Young People Read Old SFF

Cornie on the Walls

Sydney J. Van Scyoc

Young People Read Old SFF

7 Dec, 2020

Sidney J. van Scyoc was mainly active in the 1960s through the 1980s. Although new short pieces appear as late as 2005, her most recent novel was 1991’s Deepwater Dreams. I haven’t read Deepwater because van Scyoc occupied a blindspot in my collecting. Having read this example of her work, I’ve taken to picking up her novels when I see them. Finding time to read them has thus far eluded me.

But were my Young People as enthusiastic? Let’s find out. 


This was an interesting look at a post-human option I hadn’t considered before: living house. One with plenty of bats in the belfry. Wait, do houses even have belfries? 

Sadly, this house is haunted. Haunted by the death of someone he cared for most deeply. This consumes him, especially as he might’ve prevented said death at extreme discomfort to himself. Clearly the guilt drove him insane. 

That said, I don’t really think he’s culpable. Given the extreme measure required to save her life, even if he’d done it countless times before, I can’t really blame him for not intervening (despite him blaming himself, and others blaming him). Considering how painful and risky it was (convulsions are dangerous, folks), his failure to act is understandable. Fatigue, and an aversion to pain, had clearly set in. And yet, what he suffered after was worse than any short circuit.

This story is ultimately a tragedy. He clearly cared too much for Cornie to send her away, and yet he probably should have, given the danger she was in. In the end, one lapse in judgement was all it took. Now he can’t take it back.

If there’s one lesson to take away from this story, it’s that we’re clearly not ready to be houses. I wonder if we’ll ever be ready.


This is extremely evocative right from the start and has a great atmosphere and mood. But what really raises this up though is that it is willing to give airing to the complexity of the situation and how those involved feel. It moves beyond standard horror into something more emotional and touching.