Monday, April 18, 2011

Dr. Thirteen


The Year's Best Horror XIII (1984), edited by Karl Edward Wagner (1985):

Contents:

Introduction: 13 Is A Lucky Number - Karl E. Wagner

Stephen King - Mrs. Todd's Shortcut
Charles L. Grant - Are You Afraid Of The Dark?
John Gordon - Catch Your Death
Gardner Dozois - Dinner Party
Daniel Wynn Barber - Tiger In The Snow
Ramsey Campbell - Watch The Birdie
David J. Schow - Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You
Leslie Halliwell - Hands With Long Fingers
Fred Chappell - Weird Tales
Jovan Panich - The Wardrobe
Vincent McHardy - Angst For The Memories
David Langford - The Thing In The Bedroom
John Brizzolara - Borderland
Roger Johnson - The Scarecrow
James B. Hemesath - The End Of The World
John Gordon - Never Grow Up
Charles Wagner - Deadlights
Dennis Etchison - Talking In The Dark

One of the strongest entries from Wagner's 15+ year run on DAW's Year's Best Horror series, with a gratifyingly broad and deep range of stories. Splatterpunk was still in its formative stages in 1984, so the violence levels in these stories generally never go above a Yellow Alert level. Comic horror (David Langford's "The Thing In The Bedroom"), science-fiction-horror (Gardner Dozois's "Dinner Party"), children's horror (the two entries from John Gordon) and even a prose adaptation of what was originally a story from a comic book (Charles Wagner's "Deadlights") represent some of the more off-beat offerings.

The King story isn't horror per se, though it is a charming piece that straddles the line between light and dark fantasy. Fred Chappell's story, from a literary journal, takes us through a nightmarish historical voyage that includes the weird-but-true meetings of Hart Crane and H.P. Lovecraft; Dennis Etchison heads into Misery territory, albeit with a decided twist; David Schow pits a Viet Nam vet against the bizarre proprietors of a repertory cinema in rundown L.A.; Roger Johnson presents an able M.R. James homage; Ramsey Campbell is at his drollest in a "true story" which I'm guessing (or hoping) isn't. Karl Edward Wagner was a world wonder; highly recommended.

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