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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What I’m Reading: Horror Anthologies

The current issue of Booklist has two of my reviews. Both are excellent horror anthologies that can be used for displays and are easy to hand sell. The first is Christmas themed and the second is flight themed but also all women! Seriously, these are must buys for public libraries because of both appeal and ease of hand selling, as I will explain in detail below. Also, even if you don’t have much horror in your collections, anthologies are a great way to gather works by a variety of authors with a single purchase. Then your patrons can tell you what they want more of after reading them. Its a very cost effective way to test the horror waters.

Its an easy way to do collection development, but more importantly, it is one that actually honors what you patrons want. I promise you, order these two collections by a diverse group of today's best horror writers and sit back and watch requests for more horror to come in. You can argue with me all that you want that your readers dont want horror, but the sales of these authors begs to differ with you. Plus, your argument holds no weight if you dont even try to offer them horror.

You can’t know unless you try.

Finally my regular disclaimer about these reviews. Here on the blog I post my draft version of the reviews and add extra appeal statements, my three words, and more readalikes. The reviews that appear in print and online from Booklist are shorter and more succinct.

Now, let’s get started with one of the most fun horror anthologies I have ever read.

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream.

Golden, Christopher (editor).
Oct. 2018. 384p. Anchor, paper, $16.95 (9780525433163); e-book (9780525433170)
First published September 1, 2018 (Booklist).

Bestselling author Christopher Golden is back, curating another sure bet horror anthology, this time with an ingenious premise as he mines the terror which is always lurking just behind the bright lights of the holiday season. Already placed squarely in the midst of the darkest time of the year, Christmas has a well established connection to horror, such as Dickens’ ghosts, the atrocious over commercialization of the season, and the dread of forced family gatherings. In building this anthology with 18 never before published stories, Golden has considered it all: the obviously terrifying (disappearing children), the macabre (possesed figurines), and the frighteningly probably (the hot holiday toy gets hacked!), with some doses of dark humor sprinkled in for good measure. Many of the authors featured here, such as Seanan McGuire, Josh Malerman, Jonathan Maberry, and Sarah Pinborough, will drive interest in the anthology on their own, but even without the name recognition, this is a stellar collection that will attract a wide range of readers but more importantly, it is a sure bet to liven up your Christmas displays for years to come.
Further Appeal: Do you see that cover? Your holiday displays will feature this book for years. to come But also, it lists many of the contributors right there on the cover. These are names a wide variety of patrons will seek out. The book literally sells itself. [You can click here to see the full list of contributors.]

With that great cover, hybrid holiday hook, and heavy hitter lineup, this anthology could have phoned it in, but it does not. The stories are all new and fun. The terror ranges from mild to all encompassing, so remind people that they don’t have to read every story, but that they also shouldn’t be scared to give it a try. Is one story too scary for you? Stop and move on to the next one.

With the Christmas theme I am sure some readers who have been wanting to give horror try but had no idea where to start, will eagerly start here. Just be ready to get requests for more books by the authors contained in this volume.

Three Words That Describe This Book: holidays, original, bestsellers

Readalikes: Besides directing readers to the dozens more options by the 18 authors who appear in this anthology [click here for the full contributor list], I also want to point you to this post I wrote in 2016 entitled, “A New, Old, Winter Storytelling Tradition with a Display Opportunity.” There I have a few other suggestions for spooky Christmas reads.

Fright into Flight.

Fallon, Amber (editor).
Sept. 2018. 232p. Word Horde, paper, $15.99  (9781939905444)
First published September 1, 2018 (Booklist).

Horror novelist, Amber Fallon edits her first collection of 16 previously published tales of terror centered around the theme of flight, featuring only women authors. An all female horror anthology’s time is long overdue, and looking to the skies for inspiration is the perfect place to begin. As Fallon notes in the introduction, flight is a concept filled with promise but also fraught with terror, but women in particular “...have long been associated with flight.” From angles to fairies to Valkyries, not to mention the “bloodthirsty harpies” in many a scary story, Fallon is reclaiming the skies for all women, giving them voice to craft the fear for themselves, rather than sitting by and watching men hijack it. The stories are solid all around and the author list is impressive, from well known names like Gemma Files to critically acclaimed newcomers like Nadia Bulkin, but it is the opening story, an engrossing and timely story, commenting on rape culture by Damien Angelica Walters “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” which looks back on an evening twelve years prior when 300,000 girls between 11 and 17 simply vanished, all over the world, that will haunt you throughout your reading of this entire anthology. This is a perfect read for fans of popular female driven speculative fiction like Her Body and Other Parties and The Power or Ellen Datlow’s critically acclaimed Black Feathers horror anthology.

Further Appeal: The only reason I did not give this collection a star is because all the stories but 1 were all previously published elsewhere; in fact I had even read a few before. I also realize that I am more well versed in current stories by women in horror than most of you, but I didn’t feel right given a star to a reprint anthology.

However, that being said, these stories are strong. I have read the Walters story I mentioned above three times, and it is a haunting gut punch every time. Bulkin cannot write a bad story either. This collection is all women, which in and of itself will draw many readers, but it is also extremely diverse. These authors come from a range of experiences and write across the breadth of the genre. It is inclusive in every sense.

The flight theme taken from an all female perspective is also intriguing. Fallon’s introduction sets the stage perfectly, pointing out all of the times women and flight have been paired in terrifying ways across human storytelling. The metaphors go together surprisingly well from a horror standpoint. That alone is an intriguing reason to try this book.

Also, it came out YESTERDAY! So go buy it now. Word Horde is a reputable small press, one of my favorites in both the durability of the books to stand up to multiple checkouts and the quality of the words between the covers..

Three Words That Describe This Book: themed collection, inclusive, all women

Readalikes: Like the anthology reviewed above, this collection will draw readers to more books by the authors included. I also suggest a few other readalikes in the review itself and those link to my reviews with even more readalikes. But I would be remiss if I did not remind you that there is another flight themed horror collection out right now-- Flight or Fright-- edited by Bev Vincent and someone named StephenKing. You can read my review, but despite the shared theme [which may be enough of a draw for many readers], they are very different.

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