The Year’s Best Horror Stories: XX-1991 (1992) containing Ma Qui by Alan Brennert; The Same in Any Language by Ramsey Campbell; Call Home by Dennis Etchison; A Scent of Roses by Jeffrey Goddin; Root Cellar by Nancy Kilpatrick; An Eye for an Eye by Michael A. Arnzen; The Picnickers by Brian Lumley; With the Wound Still Wet by Wayne Allen Sallee; My Giddy Aunt by D. F. Lewis; The Lodestone by Sheila Hodgson; Baseball Memories by Edo van Belkom; The Bacchae by Elizabeth Hand; Common Land by Joel Lane; An Invasion of Angels by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; The Sharps and Flats Guarantee by C. S. Fuqua; Medusa’s Child by Kim Antieau; Wall of Masks by T. Winter-Damon; Moving Out by Nicholas Royle; Better Ways in a Wet Alley by Barb Hendee; Close to the Earth by Gregory Nicoll; Churches of Desire by Philip Nutman; Carven of Onyx by Ron Weighell.
Horror was in a boom period in 1991, with splatterpunk rising to the fore. Wagner’s selections here in the tenth volume he’d edited of DAW’s annual Year’s Best Horror is solid and occasionally eclectic and broad of range, with M.R. James-influenced ‘traditional’ ghost stories rubbing shoulders with splatterpunk, existential horror, sexual horror, and surreal, unease-making entries by Nina Kiriki Hoffman and D.F. Lewis. Alan Brennert’s story is a fine bit of Viet Nam horror, while Ramsey Campbell’s story suggests that some Greek islands should not be visited by tourists. Recommended.
The Year’s Best Horror: XVII-1988: edited by Karl Edward Wagner (1989) containing Fruiting Bodies by Brian Lumley; Works of Art by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; She’s a Young Thing and Cannot Leave Her Mother by Harlan Ellison; The Resurrection Man by Ian Watson; Now and Again in Summer by Charles L. Grant; Call 666 by Dennis Etchison; The Great God Pan by M. John Harrison; What Dreams May Come by Brad Strickland; Regression by R. Chetwynd-Hayes; Souvenirs from a Damnation by Don Webb; Bleeding Between the Lines by Wayne Allen Sallee; Playing the Game by Ramsey Campbell; Lost Bodies by Ian Watson; Ours Now by Nicholas Royle; Prince of Flowers by Elizabeth Hand; The Daily Chernobyl by Robert Frazier; Snowman by Charles L. Grant; Nobody’s Perfect by Thomas F. Monteleone; Dead Air by Gregory Nicoll; Recrudescence by Leonard Carpenter
1988 was a transitional year for horror in general. Slasher movies were on the wane, while the ultra-violence of splatterpunk was on the wax in written horror. Wagner’s selection here is mostly solid, though two pieces by the usually solid Ian Watson are startlingly ineffective as horror. Three novellas — “Fruiting Bodies”, “The Great God Pan”, and “Recrudescence” — are the high points here, along with one of the better NuCthulhu stories I’ve read in awhile, “Souvenirs from a Damnation”, and one of Elizabeth Hand’s first published stories, “Prince of Flowers.” Dennis Etchison is solid and disturbing as always. Recommended.