Polar Horrors: Chilling Tales From the Ends of the Earth is a theme anthology edited by John Miller. As the name implies, it focuses on tales relating to the South Pole and its northern brother, a combination that includes a lot of cold and inhospitable real estate. Included are twelve stories ranging from the well known to the nearly unheard of.
The most recent story in the book is “Iqsinaqtutaluk Piqtuq: the Haunted Blizzard” by Avic Johnston. As an illustration of how much newer this story is than the others, the author was born a full half century after the next most recent story was first published. Featuring modern technology as a blizzard moves in on a school, a boy and his sibling attempt to head home in the storm. Of course, as in most horror, there is more than cold and wind to fear.
First Peoples stories and experiences have been given more respect in horror of late, and Inuit traditions get a decent amount of attention here. Quick and clever writing helps the author separate the more Europeanized teachers from their students, and effortlessly show them to be less prepared for the cold. The plot is direct, and all the more disturbing for it.
Originally from 1930, “Creatures of the Light” by Sophie Winzel Ellis is one of the longer mysteries in the book at roughly 50 pages. It includes a variety of stories including the hidden world and secret advancement of humanity concepts. A man named Northwood sees an odd looking man drop a wallet and finds a picture in it of a woman he finds breathtakingly beautiful.
An interesting element certainly comes from the presence of a solar powered vehicle, something that seems much less farferched these ays, even as the eugenic concepts become more grotesque. Indeed, the presence of these elements in a story of the time is certainly to be expected, as eugenics was still in something of a heyday. The somewhat darker then expected depiction of these things, including the principal character showing horror at the attempts to push humanity forward via sciences like this, make it in especially interesting depiction for the time. Rather than coming across as a positive example of potential super science, it is treated as inhuman and wrong.
A fine addition to the British Library Tales of the Weird series, this book includes a scattering of stories from across the decades from 1837 to 2019. This also has the effect of giving it one of the most recent stories in the series, although one that feels appropriare. As always there is an excellent introduction, as well as very good source notation and citation. A page of biographical information about the author is kindly included before each story, though some are more informative than others.
The assorted stories bring in known classics of the subgenre as well as those unheard of. Other recent collections will have one or two of these stories at most. Even when sharing a theme one isn’t likely to find such a quality and eclectic collection centering on the cold. Easily recommended to curious parties, though a cup of cocoa will be advised.
(British Library Publishing, 2022)