her stories, and by that I mean having them published in more than place – in another market that accepts reprints or as a podcast. Here, she does that trick again by having stories appear again in print and then again in audio form, although five of the stories are original to this collection. As for the content notes, I’ve never read a short story collection where there are content notes, although I have attended writers’ groups where the story being considered has notes added. Nogle’s alerts the reader to the fact that some of her stories contain blood and gore, or fat-phobia, body shaming, infants in distress, sexist ideas and “mild” body horror – you have been warned.

Content notes aside, what these stories do more than anything else is make you think. Right from the off, in the very first story “Playmate” when the reader accompanies a mother and daughter on a journey back to her family home. Things are obviously tense between the two of them and the mother has a building feeling of dread at the prospect of meeting her own mother. All of this raises a series of questions in the reader’s mind about family dynamics, but those questions won’t prepare you for what happens when they finally arrive, and this story sets the tone for the collection as you are going to read ideas and concepts you have never read before.

As mentioned some of the stories are very short, almost vignette-like, snapshots of something bigger but they will stick in the mind like “Fall Into Water, Become Someone Knew”, a story which does what it says on the tin, or in the title, but comes across as a collision of Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What aids these stories is Nogle’s sharp delivery, there is not a wasted word in any of them, either in depiction of place or people, and some of them have a fairy tale vibe – you don’t want to go there, you want to be someone else, and I certainly felt that in some stories like “A Chronicle in the Mole-Year” she is venturing into Ray Bradbury territory with the small town setting and a young protagonist.

Any collection is a mixed bag, readers will like some stories more than others, but nowhere else are you going to find stories that involve people having three eyes, or dogs giving birth to babies, or paintings with the ability to think. If you want to read speculative fiction that is very different, then this is the place. Recommended.

Ian Hunter


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