East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Miranda (1950)

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As I mentioned, this and next week I’ll be doing a few posts about John D. MacDonald.
And because I have to start somewhere, I’ll start with Miranda.
Because Miranda is almost perfect, and it’s one of the scariest things you’ll ever read.


Miranda is a short story MacDonald wrote in 1950 and sold to 15 Mysteries Stories – that, as you can guess, was pretty much what it said on the cover: a 25 cents pulp mag featuring 15 mystery stories.
Nice and smooth.

The mag had been called Dime Mystery Book back in the early 1930s, and later the name had changed to Dime Mystery Magazine, and then in 1950 it had become 15 Mysteries Stories.

Miranda is the story of George Corliss, that survived a catastrophic car crash but now is a cripple.

They put a plate in the back of my head and silver pins in the right thighbone. The arms were in traction longer than the legs. The eye, of course, was something they couldn’t fix.

MacDonald places us solidly inside of George’s head, and there we are trapped with what’s left of him.
What is keeping George alive?, everybody wonders. Well, it’s his desire for revenge – revenge against his wife, and her lover. Those that sabotaged his car but didn’t succeed at killing him.
He will kill them.
That’s what keeping him alive – the will to kill.

We see through George’s one eye, reality appearing flat and bi-dimensional, we feel his fatigue, his pain. We observe his planning, his anger, and hatred.
Pain is green, George tells us, and we believe him.


And soon George finds an ally in Miranda, a sinister, deranged nurse that as a hobby whispers to the comatose patients in the emergency ward, urging them to let go and die.
A classical “angel of death”, Miranda takes at heart George’s case – and they start planning their next moves.
And Miranda – that is not beautiful, but is rather described as a series of angles and planes – is the absolute femme fatale of the piece, a chilling mixture of sex and death.

And yes, this is horror – and I can’t explain why in detail, or I would spoil the story for you. But this is the most concentrated, high-grade distilled psychological horror you may find.

The story was reprinted in MacDonald’s The Good Old Stuff and is essential reading.
I often wondered why nobody ever made a movie of it. It would be perfect.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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