Thirty-three original horrifics from America, Great Britain, and Australia, some from established stars, others from hot new supernovas, as chosen by an editor from each land mass.
Not since reading a tale by Clark Ashton Smith in his teens, about some abominable velvety black brain-eaters clinging to the ceiling of a cave into whose darkness the hero must go has this reader experienced “horror” in fiction, that is, a pure state or affect divorced from the supernatural, weird, SF, or dark fantasy. Can it be that nothing that sets out to horrify ever does? Horror comes in the backdoor and is unexpected, though shock cuts in movies, such as the dead twin daughters standing in a deserted hotel hallway in Kubrick/King’s The Shining, can have one jump in the seat the first time one sees the film. This sheaf kicks off brightly with Steve Nagy’s “The Hanged Man of Oz,” about a new figure discovered in the Judy Garland movie, a hanged man in the woods where the live trees are tricked into giving up their apples. And Dorothy and the Tin Man and Scarecrow, as well as the Wicked Witch, are not the characters you thought they were. Fun and inventive, yes, but horrifying? Not really. Kim Newman’s truly brilliant chunka kafka, “The Intervention,” opens with a man coming into his office and being faced with an AA–like intervention, enjoined by his family and officemates, all his keys taken from him, his computer codes and credit cards revoked, cell phone snicked in half. Humiliatingly, even his kids sign him away, in crayon, as he’s stripped naked and put into an ambulance. All of this—for what reason? In “Blake’s Angel,” by Janeen Welsh, the poet Blake Williams, suffering from poet’s block, buys a captured angel from a grimy angel-trader and takes it home to his grubby apartment for inspiration. Also on hand: Ray Bradbury, the late Cherry Wilder, Tim Waggoner, Gahan Wilson, Graham Joyce, and others.
Rapturous fantasy, few chills.