Strong, intriguing follow-up to Women of Darkness, Ptacek's 1988 collection of original horror stories by women. Like their predecessors, almost all of these 18 stories feature ""quiet horror,"" emphasizing psychological unease over monsters or gore. This no doubt reflects Ptacek's own taste, but it also raises the fascinating probability that, as a rule, women--who are conspicuously absent from the popular ""splatter-punk"" movement--write quieter, subtler horror than men. Certainly, many of the authors here mine their terrors within the delicate fissures of family fracture--Resa Nelson, for example, in ""Sara and the Slime Creature,"" a powerful nightmare of child sex-abuse, and Lynn S. Hightower, in the effectively gothic ""Daddy's Coming Home,"" about a family rent by murder. Others explore horrors particular to women: Melanie Tem, for instance, in ""The Co-op,"" an eerie evocation of the slavery of motherhood, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, in ""Fruits of Love,"" a twisty historical about avenging a rape. Yarbro is one of only three big-name authors here; the others are Tanith Lee, with ""The Nightmare's Tale,"" a voodoo novella wrought in prose as sinuous as its tropical setting, and Lisa W. Cantrell, with ""Arc Light,"" a moving story about a misfit facing up to his fear of the dark. So this collection doubles as a venue for newer talent: notably, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, with ""A Touch of the Old Lilith,"" a clever tale of a family of women cursed with a killing touch; Yvonne Navarro, with the blackly humorous ""I Know What to Do""; and Lisa Swallow, with the decidedly un-quiet ""Dirty Pain,"" a wrenching twist on vampirism. Overall, better written and more original than the first volume, as this series establishes itself as one of horror's more important showcases.