Here at The Feminist Bibliothecary, I have always loved hosting Lite Reads, our weekly short story club. It is always a pleasure to share short stories, explore the ideas within them, and see what others comment about them here and on social media. I’ve been hosting Lite Reads since 2018, and I have no wish to stop. However, for a multitude of reasons, I will be extending our current hiatus indefinitely.
During covid, Lite Reads has become difficult for me to manage with my mental health and my physical health. I am disabled, which I have written about here before, and I have my symptoms and treatment to manage (which has become incredibly difficult to do because of the pandemic), and I also have insurance company stuff to manage to continue to receive an income. The added pressure of the Lite Reads schedule has made it more difficult to manage these things.
Because of my physical and mental health suffering during the pandemic, I’ve also found that worrying about the Lite Reads schedule has made it even more difficult to share any additional content here on The Feminist Bibliothecary and our affiliated social media since most of the writing energy I have has gone to Lite Reads content.
If you are interested in seeing some of our previous selections while we are on hiatus, there are over one hundred short stories to choose from, including a variety of authors and genres and places of origin. I encourage you to go through the ones that interest you. When we return, I have countless other short stories to share. In the meantime, I’m relieved to have lightened my weekly schedule, even by this small amount.
I will not be taking a hiatus from other Feminist Bibliothecary content. You will still be able to find me on social media and I hope that this will allow me to write more content right here outside of Lite Reads. Once I have recharged from the pandemic burnout and the Lite Reads burnout, I look forward to returning to Lite Reads, and I will post relevant updates both here and on social media, including advanced notice before we return to Lite Reads and any details about what form it will return in.
Thank you to everyone who has joined me in reading these short stories over the years. We will enjoy more stories together in the future. For now, let us enjoy the break of this indefinite (but not permanent!) hiatus.
We are ready to wrap up our 122nd Lite Reads selection, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury. Thank you for your patience with the delays! There were questions as food for thought on social media as people had the chance to read it and think about it. I will be sharing my own thoughts here. Spoilers ahead for those who have not read the story yet.
The Veldt by Ray Bradbury is a 1950 short science fiction story originally published in The Saturday Evening Post and later included in the 1951 collection The Illustrated Man. The story follows the Hadley family, parents George and Lydia and children Wendy and Peter, inside their Happylife Home, a fully automated futuristic home with every luxury. They have air shoots that pull them to the second story, machines that clean the house, cook dinner, deal with their personal hygiene, and more. The children also have a virtual reality Nursery that conjures whatever setting they imagine to play in. The Nursery can show them Wonderland and Oz, a cow jumping over the moon, nature settings, and more. The Hadley parents have realised, however, that the children have become fixated on the room as an African veldt, with the death screams of an unknown animal followed by the visuals of lions consuming a carcass in the distance. George and Lydia are deeply disturbed by the turn their children’s play has taken, and they contact a friend who happens to be a psychologist. The psychologist advises that they turn off all of the amenities in their house, including the Nursery, take a vacation, and bring the children for regular sessions with him. The children are devastated by this and fight and plead, and the parents finally cave and allow them to say goodbye to the Nursery before they shut it off. The children use this opportunity to lure the parents to the Nursery’s veldt, where the lions devour the parents, and it is revealed that the lions were always seen killing and eating the parents in the distance.
I think it’s really interesting to see how The Veldt looks at the ways we use technology, especially technology in the home. In a lot of ways, the technology is reminiscent of modern technology, but I think this is primarily because the way we as humans view technology hasn’t really changed. Wanting devices that make our lives easier is the primary reason we create technology, and we want easy access to technology that entertains us. Beyond this, there’s also a fear of technology, a worry that we rely on it too much for our own wellbeing, and a concern that children will be corrupted by it. When the story was written in 1950, televisions were becoming common household items, kicking off the beginning of modern parental concerns about what media children are consuming (although older concerns certainly exist, particularly with movies, books, and comics). It feels a lot more similar to parental arguments in recent decades about what video games children are playing and whether that might give children violent tendencies, so it’s interesting to see a prediction tied to contemporary concerns that leant to an accurate enough prediction about modern fears.
Beyond technology, it’s interesting to see which ways The Veldt has remained relevant and which ways it is very much dated to the 1950s. The futuristic technology leaves Lydia Hadley feeling inadequate in her role has housewife and stay at home mother, which is primarily pretty specific to 1950s family life where she wouldn’t have been expected to do anything outside of the home, particularly as a well off white woman. She says “The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid.” It actually makes me think of a more recent example, when The Simpsons move into an automated home in the episode “You Only Move Twice” and Marge takes to drinking wine every day because the automated functions have replaced her in the home. In a modern home, it’s hard to imagine anything comparable given that so many mothers need to work, and it’s becoming more accepted for mothers to have hobbies of their own as well (although this is still not as accepted as it needs to be). The story’s largest fault is the way it exoticises the idea of “Africa” (no specific country mentioned) as a dangerous and disturbing place, which feels incredibly 1950s USA to me. The Hadley parents are honestly way too concerned with the idea that their children are playing somewhere foreign obsessively than that they want to picnic next to supposed animal carcasses while the killing is happening. I have to admit that when I originally read the story, I didn’t even question the way the story deals with Africa, and now it’s something I consider to be a flaw in the ways it detracts from the other elements of the story. For the most part though, every 1950s element of the story does feel like it could still be true in most ways for the average conservative white upper middle class USAmerican family.
As we are reading The Veldt during Spooky Season, I have to note that it does have a horror trope I do have a soft spot for, which is the Creepy Child (and the related trope, Enfant Terrible). Is it even Halloween if you haven’t read or watched something in which a child, intentionally or unintentionally, scares the pants off of you or does something horrible? I feel like Peter and Wendy are great suburban examples of these tropes, where they seem like average kids in a well-off neighbourhood. They’re polite, they like to play, and they will murder their parents if they take their toys away. Their fixation on what appears to be animal death is disturbing enough on its own, but the reveal that they’ve always been fixated on their parents death is so much more disturbing, especially since there appears to be no true motive for that fixation prior to the parents question why this death sequence is even there in the first place. While Peter doesn’t hesitate to threaten his father when he learns that the Nursery may be shut off, we know that violent imagery is something he was sitting with before this, and by the end, we know that violent imagery was always fixated on the parents.
Overall, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury is a fascinating and fun story that I enjoyed pulling out for a re-read (I originally read it as part of The Illustrated Man several years ago) and felt it made for delightful Spooky Season reading. The white USAmericanness of it is more overbearing than I remember it being, but if you can get past that, it’s a fun story.
I hope everyone who participated by reading the story and following along on social media has enjoyed themselves. If you have more thoughts to add, you can leave a comment here, or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram. You can also join in on the discussion at Litsy by following @elizabethlk and the #litereads hashtag. As we are taking the week off, our new selection (the final Spooky Season pick for this year) will be available this upcoming weekend, Sunday, October 31.
Edit: We will be taking a brief hiatus before announcing our next selection. The next pick will be available on Sunday, November 28, 2021. Thank you for your patience, it is appreciated.
Edit 2: We will be extending the hiatus into the new year. Lite Reads will return on Sunday, January 9, 2022. I look forward to starting off the new year with some fresh Lite Reads selections. Please feel free to go through our previous selections, we’ve done over a hundred in the past, and there are some real gems in there. We’ve also done holiday short stories in the past, so please feel free to check out some of our previous holiday stories during your winter festivities.
Welcome to The Feminist Bibliothecary’s Lite Reads, where we read a different short story every week, and then discuss it here and on social media. This is our 122nd selection. This week’s Lite Reads selection is The Veldt by Ray Bradbury.
The Veldt by Ray Bradbury is a dark science fiction short story that was originally published in 1950 in the Saturday Evening Post as “The World the Children Made” and was republished in Bradbury’s 1951 collection The Illustrated Man under its current title. The story is about a family living in an automated house in which the children become increasingly attached to the virtual reality nursery.
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was USAmerican speculative fiction writer. He was one of the most well-respected and acclaimed speculative fiction writers of the twentieth century, having written dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories. His best-known works include Fahrenheit 451 (1953), The Martian Chronicles (1950), The Illustrated Man (1951), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). Among his many awards is a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 2007 for his “distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
You can read The Veldt by Ray Bradbury in full for free through this PDF. You can also listen to an audio version of it on YouTube.
Please feel free to leave a comment here, or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram. You can also join in on the discussion at Litsy by following @elizabethlk and the #litereads hashtag. You can find our full review on Saturday, October 16.
We are ready to wrap up our 121st Lite Reads selection, In The Cave of the Delicate Singers by Lucy Taylor. There were questions as food for thought on social media as people had the chance to read it and think about it. I will be sharing my own thoughts here. Spoilers ahead for those who have not read the story yet. Content warning: the story we’re discussing includes violence, murder, missing persons, and suicide.
In The Cave of the Delicate Singers by Lucy Taylor is a short horror story that was published by Tor.com in 2015. The story follows Karyn, a woman with a form of synesthesia that allows her to feel sound, as she undertakes a dangerous rescue mission. The Brotterling Cave complex has a dark and disturbing history, and every few decades a caver fails to surface or does surface but with claims of haunting singing sounds, homicidal urges, and commits horrific crimes before dying by suicide. Most recently, a pair of brothers, Mathew (hearing) and Lionel (deaf) went caving together, with Lionel surfacing alone and wounded claiming that his brother had signed something about “delicate singing” and attacked him. Three experienced cavers go in for the rescue, including Karyn’s ex girlfriend. When none of the three experienced search and rescue cavers resurface, especially with the terrifying final messages received from them, Karyn makes the decision to go in after them with the hopes that her synesthesia will be an asset since what seems to be causing this response in people is sound. She wears noise-cancelling waterproof earbuds and enters the cave. She finds the first body early on, one rescuer murdered by another. The murderer tries to kill her on sight, although she escapes and he dies. When she reaches the end of the complex, she encounters a Lovecraftian horror that almost convinces her to take the earbuds out with the sensation of the sound alone, until she realises that the missing caver and her ex are there and being consumed by this horror. When Karyn makes it out, the crowd waiting for survivors is shocked and filled with questions when they see that she is alone and covered with blood and grime, but when she opens her mouth to answer those questions, only the sounds from the cave come out. She has become “the throat of the Delicate Singers” and is prepared to enter this role as chaos and violence ensue.
I personally found In the Cave of the Delicate Singers to be wonderfully creepy and I think that the setting is a core part of what made this work. The claustrophobic feel of the cave setting can be inherently scary depending on how you feel about small places in general and caves in particular, but when Karyn is nearly trapped by the corpse of a fellow search and rescuer my heart rate was definitely up. While the small space definitely was important to the plot of this story, I felt like it was just as important to the mood it set. The claustrophobic environment made each turn of events feel more urgent. So much of horror is reliant on setting, and this story relies on setting in the best way. This is a story I couldn’t imagine taking place in any other setting and being as affective. I did enjoy the story overall, but I think the way the setting was built up and was used to be terrifying in itself was a highlight.
I think the descriptive language in In the Cave of the Delicate Singers was another highlight for me personally. The description used for the setting definitely worked for me, but I think it did a lot more than that. I felt like the tactile way that sound was described was especially interesting and evocative, with lines like “The energy natters against my palms and wet-kisses the space between my breasts.” I also loved the way as the sound intensified, the sound that was said to be driving those who heard it to extreme violence, the sounds she felt were accompanied by increasingly terrifying imagery. The sounds that had started as “wet-kisses” shifted to “a debased horde of humanity crammed into a stadium of bleeding, cruelly crushed bodies.” The way this builds really foreshadows the conclusion of the story, but even in the moment it is chilling and creepy. The author really has a gift for weaving elaborate language into something terrifying.
The conclusion to In The Cave of the Delicate Singers is disturbing in a way that delighted me as someone who enjoys horror protagonists who ultimately find delight in the chaos. I was shocked when I first read it, I really didn’t expect what happened, but when I sat with the story for longer it made a lot of sense. Karyn was clearly not immune to the effects of the sounds, with the violent imagery pouring in from the delicate sensations. With this lack of immunity, I think on some level I expected that she would succumb to the violence, but I was surprised when she became a new “throat” for this Lovecraftian music, bringing the horrors out of the cave and into the general population. With that lack of immunity, her willingness to spread the voice of the “delicate singers” makes sense, and it made for a wonderfully disturbing ending to a wonderfully disturbing tale.
Overall, In The Cave of the Delicate Singers by Lucy Taylor was a deeply creepy and atmospheric horror story that really worked for me. It was a great kick off to spooky season for me personally. I’ve never actually read any of Taylor’s works before, but this is one of those ones to make me want to explore more for sure, because it’s easily among my favourite contemporary horror short stories.
I hope everyone who participated by reading the story and following along on social media has enjoyed themselves. If you have more thoughts to add, you can leave a comment here, or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram. You can also join in on the discussion at Litsy by following @elizabethlk and the #litereads hashtag. Our new selection will be available tomorrow, Sunday, October 3.
Welcome to The Feminist Bibliothecary’s Lite Reads, where we read a different short story every week, and then discuss it here and on social media. This is our 121st selection. This week’s Lite Reads selection is In The Cave of the Delicate Singers by Lucy Taylor.
In The Cave of the Delicate Singers by Lucy Taylor is a horror short story published by Tor.com in 2015. Tor.com describes it as “a horror story about a woman with a rare form of synesthesia who can feel sound waves and the dangerous rescue mission she undertakes in a cave with a nasty past.” Content warning for violence, murder, missing persons, suicide.
As October is fast approaching, this selection was chosen with spooky season in mind. Not all of our spooky season selections will be horror, but you can anticipate a month of spooky season selections ahead.
Lucy Taylor (1951-) is a USAmerican horror writer, known for her novels and short stories. She has a degree in philosophy. Her many works include the novels The Safety of Unknown Cities (1995), Eternal Hearts (1999), and Dancing With Demons (2019) and the short story collections The Flesh Artist (1993), The Silence Between the Screams (2004), and Spree and Other Stories (2018). Her works have also appeared in all five volumes of the anthology series Exotic Gothic. Taylor has earned such awards as the Bram Stoker Award and the International Horror Guild Award.
You can read In The Cave of the Delicate Singers by Lucy Taylor in full for free on Tor.com. If you prefer, you can also purchase it as an ebook for 99 cents. I’m not aware of any audio version of the story, and I apologise for any difficulties this causes.
Please feel free to leave a comment here, or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram. You can also join in on the discussion at Litsy by following @elizabethlk and the #litereads hashtag. You can find our full review on Saturday, October 2.