Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume 1 (2013/Published 2014): edited by Laird Barron and Michael Kelly

Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume 1 (2013/Published 2014): edited by Laird Barron and Michael Kelly, containing the following stories:

  • The Nineteenth Step by Simon Strantzas: Not so much a story as an opening that's missing a middle and an end. 
  • Swim Wants to Know If It's as Bad as Swim Thinks by Paul G. Tremblay: Sharp and nasty character study suddenly turns into a vaguely observed (and possibly completely subjective) invasion of Lovecraftian horrors.
  • Dr. Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron by A. C. Wise: Well, it's sort of funny, and it sort of feels like something that was written in about 1970 for the magazine Weird Heroes, given that the genre tropes it spoofs are all very, very, very old. 
  • The Year of the Rat by Chen Qiufan: Nice dystopian satire in translation from the Chinese would be pretty much at home in an issue of Galaxy magazine from 1955.
  • Olimpia's Ghost by Sofia Samatar: Something to do with Sigmund Freud but I never really cared what or why.
  • Furnace by Livia Llewellyn: Solid bit of weird horror reminds me a lot of late-career Thomas Ligotti...which makes a lot of sense when you realize that it's from a Ligotti tribute anthology.
  • Shall I Whisper to You of Moonlight, of Sorrow, of Pieces of Us? by Damien Walters Grintalis: The pomposity of the title has literally erased the story from my memory. Honestly, it's like an episode title from Season 3 of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda.
  • Bor Urus by John Langan: Typically solid Langan piece with a really spooky, disturbingly dream-like climax.
  • A Quest of Dream by W. H. Pugmire: A tip of the hat to H.P. Lovecraft's Dream-Cycle stories. There's really only one W.H. Pugmire story, a sort of Swinburne-meets-early-Lovecraft fragment, and this is another one of those. Enjoyable, rotted twee.
  • The Krakatoan by Maria Dahvana Headley: Promising start, completely goofy weird ending.
  • The Girl in the Blue Coat by Anna Taborska: Solidly written and observed ghost story of the Holocaust.
  • (he) Dreams of Lovecraftian Horror... by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.: No memory of this.
  • In Limbo by Jeffrey Thomas: Twilight Zone-like set-up for a keenly observed character study. Very reminiscent of a lot of stories that appeared in Charles Grant's Shadows anthologies in the 1970's and 1980's.
  • A Cavern of Redbrick by Richard Gavin: Very nice weird tale with a disturbing either/or conclusion that offers closure without a definitive answer to what just happened.
  • Eyes Exchange Bank by Scott Nicolay: Really the 900-pound gorilla of this anthology super-collides splatterpunk and kitchen-sink horror with some great riffs on Poe and the Decadents.
  • Fox Into Lady by Anne-Sylvie Salzman: Mostly unpleasant, amorphous, mythy.
  • Like Feather, Like Bone by Kristi DeMeester: Story fragment about some gross stuff.
  • A Terror by Jeffrey Ford: Excellent period piece depicts Emily Dickinson's first meeting with Death.
  • Success by Michael Blumlein: I could imagine this story as having been written by someone like Robert Sheckley or Cyril Kornbluth and published in a 1957 issue of Galaxy magazine, only at about one-third the length. As is, it's almost monstrously attenuated.
  • Moonstruck by Karin Tidbeck: A sort of inert bit of dark fantasy shading into a postmodern folk story.
  • The Key to Your Heart is Made of Brass by John R. Fultz: This one, enjoyable as it is, would be more enjoyable if it were the script to a Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant comic-book story from 1979, preferably illustrated by some very baroque and murky European comics artist of the time.
  • No Breather in the World But Thee by Jeff VanderMeer: The usually subtle and understated VanderMeer cuts loose, to increasingly dire and unengaging effect. It may be a satire of weird-fiction tropes the writer has grown tired of. It's sort of a rubbery, pointless, "shocking" mess.

Barron casts the net so wide for his definition of the Weird in his introduction that the term becomes almost meaningless. And the extraordinarily broad reach of the contents bear this out. It seems less like an attempt to come up with a new genre and more like a land grab. Nonetheless, there's a lot of good stuff here. In all: recommended, a little lightly

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