Talking Scared

56 – Aliya Whiteley and Strange Growths

September 15, 2021 Neil McRobert Episode 56
Talking Scared
56 – Aliya Whiteley and Strange Growths
Show Notes

Growth is good, right? That’s what they tell us.

Our guest this week might have other ideas. Aliya Whiteley’s is a novelist, short story writer and poet, whose writing is all about growth. In her strange worlds people, plants, entire worlds sprawl and mutate, but often the change is anything but wholesome. 

In her new collection, From the Neck Up she introduces us to disembodied heads, fleshy scarecrows, parasitical towns, dark ecology and violent agricultural rites. These stories sit on the cusp of a world gone sour, and peel back the curtain to show us how the past and the present may (ahem) grow into an awful future.

Before you go thinking these are just run-of-the-mill apocalypses though, be warned and reassured that Aliya’s writing is anything but normal. She blends horror, science-fiction, fantasy, the surreal and absurd and even a sprinkling of dark comedy – all transmuted into something she calls the strange.

We try (and fail) to pin her stories down. We talk about how she crafts her stories, where they start and why the often end where we least expect. Along the way we take in the climate crisis, ecology and evolving change, the history of science fiction, the future of folk horror, and the legends of her native Devon. 


From the Neck Up was published by Titan Books on 14th September

Other books mentioned in this episode include:

  • The Beauty (2014), by Aliya Whiteley
  • Memoirs of a Survivor (1974), by Doris Lessing
  • Annihilation (2014), by Jeff VanderMeer
  • The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell (2021), by Brian Evenson
  • Day of the Triffids (1951), by John Wyndha
  • The Bloody Chamber (1979), by Angela Carter
  • Rebecca (1938), by Daphne du Maurier
  • Lorna Doone (1869), by R. D. Blackmore 

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