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Nightmares edited by Ellen Datlow, Haunted by Leon Braudy. Book Reviews

November 22, 2016

nightmares

I am reviewing two books together, Nightmares, an anthology of modern horror short stories and Haunted, a non-fiction book covering every aspect of horror from every conceivable angle, because they are wonderful resources for a horror writer.

Nightmares edited by Ellen Datlow

Most short story anthologies feel like entrées, little more than a glimpse into an author’s work. Nightmares feels like an all-you-can-eat buffet where the palate is refreshed every time you go up for another helping. There is plenty here to keep a reader engrossed and stimulate interest in a particular author’s writing, and covers a wide range of styles.

Horror is a balancing act and one that can fail to deliver that gut punch of chill, no matter how vivid the description, if it does not manage to connect and resonate with the reader at a very visceral level. This is something the writers of this anthology have the collected skill to do.

The stories range from the fantastical to the mundane which suddenly takes an unexpected turn. There is also plenty of a steady underlying sense of something not right until the awful truth finally dawns on the reader, or the anticipated shock moment arrives when they least expect it.

Nightmares was courtesy of Tachyon Publications via NetGalley

haunted

Haunted by Leo Braudy

This is the go-to book if you want to get not just under the skin, but peer right into the very soul of what creates horror writing with depth to it. Read in conjunction with the above book Nightmares, there will be a great deal which resonates, particularly where getting connected with a reader is concerned.

Leo Braudy’s discussions on horror are wide ranging, with a great deal of historical context brought into play. It is safe to say that where horror is concerned pretty much no stone has been left unturned.

There is a vast cross genre approach, including detective stories where the everyday horrors people can deliver on one another are considered. But the concept of the mundane extending into something more fantastical is also up for discussion.

Braudy’s thoughtful approach is noticeable in many sections, one being on monsters where it becomes possible to see the link between historical monsters such as golems to robots and artificial intelligence.

Braudy also brings in discussion on the transfer of literature to different mediums, particularly films. This provides a writer with food for thought regarding description and how this is achieved in a highly visual medium where the setting and actions of the actors have to carry the story. It also gives pause for thought when considering how to frame a horror narrative.

Haunted was courtesy of Yale University Press via NetGalley

If  you would like to read some classic horror, I would also recommend Horror Stories. Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson, an anthology of nineteenth-century horror edited by Darryl Jones, published by Oxford University Press, .

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