the attic tragedy
Sylvie never called them ghosts, but that’s what they were—not that George ever saw them herself. The new girl, Sylvie, is like a creature from another time, with her old-fashioned leather satchel, her white cotton gloves and her head in the clouds. George watches her drift around the edge of the school playing fields, guided by inaudible voices.
When George stands up for Sylvie, beating back Tommy Payne and his gang of thugs, it brings her close to the ethereal stranger; though not as close as George would have liked. In the attic of Sylvie’s father’s antique shop, George’s scars will sing and her longing will drive them both toward a tragedy as veiled and inevitable as Sylvie’s whispering ghosts.
Publishers Weekly – “Ashley-Smith debuts with a gorgeous, melancholy coming-of-age novella about girlhood and ghosts. … This eerie, ethereal tale marks Ashley-Smith as a writer to watch.”
Aurealis Magazine, #129 – “A tale of loss, trauma and identity, masterfully told. Horror and thriller elements underpin an unsettling coming-of-age story … Ashley-Smith’s style is gripping, his structure clear and considered. The Attic Tragedy’s multifaceted nature and effective storytelling has far-reaching appeal.”
Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling of the World – “A beautifully written book about desire, pain, and loss, haunted by glimmerings of the supernatural. The Attic Tragedy manages to do more by intimation and suggestion with its 53 pages than most novels manage to accomplish over their several hundred.”
Kaaron Warren, award-winning author of Into Bones Like Oil and Tide of Stone – “J. Ashley-Smith doesn’t put a foot wrong in this chilling, devastating story. The Attic Tragedy is hard to read in the best possible way.”
Alan Baxter, award-winning author of Devouring Dark and Served Cold – “Lyrical and melancholy, The Attic Tragedy is a dark and poignant study of what it means to love and to be loved, to lose and to be lost. Ashley-Smith conjures a compelling, haunting tale that will stay with you like a ghost long after the last page is read.”
John Langan, author of Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies – “J. Ashley-Smith’s stunning The Attic Tragedy follows the friendship between two young outcasts, Sylvie and George, as they navigate the treacherous years of high school and after. With piercing, clear-eyed sympathy, Ashley-Smith depicts a relationship centered on the secrets of the living and the dead. Sylvie knows and voices the histories of the spirits attached to the objects in her father’s antique shop; George wrestles with the emotions raging within her and which find their outlet on her skin. Acutely observed, frequently surprising, this is fiction of the highest order.”
Sarah Read, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Bone Weaver’s Orchard and Out of Water – “The Attic Tragedy is full of heart and darkness, both endearing and terrifying. These pages open like a raw wound. You don’t read this story. It bleeds into you, and it leaves a scar on the way in.”
Eric J. Guignard, award-winning author and editor, including That Which Grows Wild and Doorways to the Deadeye – “The Attic Tragedy is beautifully engrossing, elegant, and lavish in the traditions of ornate architecture: J. Ashley-Smith’s exquisite words are its sculpted stone blocks; his layers of resonant emotions their subtle coloring treatments; his backdrop of ghosts those detailed flourishes that drive all expressive design to be admired for impression and refinement.”
Lee Murray, three-time Bram Stoker Award nominee and author of Into the Ashes – “Softly shrouded in smoke and shadow, Ashley-Smith’s The Attic Tragedy cuts close to the bone. Startling, pointed, and powerful.”
Aaron Dries, author of House of Sighs and A Place for Sinners – “With The Attic Tragedy, J. Ashley-Smith proves himself an elemental writer of great talent. Emotions are bushfires. Foggy mountains shadow streets where violence festers. Dust, the microbes of otherness, settle over empty rooms that are never as empty as you think they are. This attic is a place of patchwork-detail where characters are forced to question their legacies, and I was held captive by their frightening revelations. A moody, melancholic read that I can’t recommend highly enough.”
Seb Doubinsky, author of Missing Signal and The Invisible – “J. Ashley-Smith’s short novella, The Attic Tragedy, is a sharp and delicate jewel that both shines beautifully and cuts deeply. Focusing on the friendship of two girls, it slowly unveils a deep sense of strangeness and dread, both puzzling and fascinating. Masterly crafted, it will please all lovers of Shirley Jackson, who will be thrilled to find again this mix of humanity, beauty and cruelty.”
J. Ashley Smith is a British–Australian writer of dark fiction and other materials.
J. was born in Cambridge, UK, and spent his childhood hiding with imaginary companions in the foundations of an Edwardian townhouse. He studied film and creative writing, then lost fifteen years to the British indie music scene, clothed in unfashionable sweaters, releasing unpopular records. He now lives with his wife and two sons in the suburbs of North Canberra, gathering moth dust, tormented by the desolation of telegraph wires.
J.’s short stories have twice won national competitions and been shortlisted six times for Aurealis Awards, winning both Best Horror (Old Growth, 2017) and Best Fantasy (The Further Shore, 2018).
J. was a judge in the AHWA Short Story Competition 2016 and Director of the Australian Shadows Awards 2017.
J. haunts the internet as @SpookTapes and can be contacted at spooktapes[at]gmail[dot]com.
In Memoriam, Aurealis Magazine #131 (forthcoming, 2020)
The Moth Tapes. Shortlisted, Best Horror Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2019
The Further Shore. Winner, Best Fantasy Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2018
The Further Shore. Shortlisted, Best Horror Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2018
Old Growth. Winner, Best Horror Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2017
On The Line. Shortlisted, Best Horror Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2017
Duplicity. Shortlisted, Best Fantasy Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2017
Old Growth. Winner, SQ Mag Story Quest Short Story Competition 2016
On The Line. Winner, AHWA Short Story Competition 2015
Interview, 9 June 2020 – B for Bookreview
Interview, 10 June 2020 – The Magic of Wor(l)ds
Guest post, 12 June 2020: Dark Short Stories Cast a Long Shadow – T. Kent Writes
Playlist, 15 June 2020: Songs in the key of The Attic Tragedy – BigIndieBooks
Interview, 15 June 2020 – Deynne Craves Pages
Interview, 16 June 2020 – Writing Forums
Guest post, 17 June 2020: The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea – TNBBC
Guest post, 17 June 2020: Seven Attic Tragedies – Char’s Horror Corner
Guest post, 19 June 2020: “She’s alive!” – OR – Can a character really take over your story? – The Horror Tree
Interview, 25 June 2020 – Australian SF Snapshot Project
Interview, 26 June 2020 – Suzy Turner
Video, 28 June 2020: The Attic Tragedy launch event reading – YouTube
Video, 28 June 2020: In conversation with Kaaron Warren, Aaron Dries – YouTube
Audio Interview, 14 July 2020 – Unnerving Podcast
Interview, 14 July 2020 – Angela Slatter