I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)
This week, I'm making a change. Ranking the books has gotten increasingly harder, and I'm not even sure I'd still rank them the same anymore. Over the course of my reading from this list, I've learned a lot about the different styles of horror. As a lifelong lover of horror, I thought I had it down, but I hadn't been exposed to some of these styles before. Horror covers a lot of ground, and there's quite a bit of horror that isn't acknowledged for what it is, instead being categorized in a secondary genre (for example, a sci-fi horror story being classified as sci-fi, not horror).
At the beginning of this process, I was opinionated on certain books not being horror, because they didn't follow the "rules" I had for the genre. If I re-read and reviewed them all over again, there would be some changes. To me, that says this whole project has been beneficial to me as a reader, but also as a horror author. It's been a learning process.
Instead, I'll be keeping track of the top ten. For simplicity's sake, the top ten will be novels and collections only, not anthologies. I'll still review the anthologies, but they will not place in the top ten.
Moving on, this week I'm reviewing Night Visions: In the Blood, edited by Alan Ryan.
This is an unusual anthology, in that there are only three authors, each with several stories. There was a series of Night Visions anthologies done this way, but this was the first one. I'd love to see this formula continued today. It gave a larger taste of authors who were often found in the major anthologies of the day, but just one story at a time. The setup of Night Visions allowed readers to immerse themselves in each author's style, and to discover them in a way a single story didn't allow.
I'm not going to go into individual stories (mostly because I handed the book over to a friend before reviewing, which was a mistake, because I need to be able to thumb through the book and refresh my memory when it's short stories), but I can say my favorite author in the bunch was Charles L. Grant, followed by Steve Rasnic Tem, then Tanith Lee. They're each skilled, but the gothic style of horror Lee writes isn't my favorite, though it's gorgeous. Her stories were beautifully written, but they were slower paced and didn't end up interesting me as much as the others. Grant and Tem both wrote stories that were more straight forward. I think Tem and Grant wrote similarly enough for it to make sense that they were together in this anthology, but that Lee would have been able to shine more if combined with other gothic horror authors. Her style seemed more literary in its focus on the words and the style versus the more straight forward story. I think I would have liked her stories more if they'd been matched up with different authors, rather than at the end of this collection, with me firmly settled in to the previous styles.
Still, I loved the concept of this book, and I intend to check out any others I can acquire. There were some amazing authors collected in this series of anthologies.
My Top Ten:
1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. Needful Things (Stephen King)
7. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
8. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
Next review will be of John Dies at the End.
Now for some links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.
WolfSinger Publications is seeking short horror stories for the anthology Haunted Hotel. 1000 to 7000 words. Pays $5 plus royalties. Deadline January 15.
Chicken Soup for the Soul is looking for personal stories in the themes Christmas and Holiday Collection, The Empowered Woman, and The Miracle of Love. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadlines are between January 10 and January 15.
Outlook Springs is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Pays $10 for poems, $25 for prose. Deadline January 15.
Myriad Paradigm is seeking short speculative fiction for the anthology Mind Candy 2.0. Prefer science fiction and aren't looking for anything too dark. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline January 15.
If you're looking for recommended word counts per genre, this Writer's Digest article by Chuck Sambuchino: Word Count for Novels and Children's Books: The Definitive Post.
John M. Cusick wrote Ten Cliches That Make Agents Roll Their Eyes.
And for those looking for horror to read, here's 25 Horror Readers on the Most Gut Twisting Book You Could Buy.
Have you read any of the Night Visions series? Or anything similar? Have you read any of the three authors in this anthology? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?
May you find your Muse.