Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Horror Stories - What to Leave Out & Jeffrey Ford

My reading has reached junkie proportions now and shows no signs of letting up; in fact, the list of books "in transit" that I requested through our local library and its partners (Search Ohio and Ohio Link) is mighty hefty indeed (Think I'll just back a truck up to the library).

  1. The corn maiden and other nightmares / Joyce Carol Oates.
  2. Dangerous laughter : thirteen stories / Steven Millhauser.
  3. The knife thrower and other stories / Steven Millhauser.
  4. Assorted fire events : stories / David Means.
  5. Best horror of the year : 1 / by Ellen Datlow.
  6. A Walk on the darkside : visions of horror / edited by John Pelan.
  7. Proverbs for monsters / Michael A. Arnzen        
  8. Borderlands 2 : an anthology of imaginative fiction / edited by Thomas F. Monteleone                
  9. The collected stories of Carol Emshwiller.            
  10. The early Long / Frank Belknap Long      
  11. Owls hoot in the daytime and other omens / edited by John Pelan.       
  12. A touch of strange [by] Theodore Sturgeon
  13. Fugue state : stories / Brian Evenson ; with art by Zak Sally.        
  14. The Anchor book of new American short stories / edited by Ben Marcus.
  15. Samuel Johnson is indignant : stories / Lydia Davis.       
  16. Assorted fire events : stories / David Means.    
  17. The secret goldfish : stories / David Means.       
  18. The Barnum Museum : stories / by Steven Millhauser.
  19. The Mammoth book of best new horror. Vol. fourteen / edited and with an introduction by Stephen Jones

Actually, many of the books on this list fall under headings such as Fantastic (in the tradition of the weird tale perhaps) & Fantasy -- not "horror" -- though guys like Evenson regularly end up in Best Of horror anthologies. But these are all slippery terms so why bother I suppose.

Much of what I have been reading is more traditional horror (creature, supernatural, etc.) from various anthologies--quite a few of which seem pretty uneven cover to cover, with four or so really good stories, some mediocre, and some just plain old duds. By 'really good' I mean both very well written and very scary; but too many of the stories are painfully overwritten IMO. Details elaborated on or explained that don't need elaboration. Events or happenings interpreted that don't need interpretation. I mean, what the hell, you just gotta trust the reader to make some leaps and "get it" along the way. Otherwise you end up writing a map complete with a "let me spell everything out for you" legend it seems, not so much a story. One collection I recently finished, Jeffrey Ford' Empire of Ice Cream, had 3 superb stories: The Beautiful Gilreesh, Boatman'sHoliday and The Trentino Kid. 

I think about Carol Emshwiller and a short piece she penned on writing rules to break, specifically the "leaving out" idea would benefit some of these stories I have been reading. If you have read any of the books on the list above, would love to hear your thoughts.

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