This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror
I have been a fan of The Horror Zine for some time now. Editor Jeani Rector and her crew work hard to provide a quality monthly literary journal with fiction, poetry, and artwork from morbidly creative people. When she contacted me about reviewing their first print collection, What Fears Become, I jumped at the chance.
In general, I love horror story collections, especially when they are like What Fears Become and compile a wide range of scary stories. I find collection to be a great way to take the current pulse of the genre. In this case, the collection also features poetry and artwork. This range of appeal made me also go out and purchase a copy for the Berwyn Library. We have many readers who will greatly appreciate having access to this collection.
Specifically, this collection is a good read for horror fans for a few other reasons:
- Big name, award winning authors have contributed to The Horror Zine and allowed their work to be included here. There are stories by horror greats Graham Masterton, Ramsey Campbell, Joe Lansdale, and Elizabeth Massie. Even science fiction legend Piers Anthony has a story here. But for me, the most surprising of this bunch was "Dogleg" by Bentley Little. I have grown tired of Little in the last few years and was worried that his best work was behind him. However, "Dogleg" was an amazing, psychological story that was both haunting and terrifying.
- There are very good stories which take an original twist on what are can easily become a tired theme in the wrong hands. "Mall Walkers" by Chris Reed (zombies), "3AM" by James Marlow (ghosts out for revenge) and "Losing Judy" by Andy Mee (haunted woods) were some of my favorite stories in the collection
- Stories that will stay with you long after you finish them. "Adelle's Night" by David Grinn is just perfect in this sense. It is terrifyingly realistic even though it is completely implausible; for me personally this is the best combination in my favorite horror tales.
- A new voice that impressed me was Canadian Jagjiwan Sohal whose first "stab" at horror fiction was "Wandering Daniel." This story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and our protagonist is a vampire. But, he did not become a vampire in the apocalypse; he was one before. This story is a great beginning, but I would not say it is even close to the best story in the bunch. However, I was so intrigued by the set up and his descriptions of the created world that I am craving more. I hope Sohal considers trying to put Daniel into a novel. I would read it.
- Some were just plain fun. "The House at the End of Smith Street" by Stephen M. Dare is similar to The Ruins by Scott Smith (a personal all time favorite), only this time, instead of a killer plant, we have a killer carpet. Not the most original story in the bunch, it it was a fun, satirical, and plenty scary.
- I appreciated that Rector kept her own two stories until the collection's final pages. They are solid enough to be included, but I am glad she gave everyone else their chance to shine.
- Finally as I have already said, the range of the type of horror here is huge. There are stories for fans of the bloody, supernatural, psychological, creepy, or thriller. If you have a favorite way to feel the fear, this collection probably has a story for you.
There were a few stories I did not care for, but much of that was a personal taste issue. For example, I did not like "The Chamber" by David Landrum mostly because of its ancient time period setting. But others will enjoy it for exactly the reason I disliked it. The point is that there is enough here for everyone, and since it is a collection, you could skip your least favorite tales and still have plenty to read.
A note on the poetry, of which there is quite a bit. Not being a big poetry fan, I do not feel qualified to comment on it. On the other hand, as a RA librarian, I have quite a few patrons (and a staff member) who are active readers of dark poetry. I will get this collection into their hands very soon.
Three Words That Describe This Book: unsettling, original voices, wide horror appeal
Readalikes: For readalikes, I would like to offer some of my personal favorite collections which like, What Fears Become, span a wide range of horror appeal factors. What you will not find suggested here are collections of for example, all zombie stories or all vampire tales. I do include the best of those more specific collections under their appropriate headings in my new book.
- Best Horror of the Year series edited by Ellen Datlow (currently on volume 3) Really any collection edited by Datlow is an excellent choice.
- Dark Delicacies series edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb (also currently on volume 3)
- Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology edited by Peter Straub
- Midnight Walk: 14 Original Stories of Terror and Suspense edited by Lisa Morton
- Prime Evil: New Stories by the Masters of Modern Horror edited by Douglas Winter (an oldie but still a goodie)
- 999: 29 Original Tales of Horror and Suspense edited by Al Sarrantonio
And this is just the tip of the iceberg, Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite horror story collection.