First the Horror

Best New Horror Volume 1 (1989) edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell, containing the following stories: “Pin” by Robert R. McCammon; “The House on Cemetery Street” by Cherry Wilder; “The Horn” by Stephen Gallagher; “Breaking Up” by Alex Quiroba; “It Helps If You Sing” by Ramsey Campbell; “Closed Circuit” by Laurence Staig; “Carnal House” by Steve Rasnic Tem; “Twitch Technicolor” by Kim Newman; “Lizaveta” by Gregory Frost; “Snow Cancellations” by Donald R. Burleson; “Archway” by Nicholas Royle; “The Strange Design of Master Rignolo” by Thomas Ligotti; “…To Feel Another’s Woe” by Chet Williamson; “The Last Day of Miss Dorinda Molyneaux” by Robert Westall; “No Sharks in the Med” by Brian Lumley; “Mort au Monde” by D. F. Lewis; “Blanca” by Thomas Tessier; “The Eye of the Ayatollah” by Ian Watson; “At First Just Ghostly” by Karl Edward Wagner; and “Bad News” by Richard Laymon (Collected 1990):

The first of the still-running Best New Horror anthologies is mostly excellent and manages to look at a broad slice of horror sub-genres. Cherry Wilder’s Holocaust-tinged “The House on Cemetery Street” is literally and figuratively haunting, as is Thomas Tessier’s Central American nightmare “Blanca.” “The Last Day of Miss Dorinda Molyneaux” by Robert Westall does a terrific job of homaging the style and content of M.R. James in a more modern context, while the Thomas Ligotti piece included here is an emblematic bit of WTF? embodying Ligotti’s unnerving fictional universe.

Ian Watson’s piece is a black-comic horror-satire dealing with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie issued after the publication of The Satanic Verses. Ramsey Campbell’s story also satirizes religious fundamentalism, in this case against the backdrop of a world-wide zombie apocalypse, while Kim Newman’s tale visits death and destruction on people who colourize movies (sort of). Only the Karl Edward Wagner tale is a bummer from a formerly great talent on his tragic way down, an unscary, unfunny homage to TV’s The Avengers that features yet another alcoholic, self-loathing, sexually charismatic Wagner protagonist. Recommended.

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