From the first lines of the short story "Troll Bridge" by Neil Gaiman, we can freely claim that setting plays a pivotal role in the whole text. What is more, it helps to express emotions and feelings of main heroes much better and deeper. So, the beginning of the story starts with sad words nearly in every sentence, “We lived in an old house on the outskirts of the town” (Gaiman 58). From this, we can judge that one of the first and significant motives and themes in the text is loneliness, the feeling which haunts people all the time.
“That would have been courting disaster, and besides, it was a matter of faith for me that all empty old houses were haunted” (Gaiman 58). Here, goes one more important theme, namely mysteriousness and fear.
“I walked and walked down the quiet golden-green corridor, and saw nobody. I just wondered where the path was going. It travelled in a straight line, and was perfectly flat. The path never changed, but the countryside around it did. At first I was walking along the bottom of a ravine, grassy banks climbing steeply on each side of me” (Gaiman 59). From here, there goes a conclusion that Jack felt absorbed by nobody or nothing. The road which went to nowhere but to the bridge where the huge and secrecy troll was awaiting means the life of the main hero. Actually, the whole story depicts the struggle of the good against evil, where, in the result wins the good.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is an incredibly presented story written by Edgar Allan Poe. It is the story about the house, the members of the family who also live there, and, the most horribly striking thing is that everyone in that place feels himself or herself ill. Furthermore, there are some similar details with the previous story "Troll Bridge". First of all, the beginning of the story is even more terrible than in the previous one, for example, the house of Usher was approached on a “dull, dark, and soundless day”. Moreover, it is mysterious and gloomy not only outside but inside too. It is also mentioned that the house seems to be totally absorbed by evil, and, only evil. The atmosphere of the house is rather dangerous to health, especially for its residents.
Being emotionally and physically ill, Roderick, the main hero of the story, asks his friend to assist him in coming to the enigmatic place. It should also be emphasized that the ancient clan of Usher family has never flourished, as, all people who live near or beside the house, know the secret of the family, namely that only one member in its household can survive. Thus, knowing this macabre thing, each member of the society naturally has no wish to speak a word to Roderick or to let children, other people, and, even animals be near or talk to him. Here, we can assume that there is one more similar line between “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Troll Bridge”. Again and again the key theme of the text is solitude. Having one true friend, Roderick, having no other choice, begs him to visit his “charming” house. Frankly speaking, the narrator is the only hope for Roderick. In fact, the narrator tries to reveal the mysteries of the house, and finds, unfortunately, that day by day, his friend becomes weak, pale and without energy at all.
In the tone of the plot, the time blurs fantastic and the real. There can be seen double personality (Roderick), dreary surroundings, and the macabre atmosphere that stimulate bizarre and unexplained situation of the problems with health at all.
One more short horror story called "The Raft" is written by Stephen King. It is a story about four college friends, two boys and two girls. One day they decided to celebrate the end of the summer holidays, and go to the lake. Here, it should be mentioned that loneliness is on the beginning, and it became the main thing in this story. First of all, four friends far away from other people have a rest on the lake. Then, the thing that they became the food for the unknown creature, which absorbed the first victim in a few seconds, made them feel totally alone, many miles from home, any people, or help. At last, being entrapped, they do the same that previous hero of short stories, namely, having no true regret for the other person, especially a friend, and a big wish to find the rescue, and, finally, give up.
Nobody could ever know that that celebration will end up so tragically. Four people… Four college friends… Four deaths…
When talking about speculative fiction, it is a subgenre of fiction, which is based on the fact that it is given a classic question: “What if?” and then goes an attempt to give an answer to it. In some cases, this term refers to a group of science fiction, which encompasses thoughts about the worlds, different from the real world. In this sense, speculative fiction is related to such genres as science fiction, fantasy, horror fiction, supernatural fiction, alternate history and magical realism. The term is also used in the academic and ideological critique of genres. In this context, the term does not imply a view of any of the genres that it includes. The term “speculative fiction” was coined by Robert Heinlein in 1947. Heinlein firstly used it as a synonym for science fiction, but then he expanded the definition of the genre. From the point of view of Heinlein, speculative fiction may include all genres of fiction, with the exception of fantasy.
The essence of the genre, as one might guess, is speculation. Historical, technical, or scientific one – the list is quite long. Speculative fiction incorporates into a living world with strict rules some fantastic element and sees what the result is. Introduction of the concept of speculative fiction helped to preserve heritage of Campbell era: the idea was still in the center of a work, only now the concept received expanded ideas, transformed into “speculation”. In fact, speculative fiction was a cross between traditional fantasy ideas and literature written by the laws of the mainstream. The main feature of this genre was an ability to incorporate specific settings into the plot and enlarge a usual idea. Still, when “New Wave” receded, it took away the speculative fiction. Of course, some changes still occurred. Firstly, stereotypes were destroyed. There were no taboo topics anymore. With time, this genre returned but this time being loathing seriously. Authors wanted to see issues like saving the world. The history of speculative fiction bears at least two different morals. “The road is paved with good intentions into obscurity” and “If you want to go down in history – oar against the wave when it backs off, and you will be way ahead”. Most importantly, in this genre, a writer is not afraid of gambling. In the moment, when all around turns into sad preponderance of great literature, the novelty of the ideas protects from the gray mass. Therefore, speculative fiction proved that settings and innovations in this sphere can be beneficial for a main theme of the story. In such a way, a broader field for work and play with a reader is opened.
So, after having analyzed these three short stories, there were found some similarities and differences. For example, the same themes include loneliness, feeling of fear, unexpectedness of a danger and the tragic end. If to talk about setting, it should be announced that it plays the role of the paramount importance in all three short horror stories. It is much easier to guess what can happen in the next moment because the reader already knows what kind of setting is used, and, as a result, what is the purpose of such a method.