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Vol. II: Horror

edited by Nicola Griffith & Stephen Pagel

Pub Date: April 26th, 2001
ISBN: 1-58567-116-9
Publisher: Overlook

Griffith and Pagel carry on their gay and lesbian series (Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, 1998) with 18 original horror tales.

Horror is a narrower vein than fantasy or science fiction, and adding a gay/lesbian imperative narrows it even more, although none of these stories can be described as erotic. Among the stronger entries is the opening tale, “Coyote Love,” by Kraig Blackwelder, which reminds us that trapped coyotes will sometimes gnaw off a leg to escape. A strapping Army Ranger, who knows many ways to kill by hand, has an argument with his girlfriend, gets drunk, and wakes up in bed with a man, his arm numb under the sleeper’s body. Goaded by thoughts of his father, who lost an arm in the war, the ranger decides to follow the coyote’s lead rather than wake his bedmate. In Simon Shepard’s “What Are You Afraid of?” (another solid effort), the narrator dreams again and again of being trapped in a rambling old dark house. He will never escape that house: it’s his own body, as if a putrescent Dorian Gray or Norman Bates dressed up as his mother. “The Man Who Picks the Chamomile,” by Mark McLaughlin, portrays a gay couple of 13 years, one of whom has a mystical belief in the chamomile he picks and eats daily, and chronicles the dire consequences when the other (who’s also the narrator) stops eating and drinking it. In Leslie What’s “The WereSlut of Avenue A,” young Helen’s much older lover, Agatha, “goes animal” when “on her moon” and must be bound in leather and shackled to the bedpost.

As a whole the anthology really registers. Whether gay, lesbian, or straight, readers may get the haunted feeling that they are reviewing their own lives.