Thursday, October 11, 2018

182. of the Best } of the Best of the.

An anonymous Publisher’s Weekly reviewer writes “[Ellen] Datlow’s 10th-anniversary volume of horror shorts [The Best of the Best Horror of the Year ] is a stunning and flawless collection” and that it’s “nothing short of exceptional.”

It’s unlikely PW’s reviewer read the whole book. But I have, and there are good stories in it: “The Nimble Men” by Glen Hirshberg, “Shepherd’s Business” by Stephen Gallagher, “At the Riding School” by Cody Goodfellow, “Grave Goods” by Gemma Files, "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine" by Peter Straub, “The Days of Our Lives” by Adam L. G. Nevill, and “Nesters” by Siobhan Carroll.

Files’ “Grave Goods” and Carroll’s “Nesters” were both written for Lovecraft-themed anthologies. “Nesters” is lovely—it’s all about two images juxtaposed: the dust bowl and the Garden. “Grave Goods”—on Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation land a transgender African American and an indigenous woman angrily argue identity politics while excavating the grave of an unknown species of hominid. It strikes me as problematic to posit one of Lovecraft’s racist creations from Innsmouth as the actual indigenous peoples of North America. It’s a compelling story. I’ll leave it at that.

I haven’t read a Best of since the first volume, published in 2009. All the stories—except for my own (“The Man from the Peak”) and E. Michael Lewis’ (“Cargo”)—are thus new to me. As are most of the authors. I’d be curious to know what folks familiar with the series think of the selections. I don’t mean to second-guess Datlow—she chose her favorites.

I'm often surprised by what people like and don't like. My favorites from vol. 1 are “The Clay Party” by Steve Duffy, “Loup-garou” by R. B. Russell, “Beach Head” by Daniel LeMoal, and “The Narrrows” by Simon Bestwick. I’m trying hard not to be too pleased that my story was included in place of any of those superior tales.

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