Ancient History

Year’s Best Horror VII: 1978: edited by Gerald W. Page and containing the following stories: “The Pitch” by Dennis Etchison, “The Night of the Tiger” by Stephen King, “Amma” by Charles R. Saunders, “Chastel” by Manly Wade Wellman, “Sleeping Tiger” by Tanith Lee, “Intimately, With Rain” by Janet Fox, “The Secret” by Jack Vance, “Hear Me Now, My Sweet Abbey Rose” by Charles L. Grant, “Divers Hands” by Darrell Schweitzer, “Heading Home” by Ramsey Campbell, “In the Arcade” by Lisa Tuttle, “Nemesis Place” by David Drake, “Collaborating” by Michael Bishop, “Marriage” by Robert Aickman. (1979):

Solid but unspectacular Year’s Best Horror from DAW, Gerald Page’s last volume as an editor. Robert Aickman is weird and unnerving as ever, as are Dennis Etchison and Ramsey Campbell (though Campbell’s story is intentionally funny in a Tales from the Crypt way, with a punning title to boot).

Historical fantasy occupies a surprising amount of this volume, with “Amma”, “Sleeping Tiger”, “Divers Hands” and “Nemesis Place” all occurring in exotic locations of history and legend. Lisa Tuttle goes to the future instead in a story that’s quite unnerving, though improbable once one thinks about it too much. Manly Wade Wellman offers another adventure of his ghost-buster Judge Pursuviant; the Schweitzer and Drake stories are also tales of recurring ghost-facers.

The Stephen King story is a curiosity insofar as King hasn’t reprinted it in any of his collections. It’s not a particularly memorable King offering, which may explain its omission from his collected short stories to this date. Recommended.

 

Year’s Best Horror III: 1972: edited by Richard Davis: containing the following stories: “Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal” by Robert Aickman, “The Long-Term Residents” by Kit Pedler, “The Mirror from Antiquity” by Susanna Bates, “Like Two White Spiders” by Eddy C. Bertin (aka Als Twee Grote Witte Spinnen), “The Old Horns” by Ramsey Campbell, “Haggopian” by Brian Lumley, “The Recompensing of Albano Pizar” by Basil Copper, “Were-Creature” by Kenneth Pembrooke, “Events at Poroth Farm” by T.E.D. Klein (1973).

Feast or famine in Davis’s third and last Year’s Best Horror volume. On the plus side, one has Robert Aickman’s astonishing vampire story “Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal”, a fitting companion piece to Sheridan LeFanu’s seminal “Carmilla” and one of Aickman’s sharpest and most keenly observed psychological studies. One also has an enigmatic story from Ramsey Campbell’s transitional phase, a somewhat obvious gross-out from Brian Lumley, and a funny but slight and distinctly unscary story about the cut-throat politics of the publishing industry from Basil Copper.

One also gets the first version of T.E.D. Klein’s marvelous “Events at Poroth Farm,” a novella that would grow to become Klein’s epic and towering The Ceremonies by the mid-1980’s. The novella has its own hideous and unnerving charms, along with some fairly unusual intertextual play with the stories and novels that helped shape horror fiction in English up to the point at which Klein wrote his novella. It’s like a snarky graduate seminar class and a horror story! Recommended.

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