In the last couple of weeks I’ve picked up over 10 pounds of Weird and Horror fiction. Between the massive two-volume Century’s Best Horror, the two-volume Best Horror of Karl Edward Wagner, and the 1126 page collection, The Weird, I’ve suddenly gotten a lot of creepy stories.
I enjoy short stories, partly because I’ve always liked the form, and partly because it’s something I can read at a sitting, often before bed time, but also when I’m not reading a novel and I just need a quick story fix. Generally I don’t read more than one such story at a time. I find it dulls the effect the writers were going for if I read too many creepy tales at once. Sometimes on weekends though, I might read two or three in a day.
I’ve been working my way through The Weird, subtitled A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, and it is, without a doubt, precisely that. Oddly enough, I learned of the book’s existence the day before it was published here in the US. It came out last year in the UK. A quick scan of the table of contents let me know that I had to have the book. I saw old favorites like Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, F. Marion Crawford’s The Screaming Skull, and M.R. James’ Casting the Runes, and I saw a ton of stories and authors I was unfamiliar with.
I’m on page 280 at the moment. Still a long way to go, but I’ve already discovered some gems. Though I’d heard of Saki’s tale, Srendi Vashtar, I’d never read it. It’s a weird little yarn about cruelty, revenge, and the strange world of childhood. H.F. Arnold’s The Night Wire was another tale I’d heard of, but have only now read, and it is a creeper. I wonder what influence it may have had on Stephen King’s The Mist.
Margaret Irwin’s The Book is yet another story about a dangerous tome of Eldritch lore and we know how I love those. White Rabbits, by Leonora Carrington, is a short but truly disturbing little tale. Oh, and I didn’t realize until last night that Mimic, the story that inspired an affective horror film a few years back was written by none other than Donald A. Wollheim, founder of DAW books and a man whose importance to the SF/Fantasy publishing world is immense.
I’m impressed by editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. This book is an international collection, with many weird tales translated from other languages, so you don’t just get the same old oft anthologized stuff. There are notes before every story telling you when it was written, a bit about the author, and other bits of interesting info. And my pal Michael Moorcock provides a nifty, ahem, Forweird.
Looking ahead, I see another old favorite, The Crowd, by Ray Bradbury, and a bunch of strange and unknown titles like The Long Sheet, The Hungry House, and The Ghoulbird. Much Weirdness ahead for me. I highly recommend this collection. Well worth the time of any fan of the weird. Here’s a link to a fantastic review of the Weird. This one made me grin.