Like erotica, horror is another genre I don’t read as often as I do science fiction, crime/thrillers or fantasy. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I often relegate purchases because a shiny new discovery in a different genre beckons.
That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in it. Quite the contrary. I like reading the stories and watching the movies, and I should probably do it more often, especially since my fantasy fiction has a tendency to run, terrified and screaming, right over the boundary between fantasy and horror.
One good reason to read more horror is that I wouldn’t be surprised when an antho breaks the tropes.
Let me explain. When I have read horror, at least modern horror, I have found it to fall in a certain box: thrilling, terrifying and unafraid to use a certain amount of shock value to drive the point home. This goes for Stephen King, and it also goes for the books I receive in which my own stories appear.
Edited by Kelly A. Harmon and Vonnie Winslow Crist, this one surprised me. Yes, it’s undoubtedly a horror antho, but it aims for a very literate approach to the genre. If you like gore or extreme terror, this isn’t the right place for it; it has its frights, but builds up to them like MR James more than Friday the 13th.
The final effect is powerful. There was only one story I didn’t like (not awful, but a little weaker than the others), and it was buried almost in the exact center of the book, which seems to indicate the editors had some misgivings about it, too. The rest, reprints all, from the 1950s to the 2010s (mostly from the 2010s), showed why they’ve been selected by editors at least twice. They are uniformly good, and written to a truly high standard, generating horror without being blunt about it. (disclaimer – this is a contributor’s copy, meaning that there’s one of my stories in there… so I might not be completely objective, but I truly did like them all!).
Another thing this one has going for it is that it’s just a horror antho. Not a horror fairy antho or a werewolf book or a slasher volume. There’s a little of everything in here, even horror-sf, so you won’t get bored of ploughing the same furrow.
One story, though maybe not the best, was definitely memorable, above and beyond the norm, and that one was “Uncle Sharlevoix’s Epidermis”, by Gregory L. Norris, which was creepy and imaginative, even though the ending is in the classic style.
The rest are all good, and I’m pretty sure you’ll have a different favorite, so go out there and buy yourself a copy. You will enjoy this one.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer whose latest collection Pale Reflection, pretty much defines dark fantasy. You can buy it here.