Here are a couple of neat new anthologies…

26 10 2012

…just hitting the market.

First is John Skipp’s edited collection Psychos, which is part of the Black Dog big-thick-books like “Demons”, “Ghosts”, “Zombies”, etc. The whole series has much to offer, but this particular book has some old faves, rare names, and may indicate a slow turning of political tide happening in genre.

“Psychos” is obviously about sociopathic murderers, whether they be individuals or societies, deluded religionists or extreme nihilists. Skipp does his readers a favor by presenting a range of styles and motives with little redundancy.

Old faves include “Hop-Frog”, “The Most Dangerous Game”, and “The Small Assassin”. Old hands offer previously published works from Lansdale, Ketchum, Bloch, Schow, and Little. Trendier offerings are Jim Shepard’s tale of Gille de Rais, an excerpt of Harris’ “Red Dragon”,  and a Neil Gaiman tale.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of wonderful surprises. Robert Devereaux contributed an off-beat story of a spree-killer schoolboy who discovers the secret of God.  Cody Goodfellow provides a lifecoach whose self-actualization is boundless, and does so in a near-invisible second-person POV. Mehitobel Wilson takes the conceit in a well-drawn direction by making her society politely murderous.

What is doubly-refreshing is that social commentary seems to be returning to the horror short story. I am not as well-read as I would like, but it seems that Nick Mamatas’ story of a woman recruited into a US Department of secret abominations is one of the few scathing critiques to appear in the last few years.

This collection is worth its price.

One that I found less so was “A Book of Horrors” edited by Stephen Jones. His intention is to bring “horror” back to being horrific, according to his preface. In that, he succeeds in bringing back old names to deliver familiar thrills.

Peter Crowther delivers a mixed bag with an over-the-top mass murderer who turns out to be part of a species hiding in plain sight. Stephen King brings sympathetic characters together into suspenseful conflict with a too-predictable fiend. Ramsey Campbell gives his usual loathing of all things born after 1980. Lisa Tuttle has another ghost story about a dysfunctional relationship.  Even Angela Slatter’s award-winning contribution, though well-written, left me flat.



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