This week I'm review Dark Forces, an anthology edited by Kirby McCauly.
I haven't done a book review since December! I decided to give myself a break to try to get through the rest of my giant TBR list, because reading these every other book was really cutting into the rest of my reading.
This was a good collection of stories, even though, like most other anthologies of horror published before a certain time, it is heavy on male contributors and extremely light on female contributors (there are two women, and twenty-two men.) The authors in this anthology were Stephen King, Dennis Etchison, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Edward Bryant, Davis Grubb, Robert Aickman, Karl Edward Wagner, Joyce Carol Oates (the one woman I consistently see in these older collections), T. E. D. Klein, Gene Wolfe, Theodore Sturgeon, Ramsey Campbell, Clifford D. Simak, Russell Kirk, Lisa Tuttle, Robert Bloch, Edward Gorey, Ray Bradbury, Joe Haldeman, Charles L. Grant, Manly Wade Wellman, Richard Matheson, Richard Christian Matheson, and Gahan Wilson. A power house of folks, to be sure.
There were some patterns to this collection of stories. One of them was vengeful females. Another was a proliferation of crones. And women scorned. The number of stories centered around angry women was surprising. It actually made me wonder what books and/or movies came out that year, or what was in the news, that would cause these to be common recurring themes.
The first story in here was written by request. You might recognize it: The Mist, by Stephen King. The Mist is a good story, despite the fact that I was dismayed at the sexism inherent. Not Stephen King! Yes, Stephen King. The female characters in this story were all either attractive or old, and all were described by their looks and appeal to the main character. And the main character sleeps with a young girl while they're trapped in the store, even though he's worried about his wife, who remained behind at their house. Given, he's thinking about his wife while they have sex. I don't know if that makes it better or worse.
Other than that, it's a solid horror story. He's rather good at writing the eccentric religious zealot, as well as the psycho bully (in this case, the same person). He manages to describe the dregs of humanity well in all his stories, to make you ache for something bad to happen to certain characters. But he also had some incredibly likable characters, from the grocer who stands with him to an elderly woman who takes no nonsense and doesn't appear to be afraid of anything. Even giant escaped creatures, that loom out of the mist to eat people and do terrible things to them.
Dark Angel, by Edward Bryant, was my favorite story. A woman takes the ultimate revenge on a man who left her in a bad situation. This one might actually be more horrifying for men than anyone else, but it left me feeling a mix of satisfaction and horror.
All in all, I don't think there was a story I disliked. There were a couple that fell flat for me, but I figure they would work for other folks. This was a solid collection of short dark fiction, with some fantastic writing from the contributors. I thought it was cool that an illustrated story was included, that Gahan Wilson told a story in words instead of pictures, and that Richard Matheson and his son did a story together.
Before I close this post out, I want to do a quick tribute to Ed Bryant, who died this past week in his sleep. He was a local horror author, a regular at various cons, and an all around wonderful guy. He had a voice like deep velvet and he was incredibly kind to everyone around him, especially newer writers. He had stories in almost every collection of dark fiction out there, and was prolific. I'm going to miss him at the next con.
Next book? Not sure. But I will try to read it within the next two weeks to get back on schedule a bit.
What do you think of the writers in this collection? Any of them favorites? Have you read this anthology? Have you read The Mist (I'm pretty sure it also showed up in one of King's collections)? Seen the movie?
May you find your Muse.