Current Reviews

Reviews of Ellen’s Anthologies

Publisher’s Weekly

Blood and Other Cravings
Edited by Ellen Datlow.
$25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2828-1

This strong anthology of 17 contemporary horror tales addresses the concept of vampirism from a variety of angles… Talented contributors, including well-known fantasists Barry Malzberg and Elizabeth Bear and newcomers Nicole J. LeBoeuf and Reggie Oliver, move from WWII through 1970s New York City nightclub culture into purely science fictional worlds while investigating both original twists on the traditional bloodsucker and more subtle forms of vampirism such as feeding upon souls, passion, and the essence of life itself. Highlights include Kaaron Warren’s powerful opener, “All You Can Do Is Breathe”; Margo Lanagan’s “Mulberry Boys,” a tale of silk-spinning children; Lisa Tuttle’s “Shelf-Life,” a suburban tragedy; and Oliver’s “Baskerville’s Midgets,” in which an aged landlady houses a demanding vaudeville troupe. Datlow (Blood Is Not Enough) has created another must-have anthology for discerning vampire and horror fans. (Sept.)

Library Journal

Blood and Other Cravings
Edited by Ellen Datlow.
$25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2828-1

This collection of horror stories selected by an award-winning sf/fantasy editor shows that a wide assortment of fiends share vampiric cravings. Several stories will leave readers feeling uncomfortable, even queasy. But for those stout of heart and eager to sample brilliant writing, this is a terrific anthology. Kaaron Warren’s “All You Can Do Is Breathe” tells of the horrifying fate of a lone miner who survives a cave-in disaster. Children mysteriously vanish whenever the protagonists of Barbara Rodin’s “Sweet Sorrow” move into a neighborhood. Disquieting love is the theme of Melanie Tem’s “Keeping Corkey.” Two old friends remember the heyday of the Nightkind, both in their own way, in “Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow” by Richard Bowes. These 17 mesmerizing tales, each one creepier than the next, will delight vampire and other horror fans.

Shroud Magazine

Blood and Other Cravings
Edited by Ellen Datlow.
$25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2828-1

Anytime you sample a collection edited by veteran anthologist Ellen Datlow (Snow White, Blood Red; Teeth; Supernatural Noir), you know that you are in for a treat. Blood and Other Cravings is no exception. This top-notch collection takes vampirism as its theme, but each story veers far and away from the now-worn tropes of the genre. The creatures (some human, some decidedly not) featured in these tales feed not only upon blood but hope, emotion, and life itself. They are beings of insatiable hunger and predation, stalking us from the shadows of 1970s New York, from behind the blinds of suburban homes, and from our parents’ bedrooms.

While there is not a bad story in the bunch, some are worthy of special mention. “Keeping Corky” by Melanie Tem is a sublimely disturbing piece involving a mentally-challenged young mother whose indomitable will affects those that would stand between her and her son. Fledgling talesmith Nicole J. LeBoeuf’s piece, “First Breath”, is a beautiful exploration of identity and point-of-view involving the lifecycle of a family of ethereal beings. The anthology closes with Laird Barron’s “The Siphon”, where an evil man encounters creatures of blood and nightmare that lie in the shadows thrown across time and myth.

Blood and Other Cravings reminds us of why we should fear those that stalk the night.

The Tomb of Dark Delights

Blood and Other Cravings
Edited by Ellen Datlow.
$25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2828-1

These seventeen stories push the boundaries of vampirism to the very edges of contemporary imagination; you’ll find no creaking coffin lids or moldering castles here. What you will find is unerring excellence from some of the finest writers of dark fiction working today. “All You Can Do Is Breathe” by Kaaron Warren: A celebrity survivor of a mining disaster cannot halt the oncoming darkness he experiences after his rescue. “Needles” by Elizabeth Bear: A luckless woman and her paramour make an ill-advised stop as they flee across the desert one step ahead of vampire hunters. “Baskerville’s Midgets” by Reggie Oliver: Dark denizens populate the stage of a run-down theater. “Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow” by Richard Bowes: The lower depths of SoHo and environs are filled with dangerous treasures, if one knows where to look. “X for Demetrious” by Steve Duffy: An unnervingly circular tale of a man who gives up everything to insulate himself from his worst fear. “Keeping Corky” by Melanie Tem: A woman who experienced a troubled upbringing searches for the son she gave up for adoption. “Shelf-Life” by Lisa Tuttle: A woman’s obsession with an object from her childhood bleeds inexorably into her adult life. “Caius” by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg: An abrasive talk radio jock and his audience form a grotesque symbiotic bond.
“Sweet Sorrow” by Barbara Roden: A man finds a connection between a lost childhood friend and some extremely creepy neighbors. “First Breath” by Nicole J. LeBoeuf: A heart-stopping story that centers on a very extreme mode of identity theft. (Note: this is a first professional sale–well done, Ms. LeBoeuf!) “Toujours” by Kathe Koja: A languidly dazzling tale of the deathless loyalty of an artist’s long-time assistant. “Miri” by Steve Rasnic Tem: A family man is haunted by memories of a strange young woman he dated in college.
“Mrs. Jones” by Carol Emshwiller: A horrifically funny tale of competitive sisters who find something strange living in their apple orchard. “Bread and Water” by Michael Cisco: A man with a hideously debilitating disease struggles to retain his humanity. “Mulberry Boys” by Margo Lanagan: Superstitions, bizarre practices and terrors abound in the deep woodlands.
“The Third Always Beside You” by John Langan: A young woman’s inquiry into her father’s extra-marital affair yields an unexpected and horrifying truth about her parents.
“The Siphon” by Laird Barron: An emotionally detached man takes a job that places him in the company of a group of sophisticated people who claim to believe in monsters.
Each of these stories is most worthy of appearing in Ellen Datlow’s BLOOD AND OTHER CRAVINGS. And that’s saying a lot. This anthology will not be officially on sale until September 13, but you may pre-order your copy by clicking on the book graphic above.

Fangoria, July 2011 Issue

Edited by Ellen Datlow.
St. Martin’s Griffin
$15.99 paper (539pp)

As a rule, one can always trust a collection put together by impresario Ellen Datlow. The result in this case is a great selection of many of the current practitioners of this sub-genre like Patricia Briggs, Melissa Marr and Holly Black alongside such stalwarts as Elizabeth Bear and Pat Cadigan. Jim Butcher’s story “Curses” is the first… In it, Harry Dresden, in his inimitable style, gets to the bottom of Chicago Cubs’ Curse of the Billy Goat. Likewise, Peter Beagles’s “Underbridge tackles Seattle’s Fremont troll and Lucius Shepard mines Mexico City’s death cult in “The Skinny Girl.” Naomi Novik’s “Priced to Sell” is an unmissable take on Manhattan real estate. What’s a realtor to do when the apartment has a wall of permanently swarming bugs? How do you get both Mr. Hyde and his roommate to agree on a lease? Another fantastic NYC story is Delia Sherman’s “How the Pooka Came to New York City.” It’s a terrific look at the problems of Gaelic fairy folk amidst 19th century immigrant chaos. I loved loved loved Melissa Marr’s tasty “Noble Rot” for taking on a female ghoul. And John Crowley’s “And Go Like This” is simply, breathtakingly, one-of-a-kind awesomeness. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling a word of it. – Linda Marotta

Publisher’s Weekly

The Best Horror of the Year: Vol. One
Edited by Ellen Datlow.
Night Shade Books
$15.95 paper (324p) ISBN 978-1-59780-161-4

After 22 years of pulling the horror content for the now-discontinued Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series, Datlow (Lovecraft Unbound) goes solo with this stellar start to a new “best of” annual. As in the past, her picks confirm that “horror” is a storytelling approach with endlessly inventive possibilities. In E. Michael Lewis’s “Cargo,” a haunting Twilight Zone-type tale, an airplane picks up something otherworldly as part of its latest transport. Euan Harvey’s creepy “Harry and the Monkey” turns an urban legend into reality. R.B. Russell’s “Loup-garou” is a highly original shape-shifter story with a subtle psychological twist, and Daniel LeMoal’s “Beach Head” a bracing conte cruel with a Lord of the Flies cast. In addition to the richly varied stories, Datlow provides her usual comprehensive coverage of the year in horror in an introduction that’s indispensable reading for horror aficionados. (Dec.)


The Best Horror of the Year, v.2.
Datlow, Ellen (editor).
June 2010. 320p.
Night Shade Books, paperback, $15.95
Check WorldCat and see if your local library has this book: (9781597801737).

First published June 1, 2010 –
With her keen eye for craftsmanship, prolific anthologist Datlow always delivers first-class entertainment, whether her genre-at-hand is sf, fantasy, or, in this case, horror. Apart from the prerequisite chills and occasional nods to commonplace genre motifs, the outstanding feature of her second annual horror best-of is an abundance of fresh, original plot scenarios. A film production crew holes up in an isolated mansion near Cannes when a biological epidemic sweeps across Europe, only to confront a more psychological pestilence within themselves. A killer discovers that the zombies roaming around following an apocalyptic outbreak have no appetite for him. A game show host preparing for a fund-raiser to save a derelict London theater stumbles on a lost – and deadly – clue to Jack the Ripper’s real identity. A group of Antarctic explorers almost perishes in a yawning crevasse harboring unseen creatures. As usual, Datlow provides a thorough summation of the year’s genre highlights and publishing trends and insightful introductory notes about each story’s author.
– Carl Hays

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 3
Edited by Ellen Datlow.
Night Shade (, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-59780-217-8

In the third volume of this annual series, famed editor Datlow brings together 17 stories published in 2010 in a variety of sources both popular and obscure. In Cody Goodfellow’s “At the Riding School,” a veterinarian makes a strange house call at a girls’ school. Catherynne M. Valente’s “The Days of Flaming Motorcycles,” one of several zombie stories, sketches the life of the only living woman among the undead horde. John Langan uses self-conscious narrative to twist the werewolf story in “The Revel.” The usual lists of honorable mentions and award-winners and a thoughtful assessment of the field will encourage readers to seek out the year’s other notable horror stories. As always, Datlow delivers a top-notch anthology with a nice balance of new and established writers. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/23/2011

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

Edited by Ellen Datlow.
Tor, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7653-1558-8

Datlow (The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror) makes a solid claim to being the premiere horror editor of her generation with this state-of-the-art anthology of 20 new stories by some of horror fiction’s best and brightest. Several outstanding selections feature imperiled children and explore the horrific potential of childhood fears, among them Glen Hirshberg’s “The Janus Tree,” which gives a creepy supernatural spin to a poignant memoir of adolescent angst and alienation, and Stephen Gallagher’s “Misadventure,” in which a young man’s near-death experience as a child endows him as an adult with consoling insight into the afterlife. The compilation’s variety of approaches and moods is exemplary, ranging from the natural supernaturalism of Laird Barron’s cosmic horror tale “The Forest,” to the unsettling psychological horror of Lucius Shepard’s “The Ease with Which We Freed the Beast”; the metaphysical terrors of Conrad Williams’s “Perhaps the Last”; and the slapstick grotesquerie of K.W. Jeter’s black comedy “Riding Bitch.” If this book can be taken as a gauge of the vitality of imagination in contemporary horror fiction, then the genre is very healthy indeed. (Dec.)

Publisher’s Weekly

Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Sixteen Original Works by Speculative Fiction’s Finest Voices.
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.
Del Rey, $16 paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-345-49632-4

Declaring that short stories are the “heart and soul of fantastical fiction,” prolific and venerable editor Datlow collects 16 impressive original stories in this unthemed anthology. Standout selections include Margo Lanagan’s deeply disturbing “The Goosle,” which eloquently corrupts the Hansel and Gretel fable with bubonic plague, sexual slavery and mass murder; Jason Stoddard’s “The Elephant Ironclads,” which describes an emergent 20th-century Navajo nation struggling to become a world power while staying true to its culture; Elizabeth Bear’s “Sonny Liston Takes the Fall,” a poignant tale about the life, death and sad legacy of the troubled heavyweight fighter; and Pat Cadigan’s “Jimmy,” a strange and supernatural coming-of-age story set in the moments just after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The thematic diversity and consistently high quality of narrative throughout make for a solid and enjoyable anthology. (Apr.)

Black Static #10 – Peter Tennant

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Solaris (January 5, 2009), 416 pages, ISBN 978-1844166527

January 19 this year saw the bi-centennial of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, arguably the greatest and most influential figure in the Horror genre. To mark the occasion, multiple award winning editor Ellen Datlow invited some of her favourite writers to produce work of their own inspired by that of the master, and the end result was Poe (Solaris paperback, 525pp, £7.99). Each of the 19 tales contained within its pages comes with an introduction to the author and an afterword in which they reveal their Poe template and talk briefly of the how and why behind their tale, and for the Poe aficionado guessing which work they are riffing on is all part of the fun.
Kim Newman’s “Illimitable Domain” is the perfect introduction to the collection, containing as it does plot summations of several Poe masterworks. Newman doesn’t focus on a particular story or poem, instead delivering a marvellously tongue in cheek tale in which Roger Corman’s success at adapting Poe for the silver screen sees society infected with a creeping Poe virus of sorts, so that every film produced, every song and book, every new fashion, reflects the influence of EAP, regardless of the creators’ intentions. By way of explanation, Newman pitches the idea of Poe’s revenge, his spirit reaching out from beyond the grave to seize a fame he was denied in life, but it’s simply a hook on which to hang a joyous barrage of in-jokes and Poe trivia, to poke fun at the derivative and hack cultural ethos of Hollywood, and even comment on how the artist can come to feel constrained by his creation. It’s Newman doing what he does best, having fun and dazzling us all with his erudition at the same time.

Melanie Tem’s “The Pickers” is a sinister variation on The Raven, and a much quieter piece than the Newman. A grieving woman’s life is invaded by a group of scavengers, the pickers of the title, who may or may not be human. She resists at first, but also establishes a rapport with the leader of the pack, only as the story progresses things grow increasingly sinister, with the woman stripped of everything, even her existence. The story can be read on two levels, with the character of Toni both a victim of rapacious home invaders, but also somebody who has given up on life, whose grief causes her to abandon the things she should hold dear. Tem’s sharply focused writing puts over both the emotional dilemma of the character, and the horror that attends her dissolution, with an ending that will haunt the reader. Less successful is E. Catherine Tobler’s “Beyond Porch and Portal”, which takes as its point of departure the mystery of Poe’s last days, when he turned up drunk and in strange clothes, with no memory of where he had been, dying shortly after. Tobler provides an otherworldly explanation, with Poe tripping to another dimension where time is somewhat different, and also gives us the inspiration for much of his work. The whole thing seems rather forced though, with the characters enigmatic in lieu of being interesting or engaging, and while the alien environ provided an intriguing backdrop the story simply didn’t grip me, seeming more like the deathbed dream of a deluded man than something that could actually have taken place. In a word, it lacked verisimilitude.

Laird Barron is a writer whose work, what little I’ve seen of it, I find very hit and miss, with “Strappado” firmly in the former category. Kenshi and Swayne are part of a group of spoiled and wealthy aesthetes who are lured to a remote destination where they are promised a part in the latest performance work by a renegade artist whose oeuvre borders on cultural terrorism. The plot trajectory shouldn’t surprise anyone, but Barron builds the story credibly, his observation of tiny details reinforcing our sense of dread, and regardless of how much we expect it, the denouement when it comes is devastatingly matter of fact and brutal. And the consequences are not just physical: the events resonate and take an emotional toll on those who survive. In contrast, there’s an elegiac quality to “The Mountain House” by Sharyn McCrumb, a restrained and charming conflation of NASCAR and Poe’s “The Haunted Palace”. The widow of a stock car racing champion retires to the mountains where she is granted a peek into the afterlife, the chance to see that her loved one is happy and doing what he is best at. This should be a silly story, overripe with sentimentality, but it’s not. McCrumb captures perfectly the emotions of the character, making us feel with her and share the uplift of the ending.

Delia Sherman’s “The Red Piano” is the closest this collection comes to a genuine Gothic chiller, and for its inspiration takes Poe’s heroines, Ligeia and Lenore, Berenice and Madeline Usher, with their ability to reach out from beyond the grave and touch the lives of those remaining. A university professor moves into an old house, and is warned never to play the red piano which stands in one of the rooms, but sometimes she hears a piano playing in the house next door. Her neighbour, named Roderick of course, sets out to court her, but he has a dark secret in his past, one related to his dead wife and the red piano. With its elegant prose, understated characterisation and beautifully paced plot, this is the story that seems most akin to Poe’s own work, though informed with a modern sensibility and a somewhat less romanticised view of undead femme fatales.

“Truth and Bone” by Pat Cadigan brings to mind not so much the work of Poe, but Ray Bradbury stories like Uncle Einar and The April Witch. As in those tales we are introduced to a family who have special abilities, mostly useful but sometimes more of a curse than boon. Teen Hannah is just coming into her ‘power’, but it’s one of those curse ones, knowing how and when people are going to die. She tries to prevent a tragedy, only to have things go hideously wrong and create a greater mess than the one she was trying to avoid. The characters are everything as far as this story is concerned, with Hannah afraid of what she has become, how her family will feel about her, and at the same time manipulating others to achieve her goals. Cadigan gives the impression of knowing far more about them than she reveals, and her use of dialogue helps to add depth, while the compassion underlying the story is a big part of what makes it special. A surface reading works just fine, but there are all sorts of subtexts waiting to be stumbled upon, to do with growing up and the angst of being a teenager and special.

“Flitting Away” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is the most powerful piece in the collection, and one which I defy any reader to experience without being moved and horrified. There isn’t any supernatural element; what Rusch gives us is far more chilling. The story tells of the dilemma of a woman who is raped and left for dead, the account disturbingly matter of fact and shot through with tiny details that make it all so terribly real and heartrendingly sad in what it reveals to us of man’s inhumanity. The woman dreams of ‘flitting away’ to escape the horror of what has happened to her, but there is no escape, and so she is plunged back into a world of pain and terror, where nobody can be trusted and justice is not to be expected, and at the end of it all reader and character alike are reduced to screaming ‘Why? Why?’ Of course there is no answer, just the possibility of communicating the victim’s agony in the hope that it might make a difference.

In the awkwardly titled “Kirikh’quru Krokundor” Lucius Shepard dispatches a team of academics to a site in the jungle formerly occupied by a cult and now abandoned. There are echoes of Lovecraft in the mysterious buildings with their unusual architecture and statuary suggestive of an alien presence. But Shepard is thoroughly modern, placing the emphasis on the tension between the characters, two of whom have a ‘past’ and are not above hanging their dirty washing out to dry with some firecracker dialogue, the undercurrent of sexual tension obvious. This makes them easy prey for the alien virus they unwittingly set free, a life form that infests humans with the urge to fuck relentlessly and without emotion. Isolated incidents of sexual congress between unlikely partners clue the characters in to what is happening, but cannot prevent the cluster fuck that is to follow, with people reduced to channels for animal lust, and nothing more than that. The story grips with some vivid descriptive writing and solid characterisation, and Shepard nails it down with a bittersweet codicil that, in the best horror genre tradition, hints things are not really over.
The last two stories in the collection are inspired by The Masque of the Red Death, and they are among the best that it has to offer. “Lowland Sea” is set in the near future and tells the story of a media mogul who retires with his entourage to an isolated stronghold, where they pull up the drawbridge and prepare to sit it out while the plague rages outside. Author Suzy McKee Charnas doesn’t do much with Poe’s plot other than change the names to indict the guilty, with the strength of the story in the bleak, dystopian future that it portrays, where slavery has been repackaged and the wealthy don’t even need to keep their jackboots in the closet. Added to that there’s the undeniable satisfaction of seeing it all come undone for the smug idiot cast in the role of Prince Prospero.

John Langan’s “Technicolor” is remarkable for the cleverness of the telling and the, possibly mock, erudition that informs the text. Tone of voice is everything here, as a disagreeably self-satisfied academic lectures his pupils on Poe’s classic The Masque of the Red Death, and Langan gets it pitch perfect. A discussion on the colour scheme in the rooms of Prospero’s dwelling place diverts into the pathways of secret knowledge, and brings the revelation that the narrator has something on his mind other than Literary Criticism 101. It’s a story that holds the reader every bit as spellbound as the pupils in the classroom, though not with the same results, Langan building his case with remarkable skill, confidence and audacity, luring us in before delivering the killer stroke at the finale. It’s a marvellous note on which to end this striking collection, a volume that for breadth and diversity, not to mention the sheer quality on offer, aptly celebrates the birth of one of the horror genre’s greatest practitioners.

School Library Journal

Troll’s-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales
Edited by: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Viking, $16 paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-345-49632-4

Gr 5-8 – In their third collection for younger readers, Datlow and Windling have solicited original pieces from 15 well-known authors; the focus this time is on the bad guys of the fairy-tale world. Some tell a traditional tale from the villain’s point of view, such as Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “Rags and Riches,” a version of “The Goose Girl.” Others demonstrate that change in perspective puts a whole different slant on fairy tales, as in Garth Nix’s Rapunzel-based “An Unwelcome Guest” and Jane Yolen’s “Troll,” a revisionist look at “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” Several poems are included as well; Neil Gaiman’s “Observing the Formalities” is priceless and wouldn’t be out of place in the New Yorker. Some stories are more successful than others, but almost all are both highly readable and thought-provoking. Many are funny, several are quite scary or creepy, and the final story, Kelly Link’s “The Cinderella Game,” is subtly yet powerfully chilling. A solid choice, particularly where sophisticated fractured fairy tales are popular. – Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

Publisher’s Weekly

Lovecraft Unbound
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.
Dark Horse, $19.95 paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-59582-146-1

The 16 new and four reprint stories Datlow (Poe) assembles for this outstanding tribute anthology all capture what Dale Bailey praises as horror master H.P. Lovecraft’s gift for depicting the universe as “inconceivably more vast, strange, and terrifying than mere human beings can possibly imagine.” Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud, in “The Crevasse,” evoke this alien sensibility through an Antarctic expedition’s glimpses of an astonishingly ancient prehuman civilization preserved in the polar ice. Laird Barron’s “Catch Hell” depicts a Lovecraft-type backwoods community in the grip of a profoundly creepy occult mythology. Selections range in tone from the darkly humorous to the sublimely horrific, and all show the contributors to be perceptive interpreters of Lovecraft’s work. Readers who know Lovecraft’s legacy mostly through turgid and tentacled Cthulhu Mythos pastiches will find this book a treasure trove of literary terrors. (Oct.)

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.
Tachyon (IPG, dist.), $15.95 paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-892391-95-7

This diverse 25-story anthology is a superb sampling of some of the most significant short horror works published between 1985 and 2005. Editor extraordinaire Datlow (Poe) includes classic stories from horror icons Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Stephen King as well as SF and fantasy luminaries Gene Wolfe, Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, and Lucius Shepard. The full diversity of horror is on display: George R.R. Martin’s “The Pear-Shaped Man,” about a creepy downstairs neighbor, and Straub’s “The Juniper Tree,” which chronicles a drifter’s sexual molestation of a young boy, exemplify horror’s sublime psychological power, while Barker’s “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament” and Poppy Z. Brite’s “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” are audaciously gory masterworks. This is an anthology to be cherished and an invaluable reference for horror aficionados. (Apr.)

Publisher’s Weekly

Tails of Wonder and Imagination
Edited by Ellen Datlow.

Night Shade Books
$15.95 paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-59780-170-6

Few things alarm the experienced reader more than the prospect of a science fiction, fantasy, or mystery book that involves – or worse, fetishizes – cats. This reprint anthology is the exception, an assortment of 40 stories by authors who are for the most part willing to take cats on their own ground. Datlow avoids the trap of a too-narrow premise: though there appears to be a slight bias toward horror, the stories are various within that field, from Jack Ketchum’s ghost story “Returns” to Michaela Roessner’s highly scientific “Mieze Corrects an Incomplete Representation of Reality” and Edward Bryant’s brilliantly repellent “Bean Bag Cat.” Other tales are amusing, like Lawrence Block’s “The Burglar Takes a Cat,” or gently sentimental, like Dennis Danvers’s “Healing Benjamin.” This is that rarity of rarities: an anthology of cat stories worth reading. (Feb.) –Publishers Weekly


The Beastly Bride
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.
Viking Juvenile; 1 edition (April 1, 2010), 512 pages, ISBN 978-0670011452

Readers of a Datlow/Windling anthology have certain expectations: that the thick volume will include stories by writers both known and new; that headpieces for each tale will be Vess’s sinuously evocative drawings; that a fully formed introduction will lay out the collection’s parameters; that notes and a bit of biography will follow each story; and that an excellent bibliography will be included. The 22 writers include Jane Yolen, Ellen Kushner, Midori Snyder, Tanith Lee and Peter S. Beagle, among others. Delia Sherman’s “The Selkie Speaks” allows a seal maiden to tell her own tale; Terra L. Gearhart-Serna brings a trickster’s sly voice and a little Spanish into her first published writing, “Coyote and Valarosa.” Marly Youmans turns to glassmaking and the Blue Ridge Mountains for the intensely romantic “The Salamander’s Fire.” The three interwoven motifs of these tales, inspired by many cultures, are beings who shape-shift between animal and human of their own will, who are transformed as a curse or enchantment and who are both human and animal yet wholly neither. Rich reading that meets the editors’ high standards. (Fantasy/short stories. 12 & up)

New Journal of Books

Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.
Prime Books, July 2010, ISBN 978-1607012085

Sometimes anthologies can be a little hit-or-miss with some really great stories and some that just fall flat. This is not the case with Digital Domains.
With almost thirty years of experience editing anthologies, Ellen Datlow proves again that she has an amazing eye for stories. Digital Domains is a collection of weird, wonderful, and amazing stories that were originally published online and have never been in print before. She’s chosen fifteen stories from three top online sources “OMNI
Online, Event Horizon, and SCIFICTION” that read as well today as they did in the early days of online publishing when they made their debuts.

Each story is prefaced by a little personal thought about the story and info about the author, and then presented as is, without anything changed or updated. The fact that these stories don’t read as dated says much for the talent of the writers who created them, and of the clarity of their vision when it comes to science fiction, especially, but even horror and fantasy – because the three often overlap.

Online fiction publishing is often where writers go to play with form and content that might not work in traditional print venues. Each story is unique and moving in its own way, from Kelly Link’s “Girl Detective,” that travels a strange and nonlinear route to tell a story that might be about a girl looking for her mother or might be about something else entirely; to M. K. Hobson’s devastatingly beautiful and horrible “Daughter of the Monkey God,” where people in the third world are hired to work through first-world traumas so they don’t have to do it themselves; to Richard Bowes’ haunting and intensely personal “There’s a Hole In the City,” set in New York in the days immediately after 9/11.

The feeling of the anthology is consistent. Beauty and horror overlap and leave a sort of lingering unsettledness that comes from having your idea of how things work and what you can expect from life changed. There’s no one story that stands out as misplaced, nothing that seems to go against the feel of the rest of the book. As well, the narratives build through all these tales to leave the inside of the head rearranged, so the reader doesn’t immediately want to start a new book, but wants to linger for a day or two on the feeling, the stories, and the changes experienced.

And this should be the goal of any anthology: to captivate the reader. The point is the stories, and since it isn’t a novel, each gem of storytelling can come forward on its own, tell its own tale in its own way, and leave you with something you didn’t have before.

If you are an anthology buff, this is one to keep and cherish. If you like quick reads, this is quality to counter the speed, fifteen stories in about three hundred pages, and none of them feeling truncated for their brevity. If you like the places where the genres blur together a little, this collection shows how to do it right.

Digital Domains has something for everyone, and is well worth the read.
Reviewer Samantha Holloway is a freelance writer and editor, and is working on her first novel. Her most recent short story is in Fiction International’s FREAK issue and an upcoming anthology, and her academic work has appeared in The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader, and at various conferences.

Innsmouth Free Press

Haunted Legends
Edited by: Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas.
Tor, 2010. Hardcover $27.99/Paperback $15.99/Kindle $9.99 USD. ISBN: 978-0765323019.

I’ve loved urban legends and ghost stories since I was young. Someone gave me a copy of John Bellairs’ The Curse of the Blue Figurine when I was in grade four and it infected me, changing my life forever. I wanted to become the female Johnny Dixon. Even before reading, I’d encountered ghosts and shadow people (my bedroom was haunted by an entity that would snore loudly some nights), but I wanted more. I craved the meatier stuff that Johnny encountered within the pages of every book he starred in: brushes with death, ancient curses and vengeful spirits. I haunted my local library, eagerly devouring any book that had to do with urban legends or ghost stories, especially ones that came from nearby areas, hoping that maybe I could go to one of those places and have an experience Johnny himself would be envious of. Twenty-two years later, I haven’t changed at all. When I saw that Haunted Legends, an anthology of local legends and ghost stories from around the world, was available for review, I could barely contain my glee.

I wasn’t disappointed, either. Twenty stories are packed into this volume; twenty modern twists on urban folklore. A small paragraph by the author follows each, explaining the origin of the tale and why they chose to write about that particular legend, a small detail which I really loved.

Not all of the stories were ones I liked. I am very picky about my legends and I felt that some of the tales didn’t live up to their source material. One thing that I will say, though, is that even the ones that I didn’t like were not bad. There is love in each of these stories: love of the unknown, of being scared, of legends that are handed down again and again, mutating slightly with each telling. This love redeems the clumsier tales and makes the brilliant ones shine even more brightly.

“That Girl” by Kaaron Warren is a fantastically creepy tale based on an urban legend from Suva City. Beautifully written, complex in its simplicity, it is an amazing piece.

From there, we are whisked off to Russia to learn of the ghosts that haunt the former home of Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria. Appointed head of the NKVD by Stalin in 1938, Beria was responsible for numerous atrocities, for which he was later executed. The story itself is not so much about Beria but the legacy that he left: the scars that remain hidden just beneath the surface, not only on the people who lived through the dark times he created, but also on the buildings and grounds where he carried out his vile acts.

My very favourite story was the last in the book. Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Folding Man” was a genuinely creepy reimagining of an American urban legend. It’s told with such honesty that I found myself reading it as though it were a true story rather than a work of fiction based in myth.

All in all, this book was excellent. I love that the tales are from all around the world, rather than just from one area, although each one makes me wish I could read more from that particular part of the globe. I hope that perhaps this will be the first of similar anthologies. How wonderful would it be to have a book thick with stories based on urban mythology for every country? You could plan your next vacation or see what really goes on in that seemingly sleepy city you visited last summer.


TEETH: Vampire Tales
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.
Harper/HarperCollins, Pages: 480, Price ( Hardcover ): $17.99, Price ( Paperback ): $9.99, Publication Date: April 5, 2011 ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-06-193515-2, ISBN ( Paperback ): 978-0-06-193514-5

Once again, Datlow and Windling (Troll’s Eye View, 2009, etc.) have pulled together a who’s who of teen-literature and genre luminaries, this time telling tales of vampires. Despite the sexy cover model, these stories largely cast back to the pre-Twilight tradition and are more likely to elicit chills than swoons. The introduction lays out the history of vampires in literature with great detail and a fair amount of analysis. Standout stories include Genevieve Valentine’s wonderful Chinese-American “Things to Know About Being Dead,” the incredibly creepy “Baby,” by Kathe Koja, and Cassandra Clare and Holly Black’s “The Perfect Dinner Party,” which conveys the horror of being not-even-teenage forever. There are a few disappointments and a few stories that just, well, are, but readers interested in vampires as something more than leading men will find plenty that’s tragic or scary here, often leavened with a bit of (largely snarky) humor, and lots of thought-provoking material about life and death, friendship and loneliness. Great for diving in and out, although a bit overwhelming cover-to-cover, this collection might even win boys back to vampire lit. (author bios) (Horror/vampire anthology. YA)

Green Man Review

Supernatural Noir
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.

the gritty realism of noir embraces the nightmare imaginings of supernatural horror in order to offer up sixteen stories rich in style, shadows, and psychological complexity.
Defining the genre of noir remains a tricky business – ask half a dozen noir fans what noir is, and you’ll probably get half a dozen answers. In her introduction to this anthology, Ellen Datlow provides us with two. The first is her own very general “Noir is an attitude, a stance, a way of looking at the world,” while the second is a more specific quote from critic Paul Duncan, who focuses more on the preoccupying action and tone of noir, which is “used to describe any work, usually involving crime” that is notably dark, brooding, cynical, complex, and pessimistic.

For myself, I find the definitions of noir as a whole less interesting than the elements of which it is made: the loser-protagonist, the femme-fatale who is often both love interest and nemesis, the labyrinthine cityscape or landscape through which the protagonist wanders in his or her increasingly desperate determination to solve the crime or unearth the secret (what Raymond Chandler described as “the hidden truth”), and the ultimate realization on the part of the protagonist that such resolutions and revelations will bring neither a sense of justice nor a sense of peace in a world so riven by moral ambiguities. Noir shares many of these elements with horror, as both genres can trace their literary roots back to the gothic novel, while the film genres of noir and horror were both indelibly shaped by many of the German expressionist directors of the 1920s and 1930s, directors such as Fritz Lang, who directed both “Metropolis” (1927) and “m” (1931).

With their shared themes and influences, noir and supernatural horror have been blended together in such notable novels as William Hjortsberg’s 1978 novel Falling Angel (which became the basis of the 1987 film “Angel Heart”), Clive Barker’s Harry D’Amour stories and, more recently, a number of novels by Tom Piccirilli, whose story, “But For Scars,” is one of the most stunning contributions in Supernatural Noir. The anthology as a whole, however, is unusually strong in the number of superb stories contained within.

The collection is off to a strong start with Gregory Frost’s atmospheric story, “The Dingus,” which follows a former boxing manager as he attempts to discover who killed a former protegé. Frost does an outstanding job at evoking the tone of a classic noir story, as does Paul G. Tremblay in the next story, “The Getaway,” which is a Twilight Zone-style tale about a bank holdup gone very wrong.

“Mortal Bait” by Richard Bowes is another of the stunners in this collection. It follows a human private eye as he attempts to solve a case set in a post-World War II New York City which includes fey who have been fighting a parallel war in their own realms.

Two stories which I did not find particularly noirish were “Little Shit” by Melanie Tem, in which a young woman with various physical mutations which allow her to change her physical appearance uses herself as bait as part of a sting operation to catch pedophiles, and “The Romance” by Elizabeth Bear, in which a middle-aged Baby Boomer finds herself haunted by an unnerving carousel. Both of these are solidly-written stories, despite the fact that they didn’t strike me as particularly noirish.
In “Ditch Witch” by Lucius Shepard, a young drifter and con artist picks up the wrong runaway, while in Jeffrey Ford’s “The Last Triangle,” a homeless addict is drawn into attempting to prevent a murder.

Laird Barron’s “The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven” is another one of the drop-dead perfect stories in this collection. It is set in an isolated cabin in the woods where a woman is hiding out from an abusive husband, but soon discovers that there are much more terrifying things in the woods, and maybe within her own self. As always, Barron creates a story rich with detail and psychological complexity, and he makes brilliant use of one of noir’s hallmark ingredients, the portrayal of landscape to intensify a sense of physical and mental isolation.

“Dead Sister” by Joe R. Lansdale provides a relatively lighter note in which a PI finds himself staking out a graveyard as he attempts to find out why one of the graves looks like something is trying to get out – or to get in. The humor in this story offers something of a respite before it’s off to the pulse-pounding horror again with “Comfortable in Her Skin” by Lee Thomas, in which a deceased mobster’s girlfriend plans the perfect crime.

Tom Piccirilli’s “But For Scars” is, in my opinion, the best story in a collection which seems to offer up winner after winner. In “But For Scars,” a former gang member becomes involved in uncovering the tragic past of a young girl. The protagonist is a hard case who, to his own surprise, still has a soft spot in his heart, and it is Piccirilli’s ability to create characters who are incredibly flawed and yet still capable of being emotionally tender which makes his stories so satisfyingly complex.
“The Blisters on My Heart” by Nate Southard features another hard case with a heart of gold, while “The Absent Eye” by Brian Evenson is about a man who can perceive a reality to which most humans are happily oblivious.

Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “The Maltese Unicorn” is an atmospheric period piece about a bookseller with some shady connections to the world of the supernatural who reluctantly gets dragged into a search for a stolen magical artifact. Kiernan’s literary references are always sharp and clever, and it’s worth pointing out that Sam Spade, as originally written by Dashiell Hammett in The Maltese Falcon was more amoral than the charming character he was portrayed as by Humphrey Bogart in the film.
Moral ambiguity and double crosses are key ingredients in the final two stories. “Dreamer of the Day” by Nick Mamatas is a twisty little tale in which a woman discovers that getting what you want is sometimes just the beginning of the nightmare, and John Langan’s “In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos” adds a military spin to a story in which the cruelties of war and revenge unearth something even more terrifying.

Supernatural Noir is recommended for fans of horror and noir. It also provides a great introduction to noir for horror fans who are unfamiliar with the genre.

Book List Starred Review

Naked City
Edited by: Ellen Datlow.
July 2011. 560p. St. Martin’s/Griffin, paperback, $15.99

This anthology of short fiction affords a superb sampling of urban fantasy, that popular sf/fantasy subgenre defined in the book’s introduction (which, in all of three pages, is a welcome and helpful, to say nothing of articulate, definition of this subgenre) as a combination of the “often-dark edge of city living with enticing worlds of magic” – with an urban landscape being absolutely crucial to the story. To put it another way (as also expressed in the introduction, that is), “where the story takes place should matter, in some way, to the story.” The headliner piece, by virtue of its placement first in the collection’s presentation and the name recognition of the author, is “Curses,” by Jim Butcher, creator of the urban-fantasy series Dresden Files. It opens like a noir detective story — “Most of my cases are pretty tame” – but by page 2, we see this is Dresden Files fiction as well. The premise is a riot: the famous curse upon the Chicago Cubs has supernatural origins here. “Priced to Sell,” by Naomi Novik, is also very entertaining. It’s about vampires buying real estate in Manhattan. But you will have fun with all 20 stories. – Brad Hooper

Archived Anthology Reviews

Publishers Weekly September 3, 2007

(Starred) The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Edition
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant.
St. Martin’s Griffin, $35
(608p) ISBN 978-0-312-36943-9; $21.95 paper ISBN 978-0-312-36942-2

In the two decades since this venerable series was inaugurated, so many venues have begun to welcome horror and fantasy stories that these dedicated editors play a crucial role in bringing the best new works to fans who don’t always read far afield. Trend spotters will note numerous ghost stories in Datlow’s horror picks, including Christopher Harman’s “The Last to Be Found” and Stephen Volk’s “31/10,” supremely eerie exercises in the ghost-hunt-gone-bad vein, and Stephen Gallagher’s “The Box” and Glen Hirshberg’s “The Muldoon,” whose spooks are equal parts psychological and supernatural. Link and Grant’s eclectic fantasy picks range from the haunting magical realism of Geoff Ryman’s Hugo- and WFA-nominated “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” to the light urban fantasy of Ellen Klages’s “In the House of Seven Librarians” and Jeffrey Ford’s blend of whimsy and the macabre in “The Night Whiskey.” As the line between fantasy and horror blurs, this combined presentation of their exemplars will give readers of both genres much to enjoy, and may even broaden a few horizons. (Oct.)

Kirkus, September 1, 2006 2007
(Starred) The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Edition
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant.
St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 608 Price (hardback): $35 Price (paperback): $25.95
ISBN (hardback): 978-0-312-36943-9
ISBN (paperback): 978-0-312-36942-2

Bring out the bone china a critically acclaimed fantasy/horror annual celebrates its 20th anniversary in grand style.

At this point, readers of this annual anthology pretty much know what to expect from each fresh entry in the series. There’s a comprehensive summing-up of the cream of the previous year’s fantasy and horror in various types of media, followed by an enjoyable and occasionally surprising selection of stories and poems from both rising stars (Margo Lanagan, Ysabeau S. Wilce, Sarah Monette, M. Rickert) and established names (Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Ford, Gene Wolfe, Delia Sherman). Highlights include Wilce’s delightful “The Lineaments of Gratified Desire” (How can you not love a story starring a four-year-old kidnapped princess nicknamed “Tiny Doom”?); Christopher Rowe’s chilling view of a fundamentalist future in “Another Word for Map Is Faith”; Nik Houser’s “First Kisses from Beyond the Grave,” a howlingly funny high-school-is-purgatory tale; Ellen Klages’s cozy love letter to devourers of the printed page, “In the House of the Seven Librarians”; and “The Night Whiskey,” Ford’s creepy, elegiac meditation on the suffocating nature and bizarre rituals of small-town life.

Worth a space on any bookshelf.

Publishers Weekly Aug 2, 2004
The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection
Edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link and Gavin Grant.
St. Martin’s Griffin
$35 (672p)
ISBN 0-312-32927-X; $19.95 paper ISBN 0-312-32928-8

(Starred Review)
The proliferation of specialty fantasy publications with short runs and
low profiles, combined with the growing pervasiveness of fantasy and
horror in mainstream markets that elude genre enthusiasts, has made this
annual culling increasingly vital for readers who seek the best in
fantastic fiction. Datlow (the horror half) teams with new co-editors
(who assume fantasy detail once handled by Terri Windling) and the
series doesn’t skip a beat in quality, delivering 43 stories and poems
published in 2003 that illustrate modern fantasy’s breadth and variety.
Stephen King is represented by “Harvey’s Dream,” an eerie tale of a
precognitive dream’s disruption of an ordinary suburban household. Karen
Joy Fowler, in “King Rat,” and Ursula K. Le Guin, in “Woeful Tales from
the Mahigul,” make suffering the grist of powerful folk tales. Stories
by Michael Swanwick, Neil Gaiman and Dan Chaon stretch traditional genre
themes in intriguing new directions. Likewise, the one dominant theme
that shapes the contents of this year’s volume — the zeitgeist of a
post-9/11 world — gets memorably varied treatments from several
contributors. Lucius Shepard conjures ghosts from the ruins of the World
Trade Center for a consoling tale of redemption in “Only Partly Here,”
while Brian Hodge evokes an all-consuming evil in the battlefields of
Afghanistan in “With Acknowledgments to Sun Tzu.” Wartime paranoia is
implicit in two subtly crafted fables, M. Rickert’s “Bread and Bombs”
and George Saunders’s “The Red Bow.” Like the other selections, these
stories are proof that the best fantastic fiction is modern mythmaking
at its finest. (Aug.)

Cinemafantastique Oct/Nov 2004
The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection

Edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
St. Martins. ISBN: 0312329288 (softcover)/ 031232927X (hardcover)
**** (4 stars)
“The seventeenth volume of this now-venerable but always-new series is
— incredibly — even better
than those that came before….The annual summations (fantasy, horror,
media, comics, music,
obits, and, for the first time, anime and manga) are reason enough for
genre enthusiasts to
buy this tome year after year, but if you love short fiction of any kind
— or want to develop a
new appreciation for it — YBF&H17 is must-read material.”

Kirkus, May 15, 2004
The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm
Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds.
Viking (544 pp.) $19.99 Jun. 2004 ISBN: 0-670-05914-5

(Starred Review)
“This is a treasure chest. Open it and revel in its riches.
The editors asked their authors to re-imagine Faerie in the present
time, or search
its more dimly lit pathways, and they have responded with bountiful

Booklist, April 15, 2004

The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm

“A rewarding choice for those who like the traditional with a twist.”

Booklist, Nov 1, 2003
The Dark: New Ghost Stories
Ed. by Ellen Datlow. Nov. 2003. 384p. Tor, $25.95 (0-765-30444-9).

“The ghost story is making a comeback, editor Datlow says. To prove the
she presents 16 brand-new examples, agreeably varied in locale, period,
and style…
If a few entries flop, Lucius Shepard’s novella-length “Limbo” more than
About a “retired” thief who, on the run from his former boss, repairs to
a cabin in the woods,
this stunner reads like a collaboration between Elmore Leonard and
British horror icon
Arthur Machen; hard as the former, lush as the latter, it’s a

Publishers Weekly, Oct 20, 2003
The Dark: New Ghost Stories
(Starred Review)

“Ghosts with surprising substance flit through this
sterling anthology of new weird tales, and most have purposes more
than the chain rattling and caterwauling of their old-fashioned
Datlow has cast her net beyond the horror genre’s usual names and pulled

in contributors whose stories are the equal of their best work, as well
as mystery,
fantasy and SF writers whose tales seem to be the ghost story they’ve
always wanted to tell.
Just as her anthology Blood Is Not Enough (1989) helped redefine
the vampire for
modern readers, this book is sure to provide a yardstick by which future
ghost fiction
will be measured.”

Publishers Weekly, July 28, 2003
The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Sixteenth Annual Collection

(Starred Review)
“A highlight of any year’s fantastic fiction yield
is Datlow and Windling’s picks of the previous year’s top tales.
This 16th incarnation of their award-winning anthology series shows
fantasy and horror fiction alive, well and accessible in an impressively broad
array of
venues ranging from literary journals to genre publications, on-fine
markets and even a
rock music tour book. The 49 selections (which also include poetry and
an essay)
are as refreshingly impossible to pigeonhole as their sources….”