Okay, anyone who has come to the anthology workshop that Dean and I hold in the early part of the year knows that I don’t like carnival stories. I fell in love with Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and nothing compared after that. (Plus, I’m not a big fan of carnivals, anyway. I loathe a circus. And I hate zoos as well.) I ended up liking Stephen King’s Joyland because it’s not really about a carnival or, rather, a theme park. It’s about life.
So I nearly skipped Leigh Brackett’s “The Halfling” when I realized it was set at a carnival. Not to mention the fact that the story was published in 1943, and all of the details about Mars, Venus, etc, are wrong. Yes, yes, that means I was looking for a reason not to read it. But I made myself. Or rather, I gave it another paragraph, and then got lost.
The story’s a pure sf horror story, with a lot of setting and atmosphere, and a rather creepy alien stuff, mostly based on cats, which of course, Brackett got right. I couldn’t put this story down. My heart was pounding as I raced toward the end, which was satisfying. Hmmm, another of hers to consider.
And I really like the cover of the volume I read it in, The Halfling and Other Stories, reprinted in 1983 (from a 1973 edition) by Ace. Mel Odom did the cover. Niiiiice.