Wednesday, September 6, 2023

SSW: SUPERHORROR (aka THE FAR REACHES OF FEAR) edited by Ramsey Campbell; THE MOON'S WIFE (wt: SIGGY LINDO) by A. A. Attanasio

Mooning covers...

Superhorror, published by W.H. Allen in 1976, as the slim anthology was titled in thaoriginal UK edition and its US reprint (the 1980 UK paperback takes the variant title), includes the following stories, all original to it: (via ISFDB)
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.

As the first anthology he would edit, it's an impressive start by any measure...with most of the contributors demonstrating why they were already masters of the form, and the largest flaw being a lack of female contributors, with the welcome exception of Daphne Castell...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 forcefully 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 1991 small-press collection of Lafferty's short work.

What A. A. 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, 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 when released 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 a UK paperback reprint. Even truncated, it remains a charming and elegant work, in some ways my favorite of Attanasio's novels 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 30 years ago, when publishers weren't too certain how to market Richard Matheson's paranormal romances, either. My copy is one that Al sent along from his stash of HC promotional copies. And in firs
t published form, it's almost a novella...Al has a new edition available, from a small press:

For more of Wednesday's Short Stories, please see Patti Abbott's blog

A redux post, slightly edited/updated, from 2010.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read some Ramsey Campbell but will have to check on what.

George said...

I have SUPERHORROR around here somewhere. Ramsey Campbell is an underrated writer...and editor!

Todd Mason said...

George: Well, I will still take issue with the notion that he's cognoscenti, at very least! But his work should definitely be even more widely-read...for a while there, he and Clive Barker were the Obvious Names of good British horror (as opposed to James Herbert and Shaun Hutson). Neil Gaiman has been among those to sidle in since.

Patti: It might've been A While noted the same thing on the earlier version of this post. The default Campbell story has a groundedness that I'm not surprised might've stuck with you.