Okay, the title isn’t a reference to peculiar boxers. We’re talking short horror fiction.
Here’s the weird thing. Novels don’t typically sell well with the word ‘horror’ on the cover (they call them ‘fiction’, ‘thriller’, ‘paranormal’, yada yada), but when it comes to short stories, horror shines under its own name.
I love horror short fiction. I gobble this stuff up. And I don’t just shop for the ‘name brands’. Thing about reading anthologies of horror shorts is that it’s a terrific way to find new writers. Or to see some of the writers you know use the format as an opportunity to experiment, to cross or mesh genres, to go outside of the box of what they typically write in novel length. It’s safer for them, of course, because if they try something outré in short form and it doesn’t click, then that’s just one of maybe twenty stories in an antho. Editors of novels are less sanguine about letting established writers take risks at the novel length. A failure to hit the mark there is a financial kick in the pants for everyone.
But in short fiction… Man, there are no limits. The thing I’ve found time after time, though, is that those experiments often result in some of the finest and most satisfying reads.
Over the last few years it’s been my good fortune to be asked to contribute to a number of anthologies, some of which are now in print, some of which are slated for release in 2012. I want to give shout outs to those books– not to pimp my own stuff, but to give a hearty thumbs up to the other stories in these books and to the visionary editors who collected them. I pick these because, having worked with the books, I know these stories best. And, yeah, there’s going to be a high percentage of zombie themed anthos here for fairly obvious reasons. In another column a little farther down the road I’ll showcase some of the anthos I found old-school (by browsing in a bookstore!).
Here are some I highly recommend.
DEATH BE NOT PROUD, edited by Thomas A. Erb (Dullahan Press). This zombie-themed antho charmed me from the first. It’s a nice balance of pros who helped build modern horror– Gord Rollo, Rick Hautala, Lucy A. Snyder, Joe McKinney and some of exciting new blood like Sheldon Higdon, Skip Novak, David Brockie and others. It’s a great line-up and each story is a peach.
NEW BLOOD, edited by Dione Roetz and Patrick Thomas (Padwolf). I’ve been on the cusp of being burned out by vampire fiction for a while. Granted, there’s some really good stuff being published, but I was fanged out. NEW BLOOD gave me a taste for it again. Anchored by solid stories by C. J. Henderson, W. H. Horner, Brad Aiken and Linda D. Addison, and nicely fleshed out by exciting tales by authors you may not know –but should—like Neal Levin, Bernie Moizes, Hildy Silverman and Danielle Ackley-McPhail. It has real bite.
THE MONSTER’S CORNER, edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Griffin). This is the 800 pound gorilla of this list, with heavyweights from first to last page. The list of the contributors sounds like a who’s who of modern horror: Kelley Armstrong, Kevin J. Anderson, Chelsea Cain, Simon R. Green, David Liss, Sharyn McCrumb, David Moody, Nate Kenyon, Heather Graham, Lauren Groff, John McIlveen, Dana Stabenow, Tom Piccirilli, Sarah Pinborough, Tananarive Due, Michael Marshall Smith, Gary Braunbeck, Jeff Strand and some guy named Jonathan Maberry. Typical of editor Golden’s anthos, this one takes real risks, with each story told from the point of view of different monster (from ghouls to Frankenstein’s creature). Golden also edited the celebrated NEW DEAD antho of zombie stories and will follow it up in June 2012 with 21ST CENTURY DEAD. Chris is known as one of the best anthologists in the biz for a reason.
DARK DOORWAYS, edited by Eric Beebe (Post Mortem Press). This is one of the best Best Of anthos I’ve seen, and Post Mortem Press has been earning props for bringing exciting new voices to horror fiction. They brought in some real gunslingers– Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee and F. Paul Wilson, and a chocolate-box assortment of up-and-coming horror writers.This is a superb collection.
DEAD SOULS, edited by Eric Beebe (Post Mortem Press). I wrote the introduction for this collection of off-beat zombie tales. Beebe dug pretty deep to find living dead stories that paved new ground while at the same time satisfying genre die-hards. That’s a lot harder than it sounds. The line-up is composed of new or semi-new authors whose time has definitely come. This makes a great companion piece to DARK DOORWAYS.
TRIUMPH OF THE LIVING DEAD, edited by James Lowder with a foreword by Joe. R. Lansdale (Smart Pop). This one isn’t fiction. Lowder collected essays on the comic book and/or TV show THE WALKING DEAD. These essays range from deeply scholarly works to smart-as-a-whip pop culture analysis. Contributors include Jay Bonansinga (author of the first official TWD tie-in, RISE OF THE GOVERNOR), Kim Paffenroth, Dr. Steven Schlozman (whose book, THE ZOMBIE AUTOPSIES is the basis of George Romero’s next flick), Lisa Morton, Vince A. Liaguno, Scott Kenemore and a slew of other bright lights. If you think nonfiction is dry, take a bite out of this. It’s juicy.
THE LIVING DEAD 2, edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books). The first book in this series was all reprint, but this volume contains only original stories. Adams is another of the most respected anthologists out there, and is remarkably diverse, having edited anthos on apocalyptic fiction (WASTELANDS), magic (THE WAY OF THE WIZARD), Sherlock Holmes (THE IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES), vampires (BY BLOOD WE LIVE), and others, including the upcoming John Carter of Mars antho (UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS). This volume has ghoul tales by Cherie Priest, Carrie Ryan, David Wellington, Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks and the inestimable John Skipp… Along with a long list of other top writers. This is five hundred pages of zombie goodness.
Okay, campers… That should help you fill your holiday shopping lists for your friends who have a taste for something dark and delicious.
See you around the graveyard.