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Darkness
Cover of Darkness
Darkness
Two Decades of Modern Horror
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This sophisticated, scary anthology collects the best horror fiction published between 1984 and 2005, one of horror's most innovative eras. These exceptionally diverse stories, hand-picked by horror-expert editor Ellen Datlow, are tales of the subtly psychological, the unpredictably mischievous, and the disturbingly visceral.
Here are classics, such as horror master Stephen King's "Chattery Teeth," the tautly drawn account of a traveling salesman who unwisely picks up yet another hitchhiker; Peter Straub's eerie "The Juniper Tree," describing a man whose nostalgia for the movies of his childhood leads to his stolen innocence; and George R. R. Martin's sinister "The Pear-Shaped Man," in which a young woman encounters a neighbor who likes her a bit too much.
Whether you grew up on Clive Barker's Books of Blood; Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"; Neil Gaiman's Sandman; or are newly discovering Stephen King's son, breakout author Joe Hill; there is something here for everyone who enjoys being more than just a little bit scared.

This sophisticated, scary anthology collects the best horror fiction published between 1984 and 2005, one of horror's most innovative eras. These exceptionally diverse stories, hand-picked by horror-expert editor Ellen Datlow, are tales of the subtly psychological, the unpredictably mischievous, and the disturbingly visceral.
Here are classics, such as horror master Stephen King's "Chattery Teeth," the tautly drawn account of a traveling salesman who unwisely picks up yet another hitchhiker; Peter Straub's eerie "The Juniper Tree," describing a man whose nostalgia for the movies of his childhood leads to his stolen innocence; and George R. R. Martin's sinister "The Pear-Shaped Man," in which a young woman encounters a neighbor who likes her a bit too much.
Whether you grew up on Clive Barker's Books of Blood; Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"; Neil Gaiman's Sandman; or are newly discovering Stephen King's son, breakout author Joe Hill; there is something here for everyone who enjoys being more than just a little bit scared.

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  • Darkness

    Introduction
    Ellen Datlow


    I'm not a horror critic or an expert. I am an enthusiast of short horror fiction, and have been for as long as I remember. I've also been reading most of the short horro fiction being published since 1986 when I was a judge for the World Fantasy Awards and then in 1987 when I became the editor of the horror half of the outgoing anthology series The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. So I am aware of what's out there.

    My publisher and I decided to begon with 1985- which is the year that Clive Barker's Books of Blood volumes 1-3 won the World Fantasy Award. Although the books were published as mass market paperbacks in the United Kingdom in 1984 and Barker was heralded as "the new voice of horror," their influence didn't really take hold until 1985- which is also when his second three volumes were published.

    This is not to say that short horror fiction was languishing prior to Barker's emergence on the scene. What with the publication of Kirby McCauley's landmark anthology Dark Forces in 1980, the general reading public could see writers from all over the spectrum producing excellent horror fiction. Some of the twenty-three contributors were Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gene Wolfe, Cliffor Simak, Davis Grubb, T.E.D. Klein, Karl Edward Wagner, Stephen King, Joe Haldeman, Gahan Wilson, Edward Gorey, and Ramsey Campbell.

    Less monumental but just as important were the horror series anthologies Shadows, edited by Charles L. Grant between 1978 and 1991; Whispers magazine and then anthology, edited by Stuart Schiff between 1973 and 1987 (with a Best of Whispers, including original stories, in 1997); and Fantasy Tales, edited by Stephen Jones and David Sutton in the UK from 1977 to 1991. The fiction published in these magazines and anthologies, although actually publishing a variety of types of stories, was perceived by some horror readers as lacking something.

    Barker was heralded as introducing a new, more visceral form of horror fiction, something that was dubbed splatterpunk, although Barker’s work seemed less influenced by “splatter” films than some of the later members of that loosely connected group of writers. Although the early “splatterpunks” produced some excellent work, the movement unfortunately devolved into shock fiction more concerned with viscera, torture, and grisliness than in creating lasting fear or unease. What it did do is start a conversation between those who felt horror needed a punch in the guts and those who felt quiet horror more effective. The only three alumni included in this volume are Clive Barker, David J. Schow (who made up the term “splatterpunk” as a joke), and Poppy Z. Brite; all three of their stories were published between 1990 and 1995, long after the heyday of the movement.

    What this volume is not:

    It is by no means a definitive collection of the best stories published between 1984 and 2005. Are these stories the best? How does one judge such a thing? Some are award nominees or winners, and most were reprinted by me in my annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Are they the stories I love the best of all those published in that period? This week they are. Maybe next week, I’d pick others. With only a little over 180,000 words, this volume can merely be a taste of great fiction. I could easily fill a book twice this size with other stories (plus the brilliant and powerful novellas) that are my favorites.

About the Author-
  • Ellen Datlow has edited more than 50 anthologies, including The Dark, The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Inferno, Little Deaths, Poe, Twists of the Tales, and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She coedited The Coyote Road, Salon Fantastique, and Troll’s Eye View and has won the Locus Award, the Hugo Award, the Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the World Fantasy Award for her editing. She lives in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 15, 2010
    This diverse 25-story anthology is a superb sampling of some of the most significant short horror works published between 1985 and 2005. Editor extraordinaire Datlow (Poe
    ) includes classic stories from horror icons Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Stephen King as well as SF and fantasy luminaries Gene Wolfe, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, and Lucius Shepard. The full diversity of horror is on display: George R.R. Martin's “The Pear-Shaped Man,” about a creepy downstairs neighbor, and Straub's “The Juniper Tree,” which chronicles a drifter's sexual molestation of a young boy, exemplify horror's sublime psychological power, while Barker's “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament” and Poppy Z. Brite's “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” are audaciously gory masterworks. This is an anthology to be cherished and an invaluable reference for horror aficionados.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 20, 2003
    Ghosts with surprising substance flit through this sterling anthology of new weird tales, and most have purposes more sophisticated than the chain rattling and caterwauling of their old-fashioned forebears. In Jeffrey Ford's "The Trentino Kid," the ghost of a teenager serves as an instructive specter of unfulfilled promise for the aimless narrator. Lucius Shepard's "Limbo" features an obsessive romance between a spiritually deadened criminal, who can't tell life from the afterlife, and an enigmatic young woman who complicates his predicament. In Glenn Hirshberg's "Dancing Men," the ghost is the shadow of the Holocaust, which haunts a survivor of the concentration camps and becomes an indelible legacy passed on to future generations of his family. Even when more traditional ghosts appear, such as the grandfather clock animated by the spirit of a murder victim in Tanith Lee's "The Ghost of the Clock" and the lingering influence of a madwoman that terrorizes a child in Ramsey Campbell's "Feeling Remains," they have a psychological dimension that adds depth and power to their horrors. Datlow has cast her net beyond the horror genre's usual names and pulled in contributors whose stories are the equal of their best work, as well as mystery, fantasy and SF writers whose tales seem to be the ghost story they've always wanted to tell. Just as her anthology Blood Is Not Enough
    (1989) helped redefine the vampire for modern readers, this book is sure to provide a yardstick by which future ghost fiction will be measured.

  • Booklist

    April 1, 2010
    With several acclaimed horror anthologies to her credit already, including the first volume of the recently inaugurated Best Horror of the Year series, Datlow eschews best of labels for her new gathering, instead selecting favorites from her last 20 years of editing. With her only criterion being lasting thrills, the selection favors such familiar genre masters as Peter Straub, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. It also includes a few surprise contributions from such non-horror-genre writers as Joyce Carol Oates and sf master Gene Wolfe. Twenty-five stories in all embrace a wide spectrum of styles, from gore-laced splatterpunk to subtler, psychological horror. A suicidal woman exults in her newfound ability to bump off male tormentors by the power of thought alone. Invading aliens wait for the perfect amusing opportunity to take control of humanity. An engineer tired of his fear of heights devises his own death on a business flight. Datlows keen eye for narrative zest makes this one of her most entertaining compilations to date.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

  • Publishers Weekly, starred review

    "This diverse 25-story anthology is a superb sampling of some of the most significant short horror works published between 1985 and 2005. Editor extraordinaire Datlow (Poe) includes classic stories from horror icons Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Stephen King as well as SF and fantasy luminaries Gene Wolfe, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, and Lucius Shepard. The full diversity of horror is on display: George R. R. Martin's 'The Pear-Shaped Man' about a creepy downstairs neighbor, and Straub's 'The Juniper Tree,' which chronicles a drifter's sexual molestation of a young boy, exemplify horror's sublime psychological power, while Barker's 'Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament' and Poppy Z. Brite's 'Calcutta, Lord of Nerves' are audaciously gory masterworks. This is an anthology to be cherished and an invaluable reference for horror aficionados."

  • San Francisco Chronicle "Darkness promises to please both longtime fans and readers who have no clue what 'splatterpunk' was supposed to mean."
  • New York Journal of Books "Make sure you are in a safe place before you open it up."
  • Innsmouth Free Press "Datlow is a high-calibre anthologist."
  • Choate Road Horror Blog "About as close to horror perfection as any fan could ask for in an anthology."
  • Hellnotes.com "I can't recommend this book highly enough and no, that's not just the rabid fanboy inside me talking. This is my serious critic's voice. I know it doesn't translate well in the written word, but trust me. I give my highest recommendation for this book."
  • Publishers Weekly "This anthology of 24 previously published dark fantasy and horror stories, edited by the ever-adept Datlow (Blood and Other Cravings), explores a variety of situations in which people encounter literal or figurative specters from beyond. Some feature the ghosts of lovers or spouses wronged, while others give readers a powerful lens through which to view the evil people can do here on Earth, as in the gut-wrenching 'Cargo' by E. Michael Lewis. The theme is interpreted quite loosely and in varied ways, although many of the stories--such as the atmospheric opener, Pat Cadigan's 'Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateenie,' and Adam L. G. Nevill's tense 'Where Angels Come In'--hinge on anxieties relating to children in peril. Even so, the collection flows smoothly, capturing the pleasantly shivery dread of a round of ghost stories told by a fire, with only a few hiccups or sour notes (the most sour being Richard Bowes's deeply unpleasant "Transfigured Night"). Solid entries by Neil Gaiman, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Joyce Carol Oates capture the mood perfectly and will thrill fans of the eerie."
  • SF Site, featured review "[Hauntings is] apt to entertain and disquiet the horror fans."
  • Arkham Diges "Datlow once again proves herself as a master editor. Her mission to broaden readers' concepts of what a haunting can be is nothing short of a success, and the twenty-four stories on display run the gamut from explicitly terrifying to eerily familiar. Readers who wish to be haunted themselves should not miss this one. Highly recommended."
  • Black Static "A book that must surely be an early contender for any and every Best Anthology award going this year."
  • The Tomb of Dark Delights "Twenty four tales in all spanning the years 1983 through 2012, Ms Datlow has assembled a formidable community of eminent genre artists working at the very heights of their literary powers to create this outstanding dark fantasy anthology. This is the best of the best--don't miss it!"
  • Horror Talk "I have a short list of editors that I will buy an anthology of, regardless of whether or not I have even heard...
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Two Decades of Modern Horror
Ellen Datlow
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