“The Damned Thing,” Ambrose Bierce, 1893

The Damned Thing,” Ambrose Bierce, 1893 – A journalist testifies at a coroner’s inquest as to what he saw concerning another man’s death by a “thing” in the woods.  He reads from his notes, which he posted to his paper as fiction, but testifies in court is truth. They then examine the body and the jurors give a verdict of death by mountain lion. The coroner later reads the victim’s diary, a third form of evidence. The diary speaks of sounds we cannot hear, colors we cannot see.  The thing is incomprehensible, unknowable, undetectable–and the story suggests openly that our senses are inadequate (we cannot see or hear what frightens the animals), that something lurks beyond our capacity for knowledge, present only in the corner of the eye.

Comments: May have inspired Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space.” Intro to The Phoenix Pick of Classic Science Fiction: Anecdotes credit this story with being the inspiration for the film, Predator. Bierce wrote stories of the eery and ironic, biting satires in tradition of Swift and Twain, stories that attempted “to get at the psychological workings of the individual under extraordinary, even otherworldly, circumstances…wrote about robots, invisible creatures, men escaping into other dimensions—all typical subjects of science fiction.” James Gunn also provides commentary in The Road to Science Fiction series. Dread Carcosa, a weird fiction blog, suggests that this is the first text in the weird fiction canon. The text is available at sff.net.

Author: Wikipedia: “Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (born June 24, 1842; died sometime after December 26, 1913) was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist.”

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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1926 and earlier, favorites, horror, in/visible, knowledge/truth/epistemology, narrative, senses/space. Bookmark the permalink.

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