Saturday, July 26, 2014

Anthologies That I Love

Anthologies. I love them. You can just sit down and read a quick story or two. Get completely lost in another world for an hour and then come back and deal with your reality again. I have so many fond summer memories of picking up a book full of science fiction or horror stories from the library and just losing whole days immersed in other worlds. So, I wanted to share a few of my favorite here. Maybe you know some, maybe you've never heard of them, but these were books filled with stories that stuck with me permanently.

1. Sandkings, by George R.R. Martin

  Book Description:

"When Simon Kress returned to his home planet of Baldur from an off-world business trip, he was amused to find that his tank of Earth piranhas had cannibalized themselves into extinction, and of the two exotic animals that roamed his estate, only one remained. Now, in search of some new pets to satisfy his cruel pursuit of amusement, Simon finds a new shop in the city where he is intrigued by a new life-form he has never heard of before ... a collection of multi-colored sandkings. The curator explains that the insect-like animals, no larger than Simon's fingernails, are not insects, but animals with a highly-evolved hive intelligence capable of staging wars between the different colors, and even religion--in the form of worship of their owner. The curator's warning to Simon about the regularity of their feeding, unfortunately, was not taken seriously....
* The Way of Cross and Dragon
* Bitterblooms
* In the House of the Worm
* Fast-Friend
* The Stone City
* Starlady
* Sandkings"

Why this makes my list: 

The title story is one of those sci-fi tales that both horrified me and captivated me. Most importantly, it makes you think- about religion, God, and man's cruelty. Additionally, this isn't by far the only gem in the book. All of the stories have a sort of dark edge- sci-fi bordering on horror. In the House of the Worm is another particular favorite of mine.  This is the kind of anthology that I go back and re-read every few years because it was just so darn interesting. So, even after all these years, it is still top of my list. (Plus it doesn't hurt that MY copy is signed by George R.R. Martin himself, making it extra special to me.) This may be out of print- I checked Amazon and it seems they have it, but only used copies, so it may be one you have to hunt for, but it is worth it.

 2. Necronomicon : The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

Book Description:

"Originally written for the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, H. P. Lovecraft's astonishing tales blend elements of horror, science fiction, and cosmology that are as powerful today as they were when first published. This tome presents original versions of many of his most harrowing stories, including the complete Cthulhu Mythos cycle, in order of publication."

Why this makes my list:

I love Lovecraft. But I particularly love this volume. Why? Well, first of all, it looks cool. It is a black, creepy looking book, that is thick as heck, and it is chock full of eerie illustrations to go along with his stories. Here's an example page- an artist's rendering of the night gaunts. Is that terrifying or what?

So, all of the Lovecraft stories you want are there, in a suitably scary looking book that just adds to the sense that what you are reading is maybe just a little dangerous. Just a little forbidden- just like the "real" Necronomicon. And just a word of caution- reading these stories before bed can lead to some pretty crazy dreams. Speaking from experience, here.

3. Haunted America: Star-Spangled Supernatural Stories, Selected by Marvin Kaye

 Book Description:

"American ghosts and hauntings abound in this collection of blood-red, bone-white, and cold-blue stories. You'll meet the ghost of George Washington, the headless horseman of Paoli, a haunted football game, and a man who collects Poe. The Mudville ballplayer, Casey, gets a chance to redeem himself. A drunken cowboy commits murder and is brought to justice, but not by judge and jury. And a in a dark Boston museum, scientists attempt to reanimate an ancient mummy. The all star authors include Issac Asimov, L. Frank Baum, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Bloch, Willa Cather, Helen Eustis, H.P. Lovecraft, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Kuttner, Fritz Lieber, Washington Irving, Richard Matheson, Ogden Nash, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. These classic and contemporary tales are drawn from five broad regions of the United States: New England, the East, the South, the West, and the Midwest. There's also "The Midnight Tourist's Guide to Haunted America," a specially compiled directory to haunted sites in each of the fifty states."

Why this makes my list:

Of all types of anthologies, ghost stories are my favorite. I especially love the Victorian or Gothic stories. And this collection is chock full of them. There are so many stories that I read for the first time here that stayed with me forever- The Vacant Lot, Artemesia's Mirror, The Rider on the Pale Horse, They Bite, The Night the Ghost Got In... the list goes on. I loved that they broke the stories up in to groups by region of the country. It's like taking a ghost tour of America, and then they actually have a section in the back that lists real haunted places in the U.S.  Love it!

4. The Paranoid Fifties: Three Classic Science Fiction Novels  

Book Description:

Contains- The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham; I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson; and Time Out of Joint, by Phillip K. Dick

Why this makes my list:

This book introduced me to 1950s paranoia sci-fi, and I haven't looked back. Matheson and Dick became two of my favorite authors of all time because I found them here. Now, the down-side is, this wasn't a terribly successful volume, and is out of print. You can still get used copies on Amazon, but these stories are re-printed in other volumes too, so if you can't find this exact book, that's fine, but you should still read the stories. Oh man. Day of the Triffids is much scarier than the cheesy movie, and I Am Legend is NOTHING like that Wil Smith movie. Time Out of Joint is a mind-bender, and it has one of the best shocking twists I think I have ever gotten. So read them- in this volume or another- but just read them!

5 and 6. Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, by Stephen King

Book Descriptions:

Night Shift- 
"Never trust your heart to the New York Times bestselling master of suspense, Stephen King. Especially with an anthology that features the classic stories "Children of the Corn," "The Lawnmower Man," "Graveyard Shift," "The Mangler," and "Sometimes They Come Back"-which were all made into hit horror films.
From the depths of darkness, where hideous rats defend their empire, to dizzying heights, where a beautiful girl hangs by a hair above a hellish fate, this chilling collection of twenty short stories will plunge readers into the subterranean labyrinth of the most spine-tingling, eerie imagination of our time."

Skeleton Crew- 
"In this brilliant collection of stories, Stephen King takes readers down paths that only he could imagine.
A supermarket becomes the place where humanity makes its last stand against destruction. A trip to the attic becomes a journey to hell. A woman driver finds a scary shortcut to paradise. An idyllic lake harbors a bottomless evil. And a desert island is the scene of the most terrifying struggle for survival ever waged."

Why these make my list:

There just aren't bad short stories by Stephen King, in my opinion.  However, these two anthologies collected some of his most terrifying ones ever.

Night Shift was the first King book I ever read, and it has never stopped scaring me. I am not kidding. Jerusalem's Lot...Children of the Corn? Those would be worth it even if the other stories were duds, but they aren't. One of the MOST scary stories for me was The Boogeyman. It scared the crap out of me and to this day I DO NOT leave the closet door open when I go to bed.

Skeleton Crew was just as frightening. The Mist was one of his best, and so was The Monkey, but one of the lesser known stories, The Jaunt, has haunted me for years and ruined the idea teleportation for me FOREVER.  These two volumes were the sources of more of my nightmares as a kid than anything else.

7. The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson

  Book Description:

"The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery:" with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range--from the hilarious to the truly horrible--and power as a storyteller."

Why this makes my list:
Many of you will be familiar with The Lottery. It is required reading in lots of junior high and high school curriculums and it deserves to be. It was shocking and thought-provoking. But if you've never read any of her other stories, you are in for a treat. Her work ranges from funny to odd to disturbing to downright terrifying. The stories are sometimes scary in the traditional ghost story sense, but sometimes more psychological. All of them are a delight.

These are my personal favorites. I'd love to hear yours, if you want to share in the comments. 




Anna (VampChix) said...

Night Shift is one of the best! You can always count on King to have something for everyone. I always enjoyed Nightmares and Dreamscapes as well. Of course, I haven't read that one in a long time...maybe we should do something with his anthologies for October? Some sort of book club for Halloween or something?

SkyRhino said...

We certainly could do that. Gah. I love Halloween so much. It's too bad I only get a month to celebrate it. ;)

Anna (VampChix) said...

Its my favorite time of year too! Of course, with the amount of paranormal stuff I watch and read over the span of a year it's like celebrating all the time:)