HAUNTINGS, ed. by Ellen Datlow. Tachyon Publications (www.tachyonpublications.com), 2013, 422 pp., $16.95. ISBN 978-1-61696-088-9. Click here to purchase.
Some time ago, some of the best story collections put together were by Datlow for St. Martin’s Press, when authors would contribute to her definitive BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR or the combination of Terri Windling and Datlow’s BEST FANTASY OF THE YEAR. I miss those editions; they would be published with the Gardner Dozois-edited BEST SF OF THE YEAR, also from St. Martin’s. At the same time, you could read all the best SF, fantasy, and horror in the same month. That would save you plenty from subscribing to the many magazines and reading through all of them to discover, for yourself, the “best stories.”
This collection is formidable, however.
Here is an overview of some of the best:
“Cargo” by E. Michael Lewis. Tech Sergeant Davis is a Loadmaster, assigned the inventory and delivery of equipment aboard a Military Air Command C-141 StarLifter air transport. The C-141’s latest mission – medical recon/evac from a distant place called Jonestown. Coffins, that is – many children, poisoned by a cult, many killed by their own parents. One of the crewmen recognizes the sounds of what can only be described as children playing – and the Loadmaster has to check out exactly what IS going on in the coffins.
“Nothing Will Hurt You” by David Morrell. A father’s daughter is found murdered by a psychopath called the Biter. The cannibalistic torture of his victims is unabashedly cruel, but the lingering heartache and anger the father feels can be even more soul-destroying.
“Haunted” by Joyce Carol Oates. In a place so rural one girl comes to grips with another’s death. Who killed her and will the murderer ever be found?
“Closing Time” by Neil Gaiman. A man sits down in an out-of-the-way English bar to describe a tale of his childhood in which he bravely enters dark woods and encounters a playhouse – a very dark and strange playhouse – that will have long-range, life-changing implications for him and the boys he is with.
“Anna” by F. Paul Wilson. Bill Morley really would prefer moving from the insular and boring life of Nantucket Island to Boston. But his wife, Julie – who has inherited her family’s millions – would rather stay. So Bill conjures up a scheme to make Julie a “missing person, presumed dead” statistic. If only her deceased soul would only stop haunting a tree and parts of the tree turned into a wood stool. Revenge can be so deadly.
“Everybody Goes” by Michael Marshall Smith. Like any boy who teeters between being bored and frightened on a long summer vacation, Peter has his crazy buddies, Matt and Joey, to keep him company. Wherever they go, however, is a man named Tom Spivey – is he a ghost? Pete learns that maybe not all is as it seems. . . .
“The Bedroom Light” by Jeffrey Ford. Late at night, at bedtime, a man recollects some of the horrors and hauntings of his town, the people, his past life, and of his own admittedly haunted house. “The past will come back to haunt you” takes on new meaning in this tale.
“Two Houses” by Kelly Link. Crewmates on a generational star ship on a journey to Proxima Centauri suddenly awaken, decades before their planned arrival. The travelers sit around and wonder – if you took apart a haunted house and re-assembled it miles and miles away, is it still haunted? Can you be haunted and not know it?
“Hunger, An Introduction” by Peter Straub. This is the tale of the behaviors of criminals, one a woman who senselessly murders her child and the other a man who murders his boss – and how their devastated, beleaguered souls are drawn together to witness even more weirdness in a very malevolent afterlife. But this describes how we as readers, or voyeurs, “watch” as well – are those who are interested in crimes also potential criminals?