Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology eBook æ

Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology eBook æ

Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology [Read] ➳ Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology By Peter Straub – Larringtonlifecoaching.co.uk From the incomparable master of horror and suspense comes an electrifying collection of contemporary literary horror, with stories from twentyfive writers representing today’s most talented voices i From the incomparable master of horror The New MOBI õ and suspense comes an electrifying collection of contemporary literary horror, with stories from twentyfive writers representing today’s most talented voices in the genre Horror writing is usually associated with formulaic gore, but New Wave horror writers have in common with the wildly inventive, evocative spookiness of Edgar Allan Poe Poe's Children: PDF/EPUB ² than with the sometimespredictable hallmarks of their peers Showcasing this cuttingedge talent, Poe’s Children now brings the best of the genre’s stories to a wider audience Featuring tales from such writers as Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll, Poe’s Children is Peter Straub’s tribute to the imaginative power of storytelling Each previously published story has been selected Children: The New PDF É by Straub to represent what he thinks is the most interesting development in our literature during the last two decadesSelections range from the early Stephen King psychological thriller “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet,” in which an editor confronts an author’s belief that his typewriter is inhabited by supernatural creatures, to “The Man on the Ceiling,” Melanie and Steve Rasnic Tem’s awardwinning surreal tale of night terrors, woven with daylight fears that haunt a family Other selections include National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon’s “The Bees”; Peter Straub’s “Little Red’s Tango,” the legend of a music aficionado whose past is as mysterious as the ghostly visitors to his Manhattan apartment; Elizabeth Hand’s visionary and shocking “Cleopatra Brimstone”; Thomas Ligotti’s brilliant, mindstretching “Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story”; and “Body,” Brian Evenson’s disturbing twist on correctional facilitiesCrossing boundaries and packed with imaginative chills, Poe’s Children bears all the telltale signs of fearless, addictive fiction.

10 thoughts on “Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology

  1. Nandakishore Varma Nandakishore Varma says:

    Peter Straub is out to prove a point: horror fiction can be literary. It is not necessarily hack. Edgar Allan Poe wrote macabre fiction (and poetry), and he is considered one of America's classic authors - so why not these new purveyors of nightmares?

    Well, I agree. For example, nobody in their right mind would call Stephen King a hack: and there are many others in that category - Straub himself, Ramsey Campbell, Joe Hill et al. The only question is whether they would be considered literary. It seems that the establishment is still wary of calling horror stories literature.

    Many of the stories in this book are literature. I have no problem on that count. But I had a problem - most of these stories were not scary. Surreal, yes; weird, undoubtedly. But not scary. Not even anywhere remotely near Poe.

    3.5 stars – not quite reaching 4. I deducting half a star for false promises.

    The stories are a mixed bag. The Bees by Dan Chaon and The Two Sams by Glen Hirshberg talk of family tragedies that border on real, supernatural horror. Dan Chaon's story is tanatlisingly ambiguous, his signature written all over it. Hirshberg's story was more painful for me, as it closely paralleled a dark period in my own life. These are good stories, and the horror is mostly inside the reader's head.

    The only old-fashioned horror story in the book is In Praise of Folly. It is about something which I call The Bad Place personally; somewhere one had better not go. But people do, unfortunately - and thus are horror stories born. This one was enjoyable and mildly creepy.

    In Malayalam we have a saying: The torch lit from the wick, to describe progeny who outstrip their parents. Joe Hill might be one. I thoroughly enjoyed 20th Century Ghost, which played with the romance and unreality of cinema juxtaposed against an old-fashioned ghost story. Stephen King can be proud.

    There are a handful of stories here which are not outright horror but dark fantasy - Louise's Ghost, The Sadness of Detail, Leda... They were entertaining, but there was nothing frightening – not even a mild unease. However, October in the Chair by Neil Gaiman, though not a horror story as such, was genuinely disturbing.

    I found a couple of surreal gems in The Man on the Ceiling and Cleopatra Brimstone. The latter one explores the connection between sex and obsessive collecting – it’s John Fowles’ The Collector from a female point of view. Insect Dreams also features a female insect collector, but the evil here is non-supernatural.

    The Kiss was like a story from EC Comics, with its sordid crime and frightening retribution. It was enjoyable for that reason alone.

    There were a few passable and not-so-passable stories I have not mentioned by name. They were all readable, but nothing to write home about.

    There were three stories in the book which left me totally confused as to what the author was talking about - The Voice on the Beach by Ramsey Campbell, The Body by Brian Evenson and Little Red’s Tango by Peter Straub. In fact, the last two may tie for the award of “The Most Confusing Story Ever Read by Nandakishore”. In case anybody who reads the book can make head or tail out of them, please let me know. I shall be eternally grateful.


    Oh, and by the way, there’s Stephen King… enough said.

  2. Erika Schoeps Erika Schoeps says:

    Overall: 3 stars

    The Bees: 4 stars
    Cleopatra Brimstone: 4 stars
    The Man on the Ceiling: 3 stars. The writing of this piece is intentionally obscure, and it can be kind of annoying… but overall, a beautifully written story with a deeper meaning lurking beneath the heavy-handed writing.
    The Great God Pan: 1 star. I have no idea what’s going on here, and the characters are SO annoying. I couldn’t finish it.
    The Voice of the Beach: 1.5 stars. I managed to finish this one, but it was still pretty horrible. The story decides to be mysterious, but instead of creating mystery with literary skill, it just doesn’t explain what’s going on. Dear Authors: doing this to your audience is dreadful, and means that you are a lazy writer, not ‘mysterious’. Although this aspect of the story makes everything really annoying, what I hated most were the CONSTANT and OVERBEARING descriptions of the main character being dizzy. The main character gets sunstroke, and on every single page there is a long-winded, heavy, and ‘poetic’ description of the main character feeling dizzy and sick. I have absolutely no idea why this was so constant… did any editor ever have a look at this before printing it? Despite this short story’s enormous drawbacks, I was still creeped out by the premise. This had the potential to be something really great.
    Body: 1 star. This short story was awful. Yet again, the author uses the device where he doesn’t tell you anything to create mystery. Instead it just left me confused and uninterested. Here, let’s look at an excerpt that shows you how completely obtuse this story is.
    “Every shoe was once a woman,” he says. “A shoe is a woman in a new body. There is for your purpose, no distinction.”
    “Welt,” he whispers. “Box.”
    Dear reader of this review, don’t think that I’m being ridiculous and pulling something totally out of context. There is no context, and after reading the entire story, this quote still doesn’t make a lick of sense. ‘Body’ is a convoluted mess of a short story.
    Louise’s Ghost: 4.5 stars. I read this short story in another collection, and I enjoyed it just as much when I read it that. An original premise, and endearing, quirky characters. I got even more out of this story the 2nd time through. The only fault in this story was that I sometimes feel as if the author was trying too hard to make her characters seem quirky and unique. Let’s look at a quote.
    Louise asks the ghost, but he doesn’t say anything. Maybe he can’t remember what it was like to be alive. Maybe he’s forgotten the language. He just lies on the bedroom floor, flat on his back, legs open, looking up at her like she’s something special. Or maybe he’s thinking of England.
    That completely random reference to England completely threw me out of how immersed I was in this story. It doesn’t make sense in the context, and didn’t really make sense. Examples similar to this are scattered throughout, where a character says something so random that it completely tosses the reader out of the story.
    The Sadness of Detail: 5 Stars An amazing premise and plot made perfect by skillful writing. The author plays with your emotions while keeping things tense and even a little frightening. The ending is ominous and miraculous, and left me thinking about a fascinating concept introduced in the story.
    Leda: 4.5 Stars A creative and surprisingly deep “horror” story. It’s so weird that I’m not actually sure how to classify it, but it’s interesting while also exploring the tenuous relationship between a husband and wife.
    In Praise of Folly: 3.5 Stars A genuinely creepy and slightly quirky story. The story doesn’t have a unique premise, (I figured out where it was going pretty easily) but the suspense and feeling of discomfort that the author creates is masterful.
    Plot Twist: 4 Stars An unoriginal premise flipped upside down by, you guessed it, a truly shocking plot twist. The characters are entertaining and interesting, but the plot twist really takes this one to greatness. I read the ending twice in a row.
    The Two Sams: 1.5 Stars A heartbreaking concept that ultimately fails because of confusing writing. I managed to get through it, but I wasn’t actually aware of what was going on. The story seems to be skipping around chronologically, but I wasn’t sure, mostly because the skipping was constant and not clearly delineated by physical organization (ex. A new paragraph). Also, the author keep making references to things, and then failed to explain these weird references (giraffes were repeatedly mentioned in a context that didn’t make sense). Just skip this one.
    Unearthed: 4.5 stars. Sad, soft, and slow. The story artfully builds to a vicious hardball of an ending that hits you straight in the gut.
    Gardener of Heart: 2.5 stars. I read through the whole thing because I enjoyed the writing, but honestly, I didn’t know what was happening. I think some weird revelation happened at the end, but it flew right over my head.
    Little Red’s Tango: 0 stars. No idea what was happening here, I simply skipped it. The author tries to break this short story up into sections, which made it hard to stay focused on a jumpy, confusing narrative.
    The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet: 5 perfect stars. STEPHEN KING IS A MASTER. This story gripped me from the beginning, and is perfectly paced. King uses the characters telling the story to inject frequent suspenseful breaks, and shows the fragility of the modern human. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
    The Green Glass Sea: 3 stars. Not so much a horror story, but a simple, elegant reflection on the horrors of war. The author does a sly thing here (I don’t want to spoil anything), and it’s a unique look at a much discussed historical event.
    The Kiss: 0 stars. Confusing and annoying, I quit this one pretty quickly.
    Black Dust: 3 stars. The characters didn’t interest me, but I loved the feeling of nostalgia emanating from this short tale. It made me feel like I was reading a really good, creepy children’s story.
    October in the Chair: 3.5 stars. A weird story within a story. ‘October in the Chair’ carries a genuine feeling of discomfort.
    Missolonghi 1824: 1 star. I finished it, but I certainly didn’t carry for the characters or plot. This one is a limp and boring story.
    Insect Dreams: 0 stars. I almost got through this one, but I had to stop. The writing is vague, and confusing, and physically broken up into little paragraphs. I think the author was going for poetic beauty, but she completely failed. An overlong mess, and a horrible attempt at ‘contemporary’ fiction.
    Overall, this collection contained some great stuff, but it also contained some horrible duds. There’s a lot of ‘contemporary’ fiction that attempts to do something new by being vague and imprecise… this is horrible because it isn’t skillful or poetic. It’s easy to do, and the reader just leaves confused. This story collection is actually an excellent showcase of what an easy strategy ‘vague’ and ‘confusing’ is… any hack can do it.

  3. Evans Light Evans Light says:

    3.5 Stars. Some good stuff (Cleopatra Brimstone) and some artsy snoozers. Leans more towards literary horror.

  4. Jessika Jessika says:

    In the introduction to this anthology, Peter Straub describes his goal in putting together these 24 contemporary horror stories. Basically, he wanted to prove that the horror genre is more than the scary monsters, blood, gore, and cheesy book covers that most people associate with it. He wanted to show that the horror genre is a legitimate literary genre and can be considered more literary than people have considered it before. This collection had nothing to do with putting together scary stories--in fact, many of the stories weren't scary at all, but that wasn't the point. I found that Straub did a phenomenal job at making his point with the stories that he selected. Granted, I didn't like all of the stories, but not because they were bad stories, but they just weren't my cup of tea. I probably would have given this collection three stars, if it weren't for the stories that I ended up loving if only because this collection is pretty long and seemed to drag in between the stories that I loved. I'm not going to do a review of each story, but my favorites were:

    --The Bees by Dan Chaon: This was the first story, and I don't know if it was just because I was reading this at night, but it freaked me out. I had a hard time falling asleep because it was so creepy.
    --Louise's Ghost by Kelly Link: I liked the idea of these two best friends and the story they share, and I think more than anything, I really enjoyed the author's voice.
    --The Sadness of Detail by Jonathan Carroll: I thought it was a beautiful idea for a story, and it was beautifully written, with superb attention to (SURPRISE!) detail. It reminded me of Stephen King's Insomnia, for whatever reason.
    --Leda by M. Rickert: I wasn't sure about this one to begin with, but I really liked the ending.
    --Unearthed by Benjamin Percy: I just thought this was was creepy with the dead Indian. I was so creeped out.
    --Little Red's Tango by Peter Straub: This was my first reading of anything of Straub's and I just really enjoyed it's flow and the implications behind the character of Little Red.
    --The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet by Stephen King: I've read this one before in Skeleton Crew, but it had been a while. I still loved it as much as before, which is a given, I guess, seeing as how much I adore SK. Fornit Some Fornus!
    --20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill: Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, let me say that. I loved this story, mainly for Hill's voice. He's got a talent for pulling his readers in with an easy style.
    --The Kiss by Tia V. Travis: I LOVE LOVE LOVED this story. This was probably my favorite out of the whole thing. Travis wrote with such a lush, delicious style that I literally could not tear my eyes away from the pages. I want to go back and re-read this right now. I loved the twist, and I basically just loved the story. I still can't quit gushing about it. That's why the lady is a tramp...
    --Black Dust by Graham Joyce: As a coal miner's granddaughter/great-granddaughter, I appreciated this story. Just a good story overall.
    --October in the Chair by Neil Gaimain: This was also my first read of Gaiman's, and I have to say I'm intrigued. I liked his idea of all of the months sitting around a fire telling stories, and I like how each month's personality and appearance reflected what we generally think about each of the months. The story that October told was good, and I was left wondering what happened to the Runt/Donald.

    Overall, if you enjoy horror for more than monsters and things that go bump in the night, I'd highly recommend this collection. In it are a wide variety of all kinds of horror, from the horror brought on by panic in The Great God Pan to the horror of the uncertainty of fate in The Sadness of Detail to the horror of losing your other half in Gardener of Heart. This is a great collection well worth anyone's time.

  5. Lauder Lauder says:

    Horror is an absolutely amazing genre, so when I picked up Poe’s Children, edited by Peter Straub, I believe I held in my hands a source of horror that would terrify and thrill me.

    But this novel is nothing more than multiple dead trees filled with annoyance and arrogance.

    Yet somehow Straub believes a reader should be “fortunate” enough to read these authors that he has painstakingly thrown together. Personally, I do not believe Straub has created an astonishing anthology; these stories, instead, form a rubbish heap.

    Because Poe was the master of horror, I believe he would have produced far better offspring; these authors, while they tried, will never be Poe’s children.

    Granted, I have only read three stories from this rubbish heap, but that is as far as I can read before getting extremely frustrated with pointless plots. But the worst story, by far, is titled, “The Man on the Ceiling.”

    The authors of this atrocious monstrosity believe themselves to be the absolute best; they are entirely self-centered. For instance, they write, “I never believed horror fiction was simply about morbid fascinations. I find that attitude stupid and dull.”

    With this mindset, then, why would you write about a shadowy man on your ceiling that instills nightmares and scares you with his razorblade nails? Oh, I guess that isn’t a morbid fascination, huh?


    And then another winning line was, “It always makes me cranky to be asked what a story is ‘about,’ or who my characters ‘are.’ If I could tell you, I wouldn’t have to write them.”

    Simmer down now, Melanie. I guess you have never written a synopsis or character sketch before.

    I honestly would have preferred if the authors had told me about their story and their insanely-stupid characters because if I had known how crappy it was, I wouldn’t have even bothered to read the story.

    End result? Don’t bother reading Poe’s Children. I believe other stories should have definitely been considered.

  6. Joe Joe says:

    The cover of Poe's Children features creepy dolls, though none of the stories contained within feature creepy dolls. The illustration is a joke. As explained in the introduction, it's the sort of imagery most people expect from horror; but this collection is different! These stories don't conform to the horror storytelling standard. Here, a story fits in the horror genre if it meets any of the following criteria; something kinda creepy happens, the narrative is unclear, the cast includes a ghost (even if that ghost is mostly comical,) the editor felt like including it.

    The subtitle of Poe's Children reads 'The New Horror' and that appellation feels as false as the picture that surrounds it. As already noted, few of the stories inspire fear; no one in my book club admitted to many shivers, so 'Horror' seems misapplied. In addition, the stories weren't all that 'New' even when this collection came out seven years ago; one published as early as 1982. Even the 'The' doesn't fit; as other authors have penned horror stories in the past 30 years.

    To top it all off; the title barely works. None of the stories reference Poe and none emulated him from what I could tell (some feel Kafkaesque, including a tale where men metamorphose into butterflies.) Perhaps the title is meant literally, though I'd need to see some birth certificates.

    If I were to re-package this product for accuracy I'd title it; Some Short Stories, with the sub-heading 'Chosen At Random' and the cover picture would feature the editor shrugging his shoulders with a sheepish expression on his face. You can't judge a book by it's cover, but should be able to garner a clue or two.

    As for the stories themselves; some are funny, some are creepy, lots of them are opaque and many are dreadfully dull. My favorites were Eloise's Ghost (whimsical, hilarious) and Plot Twist (tight, clever, felt like a Twilight Zone episode.)

  7. Badseedgirl Badseedgirl says:

    Hey Kiddies! It's time again for one of Badseedgirl's famous open letters

    Dear Mr. Straub:

    Really this letter is for all horror writers, new and established. If you're ashamed of writing in the horror genre, well by all means just don't write in it. If you plan to make your money by writing horror fiction, please don't disparage this genre in your forward to a horror anthology.

    I am a college educated person who likes horror fiction. I like all the aspects of the genre, some more than others, but have enjoyed everything from The Weird, to Splatterpunk. All these books have merit and are appropriate for different times in my life.

    I know, Mr. Straub, that you were just trying to show the world that Horror has many shades, but to do it by stepping on the backs of other writers who you deem as lesser is no way to do it. You are just proving the point of people who disparage the genre, that it is somehow less than other genres.

    The stories in this anthology are just one subgenre of horror, Slipstream Horror, Goodread defines it as:
    Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction/fantasy or mainstream literary fiction.

    The term slipstream was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, July 1989. He wrote: ...this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility. Slipstream fiction has consequently been referred to as the fiction of strangeness, which is as clear a definition as any others in wide use. Science fiction authors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, editors of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, argue that cognitive dissonance is at the heart of slipstream, and that it is not so much a genre as a literary effect, like horror or comedy.

    Slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of science fiction or fantasy, not all do. The common unifying factor of these pieces of literature is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely-real, or the markedly anti-real.

    So in conclusion Mr. Straub, please think about the words you write, as you know words have power, for both benefit and harm. Your heart was in the right place in trying to show the world all the glories (or is it gory's) of horror. But you went about it in a way that tries to hurt other aspects of the genre, and that is just not good.



    PS. Like most anthologies, I enjoyed these stories to varying degrees. I finally read Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghost the title story of his award winning collection that is still sitting on my TBR list. It made me want to finally get to this collection, so that is good.

    The stories get a 3.5 of 5 stars, but I'm only giving the anthology itself 2 stars.

  8. Eve Marie Eve Marie says:

    As several reviewers stated below, horror doesn't get nearly as much credit as it deserves; so, I encourage other horror enthusiasts to read whatever they can get their hands on. But if I had to compile an 'ultimate list' of recommendations, Poe's Children wouldn't be on it.

    I started reading Poe's Children in high school and still haven't finished. (It's been several years now.) The stories are painfully slow, and often, the endings were so anti-climactic and strange (and not in a good way) that I felt annoyed. Peter Ho Davies said that a short story lives and dies by its ending. If you agree with that statement, then you will find many of these stories to be disappointing.

    Now, this anthology isn't all bad. Some of the stories are fantastic and even a little disturbing (Cleopatra Brimstone, The Man on the Ceiling, Louise's Ghost); others are laughable but intriguing (I still cry with laughter over the ending of Unearthed). And looking back on it, I never read the piece by Neil Gaiman, which may very well be incredible.

    I am of the belief that no story is a complete 'waste of time.' There's always something that you can take away from the story, something you can learn or appreciate. But overall, this collection isn't very impressive and fails to live up to its title.

  9. Zach Zach says:

    In which Peter Straub sets out to broaden the umbrella of “horror” beyond the stereotypical blood-and-guts sensationalism typically associated with it. He succeeds at this so well that I had a hard time figuring out exactly what made some of these stories fit into the genre at all.

    Dan Chaon - “The Bees” - A husband and father is haunted (literally or metaphorically?) by the first wife and child he abandoned during his drinking days. Impressively dark and downtrodden, although one wishes the two wives were sketched out a bit more actively. 3.5/5

    Elizabeth Hand - “Cleopatra Brimstone” - The second time I’ve realized after starting a story that I had read it before in Redshift and promptly forgotten about it. This story follows a beautiful young entomologist who travels to England after surviving a sexual assault, at which point she proceeds to pick men up at bars and clubs and turn them into butterflies by having sex with them. I guess there’s something to be said here about a woman reasserting her sexual agency, but weird stories about transgressive sexuality are just not my thing. Also Hand devotes huge chunks of time to talking about raves and clubs. 1/5

    Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem - “The Man on the Ceiling” - I enjoyed the conceit of this one - Melanie and Steve, a married couple, take turns metafictionally (?) relaying the effect that Melanie’s lifelong terror/hallucination of a ghostly presence has on their life together, but the story kind of fizzles out without doing much of anything with that conceit. 3/5

    M. John Harrison - “The Great God Pan” - Decades ago, three college friends took part in some sort of magic ritual which has proceeded to ruin the rest of their lives, despite the fact that none of them can remember what actually happened that night. Like “The Bees,” this is a very dark story, and the reader is also swept into this sort of claustrophobic hopelessness where the characters find themselves as they suffer the consequences of this action that remains entirely obscured throughout. Harrison later expanded this story into the novel The Course of the Heart, which I wouldn’t mind reading. 4.5/5

    Ramsey Campbell - “The Voice of the Beach” - My favorite story in here, and also the one most comfortably situated within the weird/horror tradition - highly reminiscent of “The Willows” and itself echoed later in China Mieville’s “Details.” A reclusive man living on the beach has a friend, recently recovered from a nervous breakdown, come and stay with him. They notice odd patterns and details about the beach, find an abandoned village (complete with a seemingly-incoherent fragmentary diary), the friend (and the narrator!) act increasingly oddly, and things unravel quite nicely. 5/5

    Brian Evenson - “Body” - Having enjoyed what I’ve read of Evenson’s in the past, this was a big disappointment. A fragmentary and disjointed account of a man imprisoned and tortured by some monks, and then something about women and tearing shoes apart and... ? 1/5

    Kelly Link - “Louise’s Ghost” - A story about two lifelong friends, who are both named Louise, no last names given, so the reader is left to differentiate whom is being discussed by their quirky actions. I would expect to hate this, and it did wear awfully thin, but by the end I couldn’t help enjoying this story a good deal nonetheless. One Louise has a daughter, while the other has a ghost. Things get sad. 3/5

    Jonathan Carroll - “The Sadness of Detail” - An interesting setup - an angel recruits an artist to recreate images for an increasingly senile God - that ends right after revealing said setup. 2/5

    M. Rickert - “Leda” - A modern retelling of the Greek myth of Leda and the swan, no more, no less. 2/5

    Thomas Tessier - “In Praise of Folly” - An appreciator of architectural follies travels to a remote town in New York in order to photograph a garden done up generations ago as a mini-Italy by an eccentric industrialist. Up until the climax, nothing seems amiss (aside from a single reference when he arrives in the town), and this means the horrific element (which is well-done, such as it is), is entirely divorced from the narrative leading up to it (also well-done, such as it was). This was probably the author’s intent, but there could have at least been more of a thematic connection. 3/5

    David J. Schow “Plot Twist” - Utter garbage. Three “friends” (a couple and a third wheel, although none of them like one another at all, probably because they are all horribly obnoxious assholes) are stranded in an impossibly-endless desert after their car breaks down on their way to Vegas, after which they spend their time marching and sniping at one another using strings of words that I am not going to dignify by calling “jokes.” The misogyny, which has been growing increasingly bothersome throughout the story, explodes into the foreground at the end. This is, ironically enough, a perfect example of the sort of gleefully gory and sophomorically “edgy” bullshit that this book is supposed to be counteracting. 0/5

    Glen Hirshberg “The Two Sams” - As interesting and non-problematic as the story of a man haunted by his two miscarried children could possibly be, I guess. 2/5

    Thomas Ligotti “Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story” Starts off as a bit of metafictional, humorous “advice” on the different ways to approach writing this kind of story (using the example of man brought to a poor end by a haunted pair of pants). I enjoyed that part, but not so much the following part where the pseudonymous writer ends up haunting his counterpart or whatever it was that ended up happening. It lost my interest, clearly. 2/5

    Benjamin Percy “Unearthed” - An unambiguously non-supernatural story about an archaeologist who deals with the loss of his wife by taking an unhealthy interest in excavating (robbing) Native American burial sites. Told from the point of view of his son, this was well-written and kind of compelling in its examination of the different directions their grief took, but... not horrific in any sense? 3/5

    Bradford Morrow Gardener of Heart” - A standard “shocking twist” ghost story written in some impressively overwrought prose. I’ll have to go back to the book to get some choice quotes to include here. ⅖

    Peter Straub “Little Red’s Tango” - Another odd inclusion, this is a hagiography of Little Red, an eccentric with a magical collection of jazz records. Teasing out all of the references in that regard was a lot of fun, and this was a well-written story with some interesting variations in form, but aside from a very brief interlude with a vampire (?), not horrific at all. 4.5/5

    Stephen King “The Ballad of a Flexible Bullet” - I have yet to read anything by King that I found particularly enjoyable or impressive. A washed-up editor relates to a small party the interminable story of his downfall: when he (a drunk) and a reclusive genius author (a madman) convinced one another that they had magical typewriter elves. 1/5

    Joe Hill “20th Century Ghost” - A movie theatre is haunted, rather banally, by the ghost of a teenager who died while watching the Wizard of Oz. Better than his dad’s story, but not by much. 2/5

    Ellen Klages “The Green Glass Sea” - An adopted child living at the Los Alamos facility during the Manhattan Project visits the aftermath of the first nuclear bomb test with her family, where they pick up newly-fused pieces of glass. Aside from the rather remote horror of knowing that they are exposing themselves to radiation, this is just a rather straightforward YA story that later became the last chapter of a YA historical fiction novel. Why is this here? 2/5

    Tia V. Travis “The Kiss” - I’ve mostly avoided spoilers here but I’m throwing that to the wind with this one. Our protagonist is a grown woman visiting the grave of her mother, who was the active part of a murder/suicide with the protagonist’s father when the protagonist was a young girl. The father was a jazz drummer, and the mother was a starlet/exotic dancer, and we are reminded again and again of how beautiful and alluring the mother was, with or without clothes. To add to the melodrama, the mother was the woman on the side - literally, as she and the daughter lived next door to the father and his icy harridan of a wife. Said harridan refuses to grant the father a divorce despite his pleadings, and the community figures this is what eventually drove the mother to end both their lives. The daughter stumbles in moments after the fact and finds her father already dead and her mother giving up the ghost while kissing his wedding ring.

    The twist here is that decades later the daughter, having been raised by the widow to hate her “whore” of a mother, opens her mother’s grave, sees the wedding ring lodged in the skeleton’s throat, surmises that the engraved ring was swallowed in order to provide a clue that the crime was not in fact a murder/suicide but in fact a murder/murder perpetrated by the widow, and then... goes and kisses the ring into the widow’s mouth, fatally choking her. 1/5

    Graham Joyce - “Black Dust” - An effectively downtrodden story about poverty and family life in a Welsh mining town. The child protagonist has a relatively happy family life, while his best friend has an abusive father, but the story does an excellent job of portraying him as a human being rather than a one-dimensional villain. The supernatural element of this story is slight, but it packs a punch. 5/5

    Neil Gaiman - “October in the Chair” - Has a weird framing story where the months take turns telling each other stories, and I remember thinking that was a stupid disservice to the tale at the heart of this entry (told by October), only now I find that I cannot for the life of me remember what October’s story even was. Having reminded myself, I can say that it was actually the surprisingly fine story of a boy who runs away from home and makes friends with a ghost. 3.5/5

    John Crowley - “Missolonghi 1824” - Loyd Byron recounts the story of the time he saved a satyr from an angry mob. Neither horrific nor compelling. 1/5

    Rosalind Palermo Stevenson “Insect Dreams” - Another story about an expatriate entomologist, oddly enough - this time the real life Maria Sibylla Merian, a Dutch naturalist who went to the colony of Surinam in 1699 to study insects. She is recounting the story through the haze of malaria, which means it’s all rather fragmentary and verges on stream-of-consciousness at times, and is written in the present tense throughout. The horror manifests itself in the racism of the colonists, which climaxes in another rape scene, which, while at least not being fetishized, is rendered instead in such over-the-top violence that it becomes surreal. Enough already. 2/5

  10. Scott Scott says:

    Great pieces by Don Chaon, Elizabeth Hand, the Tems, Thomas Ligotti, Joe Hill and Jonathan Carroll. Really awful stuff from Brian Evenson, Glen Hirshberg, Benjamin Percy and Straub himself. Everything else is just about average.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *