Ellen Datlow’s Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

imageI firmly believe that Ellen Datlow assisted in a major manner in the creation of the contemporary field of horror anthologies when she edited the horror and dark fantasy that ran in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror from 1987 to 2008. When that anthology sadly ceased to be, she went on to edit The Best Horror of the Year which is now in its eight year. Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror collects previously published stories that Datlow likes and two new stories commissioned specifically for this volume.

Nightmares is a companion volume to an earlier work, Darkness: Two Decades of Horror, which covered the previous twenty years of horror literature. If you’re looking for an excellent look at the last thirty years of horror, I’d say these two volumes will do nicely.

But, you say, you haven’t told me anything about this anthology. Fair point, so I’ll now do just that. Ellen Datlow is by any measure one of the best genre editors working today if not the best one. She’s won myriad awards and I’ve lost count of how many anthologies she’s edited but I’ll single out some of my favorites which include Hauntings which she co-edited with Nick Mamatas, Supernatural Noir, The Coyote Road: Tales of the Trickster which was co-edited with Terri Windling, Snow White, Blood Red, one of the anthologies in the Fairy Tale series she edited with Terti Windling and of course all of the aforementioned YBFH anthologies.

It’s published appropriately enough in October of this by Tachyon Press which has a sterling reputation as a publisher, and everything herein is worth reading. I should note that this is unusual for me as most such anthologies disappoint me  far more often than they meet with my approval. Two such horror anthologies I sampled this week left me grumbling as the stories lacked any true punch and one case  featured some stories lifted from larger works which meant the selection garnered a WTF? from me as they felt unfinished.

Everything here is, not surprisingly, excellent. I’d single out Gemma Files, author of A Book of Tongues, a weird Western novel, offers up ‘Spectral Evidence’, a chilling story told in the form of  the evidence for a case now closed. Like Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell novel, this story’s heavily footnoted and much of the horror is in them.

Robert Shearman’s ‘That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Home’ has the most horrifying lead off paragraph for any story that I’ve ever encountered. And the rest of the story actually made me squirm as I read it. Consider yourself warned if you read late at night. Or anytime of the day.

Garth Nix, more commonly known for his fantasy such as Old Kingdom series, is my third pick. ‘Shay Corsham Worsted’ may not be a title that rolls off the tongue but I pick this as my last pick in large part because its telling of a retired secret service agent that no one takes seriously until he is activated is extremely well told.

Every new anthology by her has the inevitable problem of finding new ways to say that every anthology by her is comprised of stories that are superb. So let me just say that the stories are, errrr, superb.

(Tachyon Press, 2016)

Cat Eldridge

I'm the publisher of Green Man Review. I do the Birthdays and Media Anniversary write-ups for Mike Glyer’s file770.com, the foremost SFF fandom site.

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