Although graphic horror--spearheaded by King, Straub, and Barker--rules the roost in modern dark fantasy, a less popular yet more classic school of quiet, inferential horror, with roots stretching back to Henry James and M.R. James, continues apace--with editor Grant's annual anthologies as its main outlet. Sad to say, this year's crop of ""soft"" horror is one of the most flaccid yet. Of the 14 tales here, three are by novice writers (Nina Downey Higgings, Wendy Webb, and Cheryl Fuller Nelson), another a rare story by a respected novelist (T.M. Wright), most others by authors who publish infrequently. The obvious conclusion is that Grant had slim pickings from which to choose: of the fiction debuts, ""Apples"" (the Higgins tale) boasts a nice setup of a no-gooder tracked by something evil, but slips on its arbitrary twist; Webb's ""The Law of Averages"" is a too-familiar recast of a killer in disguise; and Nelson's ""Just a Little Souvenir,"" while slick, is an obvious tale of possession from the past--as is ""Moonflower,"" the entry from Melissa Mia Hall. Others fall similarly flat: in ""Office Hours,"" top horror critic Douglas Winter offers a confused tale of the terror of modern white-collar life, and ""The Finder-Keeper"" from Ken Wiseman is a predictable story about a basement gnome. One of the other lesser-known writers does manage a skillful offering--Thomas Sullivan in ""The Fence,"" a shivery nco-Shirley Jackson turn about a cannibalistic reservation--and the scattering of more famed authors delivers solid fare: Lisa Tuttle with a scary, effective tale (""Jamie's Grave"") of the mother-urge turned nightmare; Al Sarrantino in an eerie if strained recounting of werepigs (""Pigs""); and T.M. Wright, who in ""A World Without Toys"" offers a lovely, haunting tale of a drowned house and the wish to go home again. With the exceptions noted, as thin as a shadow--and a real disappointment.