Dolls might be surrogate friends to children and kitsch collectibles to many adults, but there lingers deep beneath the surface of our cultural awareness of them a dark and unsettling fear. A whole cinematic genre explores the idea of “evil dolls” and some are among the most memorably creepy movies ever made. Take a look through the Backbrain Evil Doll Film List to tick off examples that have creeped you out at some time in the past. As has been addressed time and again in B-horror films, such humanoid creations partake of an unnerving quality. It’s perhaps their unnatural near-humanity that does it — almost human, yet not fleshy; cold and unliving despite their appearance of life. Add actual movement, actual speech, and our sense of wrongness escalates. Evil dolls are poster children of the Uncanny.
Editor Anthony Ferguson has compiled an outstanding collection of Australian stories that feature evil dolls and artificial humans. It includes my story “Regolith”, which was initially published in the excellent anthology Agog! Smashing Stories, edited by Cat Sparks back in 2004. That anthology is well-nigh impossible to get now, but the story remains a particular favourite of mine. I’m excited that it’s getting a second life in this particular context.
Devil Dolls and Duplicates in Australian Horror
Edited by Anthony Ferguson (Equilibrium Books, 2011)
Since time immemorial, men have dreamed of creating beings in their own image, and for almost as long they have endured nightmare visions of being overthrown by the beings they create.
Dolls and effigies have always been a staple in the horror fiction genre, for what could be more frightening than seeing that which is inanimate move of its own volition, or hearing words emanate from fleshless lips while staring into glassy, lifeless eyes?
Presented here for the first time are the collected ruminations on the theme of dolls and duplicates by some of the biggest names in Australian horror and science fiction. There are tales on reanimated corpses, beautiful gynoids, alien impostors, clones, golems, doppelgangers, and of course, dolls – effigies that exist to serve and protect, and others that want to mess with your head in the worst possible way.
- Marcus Clarke, “Human Repetends”
- Wynne Whiteford, “Automaton”
- Van Ikin, “And Eve Was Drawn from the Rib of Adam”
- Michael Wilding, “This is for You”
- Stephen Dedman, “A Single Shadow”
- Jason Franks, “The Third Sigil”
- Jay Caselberg, “Porcelain”
- Sean Williams, “The Girl Thing”
- Chuck McKenzie, “Confessions of a Pod Person”
- Lee Battersby, “The Divergence Tree”
- Rick Kennett, Excerpt from “In Quinn’s Paddock”
- Lucy Sussex, “La Sentinelle”
- Jason Nahrung, “Spare Parts”
- Robert Hood, “Regolith”
- Kaaron Warren, “Doll Money”
- Andrew J. McKiernan, “Calliope: A Steam Romance”
- Tracie McBride, “Last Chance to See”
- Martin Livings, “Blessed are the Dead that the Rain Falls Upon”
- B. Michael Radburn, “The Guardian”
- Daniel I. Russell, “Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem”
- Christopher Elston, “Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces”
To order a copy of the book, go to the Equilibrium site.