Bookshots: 'Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror' Edited By Ellen Datlow

Bookshots: 'Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror' Edited By Ellen Datlow

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

Who wrote it?

It’s a huge anthology, so the authors are numerous. But it was edited by the God of horror anthologists, Ellen Datlow. 

Plot in a Box:

I’ll go ahead and let Datlow sum it up for me from her introduction:

2005–2015 has been a great period for short horror fiction, as new writers have entered the field, established writers have either dipped their feet into horror or jumped in wholeheartedly, and those who have been writing in the field for decades have continued to create great new stories.

Invent a new title for this book:

Nope, Nightmares sums this mountain of a book up perfectly.

Read this if you like(d):

Pretty much any of the “Big Books” anthologies (i.e., The Big Book Of Science Fiction, The Weird, etc.)

A must own anthology. Simply put, you need this on your shelf.

Meet the book's lead(s):

It’s a MASSIVE anthology, so no leads.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

See: ‘Meet the book's lead(s)’

Setting: Would you want to live there?

See: ‘Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by’. Basically, yes to some, and no fucking way to others.

What was your favorite sentence/passage?

This one was a tough one to narrow down, but I went with a passage from John Langan’s emotional gut punch of a story “The Shallows”. It’s a long one, folks—And I didn’t even include the whole passage—but worth the read.

"Anyway, this one night, Gus wandered into the house after spending the better part of the evening in the garage. He passed most of the hours after he returned from work fixing his friends’and acquaintances' cars, Hank Williams on the transistor radio, Jack Daniel’s in one of the kids’ juice glasses. In he comes, wiping the grease off his hands with a dish towel, and what should greet his eyes when he peers into the refrigerator in search of a little supper but the golden top of the cherry pie Jan made for the church bake sale the next day. Gus loves cherry pie. Without a second thought, he lifts the pie from the top shelf of the fridge and deposits it on the kitchen table. He digs his clasp-knife out of his pants pocket, opens it, and cuts himself a generous slice. He doesn’t bother with a fork; instead, he shoves his fingers under the crust and lifts the piece straight to his mouth. It’s so tasty, he helps himself to a second, larger serving before he’s finished the first. In his eagerness, he slices through the pie tin to the table. He doesn’t care; he leaves the knife stuck where it is and uses his other hand to free the piece.

"That’s how Jan finds him when he walks into the kitchen for a glass of milk, a wedge of cherry pie in one hand, red syrup and yellow crumbs smeared on his other hand, his mouth and chin. By this age—Jan’s around twelve, thirteen—the boy has long since learned that the safest way, the only way, to meet the outrages that accompany his father’s drinking is calmly, impassively. Give him the excuse to garnish his injury with insult, and he’ll take it.

"And yet, this is exactly what Jan does. He can’t help himself, maybe. He lets his response to the sight of Gus standing with his mouth stuffed with half-chewed pie flash across his face. It’s all the provocation his father requires. 'What?' he says, crumbs spraying from his mouth. 'Nothing,' Jan says, but he’s too late. Gus drops the slice he’s holding to the floor, scoops the rest of the pie from the tin with his free hand, and slaps that to the floor as well. He raises one foot and stamps on the mess he’s made, spreading it across the linoleum. Jan knows enough to remain where he is. Gus brings his shoe down on the ruin of Jan’s efforts twice more, then wipes his hands on his pants, frees his knife from the table, and folds it closed. As he returns it to his pocket, he tells Jan that if he wants to be a little faggot and wear an apron in the kitchen, that’s his concern, but he’d best keep his little faggot mouth shut when there’s a man around, particularly when that man’s his father. Does Jan understand him? 'Yes, Pa,' Jan says. 'Then take your little faggot ass off to bed,' Gus says.

“What happened next,” Ransom said, “wasn’t a surprise; in fact, it was depressingly predictable.” He walked into the kitchen, deposited his mug on the counter. “That was the end of Jan’s time in the kitchen. He wasn’t the first one outside to help his father, but he wasn’t the last, either, and he worked hard."

The Verdict:

Not to repeat myself (or, more accurately, repeat Ellen Datlow), but over the last decade, horror has seen a major resurgence. You know, not that there weren’t some truly amazing writers working their asses off back in the day, but the sheer mass of creativity coming out of the genre has been impressive to say the least. And I imagine putting together an anthology representing the whole of this rush of diverse talent and ingenuity would be next to impossible to assemble. But, yet, Datlow manages to do so.

Within the 400 some odd pages of this rather intimidating, albeit highly readable, tome, resides virtually every kind of scare the human brain can imagine. From post-apocalyptic visions (Such as Langan’s “The Shallows”) to near stream of consciousness gems such as Gemma Files surreal “Spectral Evidence”. Now don’t get me wrong, like most anthologies, there are a few clunkers in the bunch, but overall it’s a solid read with stories by both the new and old guard alike.

For horror fans, Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror, is a must own anthology. Simply put, you need this on your shelf. But for non-horror fans who have been thinking about dipping their toes into the genre, this is a perfect place to start kicking the tires.

Keith Rawson

Review by Keith Rawson

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection The Chaos We Know (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

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