Friday, July 23, 2010
Friday's "Forgotten" Books: SUPERHORROR (aka THE FAR REACHES OF FEAR) edited by Ramsey Campbell; THE MOON'S WIFE (wt: SIGGY LINDO) by A. A. Attanasio
Superhorror (published by W.H. Allen in 1976), as the slim anthology was titled in its original UK edition (the 1980 UK paperback takes the other title), includes the following stories, all original to it:
Brian Lumley - The Viaduct
R. A. Lafferty - Fog In My Throat
Daphne Castell - Christina
Joseph F. Pumilia - The Case Of James Elmo Freebish
David Drake - The Hunting Ground
Manley Wade Wellman - The Petey Car
Robert Aickman - Wood
Ramsey Campbell - The Pattern
Fritz Leiber - Dark Wings
I picked up my remaindered copy of the 1977 St. Martin's Press US hardcover, with the Donald Grant cover above carried over from the Allen edition, in 1979 or '80 in one of the Hawaiian chain of department stores, Liberty House.
What Al Attanasio had been writing for several years under the working title, for his protagonist, Siggy Lindo, was published in a much truncated form as The Moon's Wife, which does describe her predicament, by HarperCollins in 1993. The acquiring editor who'd bought the fat novel, which if Al didn't think of as his magnum opus it was one particularly close to his heart, left HC, and the new editor, as I recall from Al's account, not only didn't care for Not Invented Here but, I gathered, also chose to be offended that Al as a male writer would dare to write a novel about a female protagonist who could be seen as delusional, and indeed is by other characters in the romantic fantasy about a woman who learns that she is to literally become the Moon's wife, soulmate of its spirit. So, since this was published well after the initial splash of Attanasio's debut novel Radix, a genuinely international bestseller, and before the Arthor series began riding the UK charts, the editor demanded and got a severe edit that reduced the novel to a fraction of its original length. The book got zero support, zero attention, nearly zero sales and saw only the original hardcover edition in the States...Al's success in the UK led to the paperback reprint pictured above. Even truncated, it remains a charming and elegant work, in some ways my favorite of Attanasio's and still demonstrative of the joy he took in writing it in its original form, that probably could more easily find an audience today than it could seventeen years ago, when publishers weren't too certain how to market Richard Matheson's paranormal romances, either. My copy is the one that Al sent along from his stash of promotional copies.
Meanwhile, the Campbell, the first anthology he would edit, is an impressive start by any measure...with most of the contributors demonstrating why they were already masters of the form, and the major flaw as far as it goes being a lack of female contributors...but the biggest surprises in the book would not be that Leiber or Aickman or Wellman or even the then still relatively young Drake, and Castell and Campbell himself, would provide impressive work, but that Brian Lumley's suspense story, like all his work carrying a touch of the Boy's Adventure Tale about it but also like most of his non-Lovecraftian work far superior to the (sustainedly popular) Necroscope kludges, would be a fine and brutal story of retribution; Joseph Pumilia's rather grimly jokey homage to EC horror comics was an early example of that sort of thing in prose, and a good one; and then there's R. A. Lafferty's story. It was no secret that Lafferty was brilliant and eccentric, and often veered close to out-and-out horror in much of his previous fiction, but only rarely nudged any given work firmly into the field...but "Fog in My Throat" takes on the very soul of horror, the knowledge that we will be extinct and how we cope with this, and succinctly and forefully tells us how and why we'd best not try to fiddle with our self-delusional defense mechanisms in dealing with that. From a devoutly Catholic man, well along in years and not in the greatest of health at the time, it's a brilliant story that carries every sort of conviction with its wit, invention and compassion, and I've remembered it more clearly than any other in this book over the decades.
And, of course, it's been reprinted exactly once, as far as I can tell, in a small-press collection of Lafferty's short work.
For more of Friday's "Forgotten" Books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.