Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Haunted Legends (2010) edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas

Haunted Legends (2010) edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas, containing the following stories:

Knickerbocker Holiday by Richard Bowes
That Girl by Kaaron Warren
Akbar by Kit Reed 
The Spring Heel by Steven Pirie
As Red as Red by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan 
Tin Cans by Ekaterina Sedia
Shoebox Train Wreck by John Mantooth
Fifteen Panels Depicting the Sadness of the Baku and the Jotai by Catherynne M. Valente
La Llorona by Carolyn Turgeon
Face Like a Monkey by Carrie Laben 
Down Atsion Road by Jeffrey Ford
Return to Mariabronn by Gary A. Braunbeck
Following Double-Face Woman by Erzebet YellowBoy
Oaks Park by M. K. Hobson
For Those in Peril on the Sea by Stephen Dedman
The Foxes by Lily Hoang
The Redfield Girls by Laird Barron
Between Heaven and Hull by Pat Cadigan
Chucky Comes to Liverpool by Ramsey Campbell
The Folding Man by Joe R. Lansdale 

An interesting idea for an anthology -- writers riff on personal, local, urban or even culture-wide legends -- yields mixed results. Many of the stories float away on New Weird tropes that include lack of closure, excessive cuteness, and excessive (indeed, obsessively so) obscurity. The best stories here offer up their legends, no matter how odd or obscure, straightforwardly. Some of the less successful stories remind one of Henry James' old dictum -- "Write a dream, lose a reader."

I inadvertently applied a 'Test to Destruction' protocol on this anthology as I set it aside for three months. Coming back to it, I soon discovered that I'd already read more stories than I believed: many of them had simply vanished from memory until I encountered them again. That's not an endorsement.

As to the good...

  • "The Folding Man" by Joe R. Lansdale is brilliant, weird, gory, and absolutely of a piece with Lansdale's often brilliant, weird, and gory writing career. 

  • "Chucky Comes to Liverpool" by Ramsey Campbell takes on censorship in a riff on real-world events in his native Liverpool. 

  • "The Redfield Girls" by Laird Barron is a subtle and disturbing tale of a real lake in Washington State, with real events mixed in with the fictional ones. Caitlin Kiernan, Gary Braunbeck, and Jeffrey Ford also do commendable work here. 

  • "For Those in Peril on the Sea" by Stephen Dedman misses by that much -- that much being a developed ending rather than a sudden shift into a coy truncation of the story. 

For two bucks, Haunted Legends was a good buy. At full price, though, the book should be avoided -- the best stories are all available in other, better collections and anthologies now. Lightly recommended.

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