Saturday, April 6, 2013

100 by 54

100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories: edited by Al Sarrantonio and Martin Greenberg with stories by Washington Irving, Chet Williamson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Donald A. Wollheim, Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Al Sarrantonio, Henry Slesar, Richard T. Chizmar, Avram Davidson, Gary L. Raisor, E. F. Benson, Saki, Frances Garfield, Mark Twain, Phyllis Eisenstein, William F. Nolan, Ed Gorman, Eric Frank Russell, Melissa Mia Hall, Joe R. Lansdale, Ruth Berman, H. P. Lovecraft, Edward D. Hoch, James E. Gunn, Robert Sheckley, Barry Pain, Fritz Leiber, Richard Laymon, Jerome K. Jerome, Ramsey Campbell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Norman Partridge, Juleen Brantingham, Barry N. Malzberg, Thomas F. Monteleone, James H. Schmitz, Frank A. Javor, E. G. Swain, Bernard Capes, Nancy Holder, Charles Dickens, William Hope Hodgson, David Drake, Mort Castle, Bill Pronzini, Dennis Etchison, Charles L. Grant, Susan Casper, Rudyard Kipling, Sharon Webb, F. Paul Wilson, Manly Wade Wellman, and Stephen Crane (1993).

Fun, long anthology of horror stories of ten pages or less, arranged alphabetically. The book covers a range of about 150 years, starting with Dickens and Poe and ending up in the early 1990's with Norman Partridge. It's entirely inevitable that I'll find some of the selections odd and some of the omissions odder.

What I do like, though, are the multiple selections from Donald A. Wollheim, known much better now as the founder and name-giver of DAW Books, but also a fine short-story writer. "The Rag-Thing" is a terrific little piece, as is "Babylon: 70 Miles." In a perfect world, I suppose one could ask that every story be written by a different person. And in my perfect world, the parodies would be in their own anthology, as neither a Twain nor a Jerome K. Jerome piece raise any hair at all (nor are meant to, as they parody the form and content of ghost stories).

I've noticed this penchant in a lot of horror anthologists -- there's always a couple of parodies that aren't scary and were never meant to be. But there they are in something labelled 'horror.' I actually don't get it. There are great humourous horror stories of various types, and there are extremely subtle parodies that can still work as a horror story.

However, the overt 'ha-ha' stuff just seems out of place in a horror anthology because it isn't actually horror. Is there some unconscious nervousness about horror's respectability that causes the insertion of the parody into a non-parodic anthology? I don't know. I also dislike not knowing the year a story was published, but I seem to have grown resigned to anthologies generally omitting what I think is a necessary piece of editorial machinery. In any case, recommended.

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