Friday, June 10, 2011
All the Darkness
DAW Year's Best Horror XIV (1985), edited by Karl Edward Wagner (1986):
Introduction: Nurturing Nightmares by Karl Edward Wagner
Penny Daye by Charles L. Grant
Dwindling by David B. Silva
Dead Men's Fingers by Phillip C. Heath
Dead Week by Leonard Carpenter
The Sneering by Ramsey Campbell
Bunny Didn't Tell Us by David J. Schow
Pinewood by Tanith Lee
The Night People by Michael Reaves
Ceremony by William F. Nolan
The Woman in Black by Dennis Etchison
...Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea... by Simon Clark
Mother's Day by Stephen F. Wilcox
Lava Tears by Vincent McHardy
Rapid Transit by Wayne Allen Sallee
The Weight of Zero by John Alfred Taylor
John's Return to Liverpool by Christopher Burns
In Late December, Before the Storm by Paul M. Sammon
Red Christmas by David Garnett
Too Far Behind Gradina by Steve Sneyd
By 1985, the horror boom that had begun in the late 1960's was starting to ebb, though it would be another ten years before horror fiction started to become really scarce on the bestseller lists. However, a rich list of small and large press horror magazines were still extant, giving editor Wagner a lot to choose from while assembling the newly expanded DAW anthology.
As usual, his selections are excellent and wide-ranging, both in terms of source and in terms of sub-generic classification. Psychological horror dominates in stories that include the university-set "Dead Week", the mournful "Pinewood" and the creepy "The Night People." Short, Hitchcockian shockers are nicely represented by "Red Christmas" and "Mother' Day." The supernatural is mystifying in "John's Return to Liverpool", in which a resurrected John Lennon shows up at the house of the first Beatles fan, and in the lengthy and unnerving "Too Far Behind Gradina," about a British housewife's bizarre vacation in Yugoslavia.
More conventional supernatural horrors await in "The Weight of Zero", a dandy bit of cosmic horror in the tradition (and time-period) of Arthur Machen, the neo-William Hope Hodgson sea-faring terrors of "Dead Men''s Fingers", and William F. Nolan's "Ceremony", about a hitman who takes the wrong bus.
Writers who'd effectively created their own genres by this time, Dennis Etchison and Ramsey Campbell, weigh in with fine entries in which the psychological and the supernatural collide mysteriously and horrifically. Campbell's piece is one of a subset of his fine horror stories in which the problems of getting old are explored in ways that blur the line between the supernatural and the natural, all within that signature Campbellian landscape of off-kilter description and terrible things moving just at the edge of vision. All in all, highly recommended.