Everyone has their pulp — the stuff they read to relax and escape. Martin reads mystery novels; Steve likes westerns; I like short horror and fantasy.
I have dozens and dozens of horror and fantasy anthologies; some of them are very good, very prestigious. Most of them are not.
My approach to reading them is to go to the table of contents and pick the shortest story. I continue in that way until all the short shorts are exhausted, and all that’s left is stories of 10 pages or more. Then I go by interesting titles. I apologize to all those anthologists who attempt to “build” a book, piling one story on another, cleverly interlinking themes and ideas. I have totally nullified your efforts.
I just finished a rather unremarkable anthology (J.N. Williamson’s Darker Masques, featuring Ray Bradbury’s and Graham Masterson’s names above the title, although Bradbury is represented only by a middling poem). Because I actually read every story in the book, and because I used a crude but effective ratings system throughout, I will here — not review — just list those authors I thought wrote well. Most of the stories were fairly poor: a lot of slashers and gore fests. A couple were genuinely clever. Several were dated.
Anyway, here are the authors whose stories I enjoyed:
- Thomas Millstead (Refractions)
- Adobe James (The Spelling Bee) – I liked this one very well
- Graham Masterton (Ever, Ever After; The Heart of Helen Day) – sticks with you; good writing
- John Maclay (Safe)
- K. Marie Ramsland (The Drinking Party) – another very good one
- Joseph A. Citro (Them Bald-Headed Snays) – sticks with you
- John Kefauver (Kill for Me) – creepy
- Dan Simmons (Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites) – oddly tender
- Gahan Wilson (Sea Gulls) – excellent tone and writing style
- Brian McNaughton (Nothing But the Best) – great comeuppance story
- Gary Brandner (Milestone’s Face) – another just desserts tale; grimly satisfying
- Darrell Schweitzer (Savages) – chilling; haunting
- Cameron Nolan (The Children Never Lie) – a nice retelling of the 1980s satan worship/child molestation in california scare
- Steve Allan (The Secret) – tidy story of death, near-death, undeath, and real death; a fit ending to the book