Friday, August 3, 2012

FFB in progress: SHADOWS edited by Charles Grant; BOOK OF THE DEAD edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector

Courtesy ISFDb:

Editor: Charles L. Grant
Year: 1978-09-00
Publisher: Doubleday
Price: $7.95
Pages: ix+182
Cover: James Starrett
vii • Introduction (Shadows) • (1978) • essay by Charles L. Grant
1 • Naples • (1978) • short story by Avram Davidson
8 • The Little Voice • (1978) • novelette by Ramsey Campbell
26 • Butcher's Thumb • (1978) • short story by William John Watkins [as by William Jon Watkins ]
35 • Where All the Songs Are Sad • (1978) • novelette by Thomas F. Monteleone
63 • Splinters • (1978) • short story by R. A. Lafferty
76 • Picture • (1978) • short story by Robert Bloch
83 • The Nighthawk • (1978) • short story by Dennis Etchison
99 • Dead Letters • (1978) • short story by Ramsey Campbell
104 • A Certain Slant of Light • (1978) • short story by Raylyn Moore
116 • Deathlove • (1978) • short story by Bill Pronzini
124 • Mory • (1978) • novelette by Michael Bishop
142 • Where Spirits Gat Them Home • (1978) • short story by John Crowley
151 • Nona • (1978) • novelette by Stephen King

Courtesy The Locus Index to Science Fiction: 1984-1998:

Book of the Dead ed. John M. Skipp & Craig Spector
(Bantam 0-553-27998-X, Jul ’89 [Jun ’89], $4.50, 390pp, pb) Original anthology of 16 zombie stories set in the same universe as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

1 · Foreword · George A. Romero · fw
5 · Introduction: On Going Too Far · John M. Skipp & Craig Spector · in
15 · Blossom · Chan McConnell · ss *
21 · Mess Hall · Richard Laymon · nv *
42 · It Helps If You Sing · Ramsey Campbell · ss *
51 · Home Delivery · Stephen King · nv *
80 · Wet Work · Philip Nutman · ss *
88 · A Sad Last Love at the Diner of the Damned · Edward Bryant · nv *
119 · Bodies and Heads · Steve Rasnic Tem · ss *
137 · Choices · Glen Vasey · na *
195 · The Good Parts · Les Daniels · ss *
201 · Less Than Zombie · Douglas E. Winter · ss *
216 · Like Pavlov’s Dogs · Steven R. Boyett · na *
280 · Saxophone · Nicholas Royle · ss *
298 · On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks · Joe R. Lansdale · na *
343 · Dead Giveaway · Brian Hodge · ss *
356 · Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy · David J. Schow · nv *
379 · Eat Me · Robert R. McCammon · ss *

There are schools within schools, in nearly all areas of human endeavor...teams. Particularly as the book, and certainly the magazine containing fiction, began to slip away from omnipresence after the 1960s (because the anti-intellectuals were feeling their oats? Or at least the "elite media" learned to play to them even more than previously?), one way to get some attention for one's work and that of one's favored colleagues was to Gang Up. Ridiculous fights, real (Norman Mailer v. almost anyone who threatened to steal a spotlight Rightly His, however briefly; Mary McCarthy v. Lillian Hellman) or utterly bogus (the sad spectacle of the undertalented Jonathan Franzen v. the self-serving Oprah Winfrey, aka the Clash of the Overindulged, which worked out just fine for both in their tantrums) are always "good" for business, but getting some league play on the field for Our Team v. Yours can not only get whole groups of writers some attention, but makes the nonsensical Oppositions, even when they have some valid potential synthesis at their heart or real and important differences in what they do in their literature, that much easier to sustain, since one has confederates to help strike the poses with one. So, one gets the "Magical Realists" and Surfiction gang v. the Minimalists and "hyperrealists"; hardboiled crime fiction v. cozy mysteries (or, Mickey Spillane v. Agatha Christie); the cyberpunks (or, more ludicrously, The Movement) v. the Humanists (see next week's FFB here), and in the case of today's titles, the first anthologies in two impressive series, first published a little more than a decade apart, the advocates of Quiet Horror, subtle and allusive, v. the Splatterpunks, visceral and kinetic.

Neither of these series was actually Meant to be a locus of the perceived poles of horror in the 1980s and early '90s, but that was pretty much how things went. Shadows began at about the same time as the Whispers series of anthologies, also published by Doubleday misleadingly under their science fiction imprint (Manly Wade Wellman's horror novels of those years would be marketed similarly); as Barry Malzberg has noted in re: his own books with Doubleday at that time, they were simply dumped into the marketplace and expected to make a modest library sale (and generate some book club sales if everyone was lucky) and then quietly go into oblivion; this was how D-day treated its western line, and several others, as well. I suspect Doubleday editor Pat LoBrutto, who actually was looking for good work in these fields, was happy to be able to put such work into the lines, even if they were not accorded the respect in-house the work deserved.

By the time Book of the Dead was published, by the Spectra fantastic-fiction line at Bantam Books not too long before a German conglomerate would buy and merge Bantam and Doubleday (and Dell), the horror boom of the 1980s had only begun to recede, and what could be called the Omni/Wired magazine audience influx for new sf, and the first stirrings of the mass-audience romantic fantasy revival, were making themselves felt, so the Skipp and Spector book could be published rather more enthusiastically, even if the hardcover had to come from one of the more innovative small presses at the time.

Charles Grant's anthology series Shadows would continue, annually through Shadows 10 (1987), into the 1990s, with the volumes numbered in the double digits before Final Shadows eschewed being tagged "11" upon publication in 1991. Book of the Dead would see two sequel anthologies, one delayed for many years in part by the professional breakup of the editors, who were also frequent collaborators on novels; this first of their trilogy of tributes to Romero zombies not only was one of the earliest of splatter-oriented anthos, but was also the ancestor of a number of latter-day successful attempts to bring Romero-style zombies into prose in various guises.

The two series were impressive, and never moreso than with their initial frequently with literary binary "oppositions," the two books featured arguable members of the Opposition camp in each...for example, Stephen King, with his willingness to Go for the Grossout embodying the most obvious aspect of splatter, in the Grant volume, and Ramsey Campbell among the splats...not that either, among the bestselling of horror writers, was really out of place or incapable of working either metier, as much as they were truly distinct. Dennis Etchison, like Campbell a writer who began his career in the early 1960s while still a teenager, was often seen as one of the great critics of splatter...while much of his work, even more than King's or anyone else before Clive Barker began publishing his trendsetting Books of Blood, dealt with the kind of (occasionally very wet) psychopathology that the splats would later revel in (see Etchison's "The Soft Wall" for an acute example).

(More, and perhaps better, to come).


George said...

I have the paperback edition of SHADOWS, but I've never seen any of the editions of BOOK OF THE DEAD. I'm not a big zombie fan. I consider Charles Grant an underrated writer and editor.

Todd Mason said...

BOOK OF THE DEAD would be worth your while, George, given the range and quality of the fiction in response to the challenge to do a story in the George Romero film universe. I'll have more to say about Grant soonly...but I was always happy to see a new volume of SHADOWS...