Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Ten Best Horror Anthologies Of All Time!

Another list re-cycled from my other blog, also will be in need of updating in the future. The usual disclaimers apply, my personal opinion, blah, blah, blah. This time it’s the ten best horror anthologies. Again, these reflect my own opinion, and are limited to evaluating those I’ve personally read. I gave some extra weight to those anthologies which published original material, and tended for the most part to ignore books from a continuing series. As much as I love Night Visions, Best New Horror, Shadows, and others, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. It also doesn’t feature single author collections, which will have a separate list very soon. So here goes:

1. Dark Forces (edited by Kirby McCauley) – This came out at the beginning of the horror boom, and highlighted a lot of the young (and old) writers who would be at the forefront. McCauley was an influential agent, and had a discerning eye for quality. The highlight of the collection is probably Stephen King’s The Mist.

2. Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos (August Derleth) – This often revised anthology (there are several with a similar name, the one I refer to is from Arkham House) collects key stories by H.P. Lovecraft, and also a broad representation of those who followed in his footsteps, like Robert Bloch and Clark Ashton Smith. One of my favorites as a kid, and one of the things that warped me for life. The highlight would be Lovecraft’s The Call Of Cthulhu.

3. The Dark Descent (David Hartwell) – A collection that attempts to be a study of the evolution of horror. You might not agree with all of Hartwell’s conclusions, but most of the stories here are undeniable classics.

4. Silver Scream (David J. Schow) – Themed anthologies usually are unsatisfying. The limitations of the subject matter lead to repetition and boredom. Fortunately, Schow is a skilled editor, and the subject matter (movies) is so broad as to have great variety. The highlight is one of the great horror stories of all time, Night They Missed The Horror Show by Joe R. Lansdale.

5. 999 (Al Sarrantonio) – At the end of the millennium, and the beginning of the slow re-birth of horror as a viable publishing sub-category, Sarrantonio has put together an excellent collection of stories that highlight past masters and coming stars. My favorite is “Amerkanski Dead At The Moscow Morgue”, by Kim Newman.

6. Splatterpunks (Paul M. Sammon) – A somewhat flawed book (by the time it was released, the movement it highlighted was already on the wane, and many authors didn’t want the label, so they weren’t included), this still illustrates the power the splatterpunks had, and includes some interesting essays detailing the history of the splatterpunks and some of the controversies.

7. Under The Fang (Robert R. McCammon) - The first of the Horror Writers of America’s themed anthologies, the stories concern a world overrun with vampires. Possibly an idiosyncratic choice, but I enjoy it.

8. Prime Evil (Douglas Winter) – Somewhat too conservative in its choice of subject matter, this was one of the best anthologies of original material in the 1980s. An all-star lineup of writers of the time.

9. Midnight Graffiti (Jessie Horsting and James van Hise) – Excellent anthology, with the stories divided into five categories. My favorite is Bob The Dinosaur Goes to Disneyland, by Joe R. Lansdale.

10. Dead End: City Limits (Paul F. Olson and David B. Silva) – Because many horror tropes work better in an isolated setting, horror stories have generally taken place in a rural milieu. This outstanding anthologies features stories in the urban jungle.

Well, there you have it, my opinions. I’d love to hear yours. The heyday of the anthology is probably over, at least for now. In the modern market, it is just to complicated and expensive to sort out royalty payments. But for any budding anthologist, here are some examples to follow.


Matt Cowan said...

Great list, Kent. Love the new site!

KentAllard said...

Thanks. It's a work in progress. Maybe sloth in progress, I dunno.