Siren Stories

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781399603393

Price: £4.99

ON SALE: 7th September 2023

Genre: Fiction & Related Items

Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.

These stories which have never been brought together before are taken from Joan Aiken’s earliest writing years in the 1950s and 1960s when she was working for the English short story magazine, Argosy where they were first published. They demonstrate her wide ranging stylistic ability, with subjects as diverse as a rented apartment that comes with a resident swan, a man who buys a girl in a crystal ball, an invisible man-eating tiger, or a psychiatric patient who can always, sometimes unfortunately, conjure up a 93 London bus.

All these ideas seem to pour out of an endless imagination, making bold use of eccentric and unexpected settings and characters, and at the same time demonstrating an evident delight in parodying a variety of literary styles from gothic to comedy, fantasy to folk tales selected from her incredible reading background. But Joan Aiken always repudiated the suggestion that she was “a born storyteller” she would always argue furiously that it was a craft, like oil painting or cabinet making that she had learned, practiced and developed over the years. She described this period of her life as a single-minded engagement with the writer’s craft; and her grasp of the short story form as the foundation of her literary career.

What is far from apparent from these wildly inventive and freewheeling tales, is that this was in fact a bitterly difficult period of Joan Aiken’s life, when not long after the end of the Second World War she was left widowed and homeless with two young children. Having made the brave decision to try and support herself and her family by writing, she applied for a job on this popular short story magazine. In many ways, as she often said subsequently, this period spent working at Argosy could not have been bettered, both as a wonderful distraction and consolation during a bad time, and as an unbeatable apprenticeship in the craft of writing.


Aiken's elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark. Stylistically, these stories are very much from another era (some of them were originally published under her pseudonym Nicholas Dee), but the moral insights in them are timeless
Aiken's pastoral meadows and circus chaos, gothic grotesques and quirky romances ... have a dream-like quality executed with a brevity and wit that is a testament to her skill as a story-teller
The British master of supernatural fiction
Joan Aiken has established herself as one of the leading purveyors of suspense
What I relish in particular is the swiftness of the telling, the vigour with which brilliant moments of perception seem to be improvised in the sheer delight of the onward rush of the story
Philip Pullman, GUARDIAN
Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising, this collection - like the mermaid in a bottle - is a literary treasure that should be cherished by fantastical fiction fans of all ages
From a bottled mermaid brought home from a sailor's adventures at sea to a vicar reincarnated as a malevolent cat, fantasy is combined with magic, myth and adventure to form weird, wonderful and immersive tales
Joan Aiken's triumph with this genre is that she does it so much better than others