Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: selections from MY FAVORITE HORROR STORY edited by Mike Baker and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW Books, 2000)

from the
Locus Index:

My Favorite Horror Story ed. Mike Baker & Martin H. Greenberg (DAW 0-88677-914-6, Oct 2000, $6.99, 303pp, pb, cover by Koeveks) Anthology of 15 horror stories by authors including Robert Bloch, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ramsey Campbell. Each story was selected, and commented on, by authors including Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Poppy Z. Brite, and Joyce Carol Oates.

  • ix · Introduction · Mike Baker & Martin H. Greenberg · in
  • 1 · Introduction to “Sweets to the Sweet” by Robert Bloch · Stephen King · is
  • 1 · Sweets to the Sweet · Robert Bloch · ss Weird Tales Mar ’47
  • 11 · Introduction to “The Father-Thing” by Philip K. Dick · Ed Gorman · is
  • 11 · The Father-Thing · Philip K. Dick · ss The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) Dec ’54
  • 26 · Introduction to “The Distributor” by Richard Matheson · F. Paul Wilson · is
  • 27 · The Distributor · Richard Matheson · ss Playboy Mar ’58
  • 47 · Introduction to “A Warning to the Curious” by M. R. James · Ramsey Campbell · is
  • 48 · A Warning to the Curious · M. R. James · ss The London Mercury Aug ’25
  • 68 · Introduction to “Opening the Door” by Arthur Machen · Peter Atkins · is
  • 70 · Opening the Door · Arthur Machen · ss When Churchyards Yawn, ed. Cynthia Asquith, London: Hutchinson, 1931
  • 85 · Introduction to “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft · Richard Laymon · is
  • 89 · The Colour Out of Space · H. P. Lovecraft · nv Amazing Sep ’27
  • 124 · Introduction to “The Inner Room” by Robert Aickman · Peter Straub · is
  • 125 · The Inner Room · Robert Aickman · nv The Second Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories, ed. Robert Aickman, Fontana, 1966
  • 162 · Introduction to “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne · Rick Hautala · is
  • 163 · Young Goodman Brown · Nathaniel Hawthorne · ss New England Magazine Apr, 1835
  • 179 · Introduction to “The Rats in the Walls” by H. P. Lovecraft · Michael Slade · is
  • 180 · The Rats in the Walls · H. P. Lovecraft · ss Weird Tales Mar ’24
  • 204 · Introduction to “The Dog Park” by Dennis Etchison · Richard Christian Matheson · is
  • 205 · The Dog Park · Dennis Etchison · ss Dark Voices 5, ed. David Sutton & Stephen Jones, London: Pan, 1993
  • 219 · Introduction to “The Animal Fair” by Robert Bloch · Joe R. Lansdale · is
  • 219 · The Animal Fair · Robert Bloch · ss Playboy May ’71
  • 236 · Introduction to “The Pattern” by Ramsey Campbell · Poppy Z. Brite · is
  • 236 · The Pattern · Ramsey Campbell · nv Superhorror, ed. Ramsey Campbell, W.H. Allen, 1976
  • 258 · Introduction to “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe · Joyce Carol Oates · is
  • 259 · The Tell-Tale Heart · Edgar Allan Poe · ss The Pioneer Jan, 1843
  • 266 · Introduction to “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce · Dennis Etchison · is
  • 267 · An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge · Ambrose Bierce · ss  The San Francisco Examiner Jul 13, 1890
  • 279 · Introduction to “The Human Chair” by Edogawa Rampo · Harlan Ellison · is 
  • 281 · The Human Chair [1925] · "Edogawa Rampo" (Hirai Taro) · ss Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Tuttle, 1956 (as translated by James B. Harris)
  • 299 · About the Authors · Misc. · bg

Here's a book I wasn't aware of till this afternoon, though if you'd asked me, I might've thought of a not altogether similar one edited by Steven Silver--also in collaboration with Martin H. Greenberg.  But in reviewing today Greenberg's solo effort My Favorite Science Fiction story, George Kelley mentioned this one in passing, so I looked into it on

As I noted in George's comments section, for reasons unclear to me the essays/introductions written by the writers selecting their favorite short horror fictions by other writers are all dated, on ISFDB, as if they were published or at least written in 1982, when the first edition of the book was published in 2000. As co-editor Baker died rather young in 1997, they probably were commissioned at least some years beforehand. Stephen King's short headnote to Robert Bloch's short story "Sweets to the Sweet" (one of two Bloch stories collected here, the only writer to get two inclusions aside from Bloch's mentor H. P. Lovecraft) was copyrighted in 1982, and Joe Lansdale's slightly longer entry for the other Bloch story ("The Animal Fair") in they might've been put to other purposes, but no previous publication credit is present in the book or online indices. Curious. 

The book's unsigned introduction, which I will guess was primarily if not entirely the work of Baker, doesn't start well: "Of the three main subgenres of popular fiction, horror is often considered the most recent as a viable literary form in its own right." There are any number of subgenres among genres of popular fiction, and they don't usually restrict themselves to popular fiction, if by that we mean fiction which is not attempting to be lasting art. Who is considering the recent advent of horror standing alone? And how little-informed are they? Most of the rest of the essay is about how wrong this posited attitude is...which would be fine, if anyone who wasn't simply trying to judge by whether bookstores had horror shelves or not was jumping to those supposed conclusions.

And the quality as well as the length of the blurbs to essays from the selectors varies from writer to writer within, if all are better than the introduction. They usually don't worry too much about a dichotomy that I often raise, between the otherwise similar fields of "realistic" suspense fiction and fantasticated, supernatural horror, though Joe Lansdale in introducing the second Bloch story makes a point of "The Animal Fair" having no supernatural elements, if (as he doesn't quite say) a slightly unlikely fate for its least lovable character.  (If I were choosing the best horror story by Bloch, "Sweets to the Sweet" would rank pretty high for me as well; I can say more definitely that among his outre suspense stories, I'd plump for "The Final Performance" as even more hardboiled.)

It's the stories as well as the essays that make the book, and aside from such chestnuts as the Poe (Joyce Carol Oates makes a professorial case for it), the Hawthorne (Rick Hautala notes that New Englanders are in the house), the Bierce (Dennis Etchison rediscovers the primary model for his own literary approach), and the Lovecrafts--if you haven't read these, you're mostly in for a good time, though not a few will be pulled up short by aspects of the HPL stories these years, and they are the least of the all but ineluctable classics gathered--and you are unlikely to suffer through such stories as probably Richard Matheson's best shorter work (and definitely not horror per se), Hirai/"Rampo"'s most famous story as translated, at least, and one of Philip Dick's most loved (if that's the word) of his few fairly straightforward horror fictions ("Upon the Dull Earth" is my slightly less-famous preferred story in this wise, but Ed Gorman makes a good case for why this one is his, and what it might've been inspired by, in part). The only story here I've missed previously (and it took some effort on my part to do so, given the various anthologies and colletions it's appeared in since initial publication) is Dennis Etchison's "The Dog Park"...and I'm going to dip into that one now. 

So, thanks to George and all the writers and writer-selectors for this volume (far too many lost since this book was published), for some good memory jogs and useful new perspective. Please see Patricia Abbott's blog for this Wednesday's other short story citations, including Patti's own selection of the formidable writer of horror and more, Elizabeth Bowen.