Every decade seems to produce its own attempt to categorize reality through an anthology of the unexplained. For the 1970s Doctor Christopher Evans edited MIND AT BAY and MIND IN CHAINS. Getting ready for the new millennium is Ric Alexander's THE UNEXPLAINED. His approach is similar to Evans, though this is a much bigger collection, so that we get an introduction (by Peter James in this case), and then thematic studies before each story, some of them classics, others re-discoveries, and others still published for the first time here. Each group of stories is collected into "archives" dealing with Supernatural Mysteries, Psychic Phenomena, Alien Encounters, Time Warps and Urban Legends. In turn each of these archives has its story chosen to represent a different theme so that Alien Encounters includes stories on Unidentified Flying Objects, Gods From Space, Alien Abduction and Extraterrestrials.
Dr Christopher Evans ended his introduction to MIND IN CHAINS by saying that his selection said something about him and the limit of his mind. He invited readers to think about their alternative selections and what that would say about them. Applying this to Ric Alexander produces a world bound by some strange curves - for instance, in the Alien Encounter section the stories are all classics by Ballard, Gerald Kersh, Robert Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon, as if Alexander accepts that the Space Age ended thirty years ago as Ballard once said, and that no one has anything else to say. Yet in the next section on Time Warps, Arthur Machen's "The Golden Pyramid" from the Edwardian period sits next to Kit Reed's Reagan era "The Bride of Bigfoot". There you can read a continuity. Machen's story deals with a girl taken by the fairy people, his hero manages to see the fairies dancing in their ring but the girl is not rescued. He says "I don't regret our inability to rescue the wretched girl. You saw the appearance of those things that gathered thick and writhed in the Bowl; you may be sure that what lay bound in the midst of them was no longer fit for earth". And in Kit Reed, his wife taken by the Bigfoot who has crippled him, a husband says "I learned something extraordinary in that terrible embrace. Susie didn't want this thing; it just carried her away." The thing out there has always been stronger and more horrible than we might hope.
The weaker stories are the originals and the more recent: Ian Watson's "Tulips From Amsterdam" is a conte cruelle, and Clive Barker's "The Forbidden" which introduces the Candy Man onto a run down estate.
The final story is Harlan Ellison's "Croatoan", which is categorised as Sewer Alligators under Urban Legends, but is something more exotic. The disturbed protagonist follows an aborted foetus into the sewers and finds a whole lost generation under the city - "the children who rode the alligators". The lost have found themselves.
I hope that the fans of The X-Files, at whom this book is targeted, will be lead out to huge worlds of the authors collected here.
Return to Home Page