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In celebration of the new millennium, Cemetery Dance Publications has commissioned a spectacular two-volume anthology project under the editorship of noted author and historian of the horror genre, John Pelan. John will be selecting one story published during each year of the 20th Century (1901-2000) as the most notable story of that year -- all 100 stories will then be c In celebration of the new millennium, Cemetery Dance Publications has commissioned a spectacular two-volume anthology project under the editorship of noted author and historian of the horror genre, John Pelan. John will be selecting one story published during each year of the 20th Century (1901-2000) as the most notable story of that year -- all 100 stories will then be collected in The Century's Best Horror Fiction. The ground rules are simple: Only one selection per author. Only one selection per year. Two huge volumes, one hundred authors, one hundred classic stories, over 700,000 words of fiction -- history in the making!


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In celebration of the new millennium, Cemetery Dance Publications has commissioned a spectacular two-volume anthology project under the editorship of noted author and historian of the horror genre, John Pelan. John will be selecting one story published during each year of the 20th Century (1901-2000) as the most notable story of that year -- all 100 stories will then be c In celebration of the new millennium, Cemetery Dance Publications has commissioned a spectacular two-volume anthology project under the editorship of noted author and historian of the horror genre, John Pelan. John will be selecting one story published during each year of the 20th Century (1901-2000) as the most notable story of that year -- all 100 stories will then be collected in The Century's Best Horror Fiction. The ground rules are simple: Only one selection per author. Only one selection per year. Two huge volumes, one hundred authors, one hundred classic stories, over 700,000 words of fiction -- history in the making!

30 review for The Century's Best Horror Fiction, Volume One

  1. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    100 stories, one from each year of the century, and one per author. This rule means that these volumes contain a truly wide-ranging assortment of stories, but it also means that some odd (and unfortunate) choices had to be made. I’m no expert on the field, and even I was taken aback pretty quickly: in 1906, we get Edward Lucas White’s “The House of the Nightmare.” White’s “Lukundu,” published the following year, is a vastly superior story… and yet 1907 is also the year “The Willows” was publishe 100 stories, one from each year of the century, and one per author. This rule means that these volumes contain a truly wide-ranging assortment of stories, but it also means that some odd (and unfortunate) choices had to be made. I’m no expert on the field, and even I was taken aback pretty quickly: in 1906, we get Edward Lucas White’s “The House of the Nightmare.” White’s “Lukundu,” published the following year, is a vastly superior story… and yet 1907 is also the year “The Willows” was published, and it quite frankly doesn’t get any better than “The Willows.” So, through no fault of its own, “Lukundu” is excluded, and White is short-changed with a lesser story. Then again, without the author rule we would presumably have a collection that proceeds from a handful of Blackwood and James stories to a cluster of Lovecraft all the way through an endless number of Campbells and Ligottis (with, god forbid, an unhealthy smattering of King’s work too). A quick perusal of the table of contents also tells me that this collection also suffers from the sadly-typical faults of unrelenting whiteness (100%) and maleness (88% or so), although a few of the authors I’m not familiar with might prove to be people of color - I’ll update as I go along. I have a copy of Nalo Hopkinson’s “Mojo: Conjure Stories” that I plan on reading some time soon to try and balance that out, and I need to get the second volume of “Dark Matter.” Any other suggestions are welcome. On to the stories. I have it in my head that I’ll update these in decade-long chunks, but we’ll see how well I stick to that. 1901 - The Undying Thing - Barry Pain - 3/5 What better way to start than with the story of a horrific birth that goes on to haunt successive generations? In true Gothic fashion, we open in a dark castle, wherein a lord receives word that his second wife has died in childbirth, but that the monstrous infant (never described, which was a wise choice) has lived. Lord Vanquerest and the doctor dispose of the child in some nearby caves, and then we jump forward several generations, by which point the undying thing has become a legend of local folklore and the focus of a prophecy that expects him to wipe the last Vanquerest out. The construction isn’t great, as the time jumps in the narrative don’t really work, and some elements are introduced that never come to bear on anything else in the story (particularly the old Lord’s fixation on wolves), but the story is otherwise well-written, and has a particularly wry tone in the conversations between the final Vanquerest and the friend who serves as the narrative focal point in his time. 1902 - The Monkey's Paw - W. W. Jacobs - 5/5 A story about which there is little that needs to be said, although I read this for the first time relatively recently (in The Book of Fantasy, I believe) and it greatly exceeded my expectations. The general narrative has entered the popular consciousness in a big way (“I wish for a turkey sandwich, on rye bread, with lettuce and mustard…”), but what makes the story so effective is the quickly-sketched intimacy of the family, which of course gives way to an equally believable sense of tragedy. Like “The Undying Thing,” this is a story in which a younger generation pays for the mistakes of the old. 1903 - The Valley of Spiders- H. G. Wells - 2/5 In which we follow three men who pursue a woman and her accomplices into a heretofore-unexplored valley and are promptly assailed by hang-gliding spiders. In his introduction, Pelan notes that this is perhaps more of an adventure story than horror, but that given his arachnophobia, it definitely strikes him as horrific. It’s interesting that we follow the villains of the piece (the woman is escaping the unsavory attention of the leader of the pursuers), but this still isn’t a very compelling story, whatever genre it’s lumped into. 1904 - The White People - Arthur Machen - 3/5 Well - a foundational story of the weird tradition, and one which was not at all what I was expecting, leading me to read it in entirely the wrong frame of mind. This is a very subtle and complicated work, a frame story of two men discussing the nature of evil, surrounding a found text: the diary of a girl initiated into the world of witches and fairies by her nurse, who eventually stumbles into a weird area of forest near her father’s house and finds any number of eerie things. The writing in this section verges on stream-of-consciousness, and this is the first story in the volume to toss in references to constructed worlds and traditions, which would be a great inspiration to Lovecraft and all of his followers. There is little in the way of climax or exposition, and I need to re-read this in a more methodical and attentive way some time soon. 1905 - The Lover's Ordeal - R. Murray Gilchrist - 1/5 Even more than the Wells, a story that strikes me as inconsequential and unworthy of inclusion here. Another rote Gothic setup - a man asks his fiance to think of a way for him to prove his worth, and she tells him to stay overnight at her family’s old, dilapidated mansion (Chris Baldick pithily summed up Gothic fiction as “characteristically obsessed with old buildings as sites of human decay”) where no one has set foot for decades. Taking her up on it, he finds the site still inhabited by her great-grandfather’s second wife, a Spanish-ish woman (again, villainous Southern Europeans from the Catholic countries being a Gothic trope) who feeds on the blood of the living - the word “vampire” is never used, though. Realizing what she has done, the wife-to-be goes and brings her partner home, and then burns the mansion down for good measure. The non-vampire, apparently, does not put up a fight against either of those actions. 1906 - The House of the Nightmare - Edward Lucas White - 3/5 I made clear above that I wasn’t particularly impressed with this one, although perhaps I should have put more effort into appreciating it the way a reader in 1906 would have - from the vantage point of 2013, White’s tricks here are painfully old hat. It is, though, our first haunted house story, in which a man on a road trip is distracted by a stone that seems to move back and forth across the road, crashes his car, and has to spend the night in the titular house. I waited in vain for the stone to tie in to the other events of the story, but if it did, I missed it. 1907 - The Willows - Algernon Blackwood - 5/5 One of my all-time favorites. Not coincidentally, also the first example of cosmic horror we get. First read in The Weird, at which point I said: An intensely atmospheric story about two men on a camping trip in a swamp on the Danube who stumble onto some sort of nexus of interdimensional horrors. The focus is on the intersection of the natural world and supernatural forces and the inexplicable awe-inspiring weirdness of each, with a narrator who spends a lot of time ruminating on the effect of such on the human mind. Slow and longer than it needed to be, but the mood is pitch perfect and the build to the climax is truly creepy. 5/5 I stand by that for the most part, although I would no longer say it’s longer than it needs to be. In terms of this collection, it also marks a turning point with the narrator attempting strenuously (and vainly) to rationalize away the on-going horror surrounding him. In addition to the doubling of the weird natural and the weird supernatural that I noted earlier, it also bears mentioning that the reader is alienated even from the two characters in the story, neither of whom are ever named. The only disappointment I can voice here is that I would have loved to read something else of Blackwood’s. Apparently Centipede Press is reissuing a surprisingly affordable collection in the coming months, though? 1908 - Thurnley Abbey - Perceval Landon - 4/5 A frame story: the narrator meets a man (Arthur Colvin) on a ship, who wishes to share a room so as not to be alone. His reason for this is given in the main story, another rote gothic setup with a young person inheriting a decrepit family building and encountering something sinister within - this time, the ghost of a nun. Colvin, an old friend of the inheritor who had once insisted that were he to meet a ghost, he would simply talk to it, accepts an invitation to come and visit. What sets this story apart are Colvin’s two reactions to the ghost: first, convinced (rationally) that it must be a hoax on the part of his host, rage and violence, and later, cowering in a room with the host and his wife, terror and the turning of a blind eye. As is usually the case, the frame story contributes little. 1909 - The Coach - Violet Hunt - 4/5 The one story by a woman in this decade, which I think is the ratio we’ll maintain for the whole century, shamefully. Opens with a man waiting for the titular vehicle, which carries five broadly-sketched caricatures. Like the White story, this leads to what was probably a shocking twist at the time that perhaps has not aged particularly well, but even given that, this is a darkly humorous and well-written tale of death as a particularly banal extension of life. Moreso than anything else so far, it uses the tropes of the genre as a means to an end (comedic commentary on British class differences) rather than an end in-and-of itself. 1910 - The Whistling Room - William Hope Hodgson - 3/5 Exactly what the title suggests - a haunted room that whistles, via a pair of giant lips emerging from the floor. I find myself unable to take this seriously, although the backstory (involving the grisly end of an unfortunate jester) is suitably dark. Again, a frame story, and again, an excursion into an aging, haunted building, but with caveats for both. First, the frame/club story doesn’t just bookend the narrative, but also intrudes in the middle, with Carnacki the protagonist keeping his cronies up to date but also returning to them for advice. Second, Carnacki is not a helpless friend of the landowner, but a paranormal detective who makes his living investigating these sorts of things. Like Holmes, this means that there can be a lot of off-handed references to his old cases. This subgenre is not one of my favorites (horror/weird being, to me, interesting because of the juxtaposition of normal human beings with supra-human forces - a necessarily pessimistic framework, of course, but isn’t that the point?), and the optimistic and rather effortless ending here echoes that of “The Lover's Ordeal.” More appealingly, this story does follow Machen’s in suggesting constructed histories/mythologies/bibliographies, further muddling and juxtaposing the rational and the surreal (“I gave him a little lecture on the False Re-Materialisation of the Animate-Force through the Inanimate-Inert”), which I love, even if Hodgson is quite inept when it comes to naming his constructs: “Aeiirii,” “Saiitii” and “Saaamaaa” are all offered with a straight face here. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- So, there’s the first decade. Only two that I didn’t think were worth reading, but then the two best I had read previously. Because I love quantifying things: One woman, nine men. Nine English authors, one American. Categorizing the stories, I’ll say two human monsters, one non-human monster, two tales of supernatural forces, one of cosmic horror, and four ghost stories. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 1911 - Casting the Runes - M. R. James - 3/5 Also read in The Weird, at which point I was quite underwhelmed. I enjoyed it more this time, although it still leaves me mystified as to James’s exalted place in the canon. Hopefully one of these days I’ll encounter a different story of his in an anthology, although I have to wonder when I will have reached a saturation point with the commonly anthologized stories and will just be repeating my reading endlessly. This is the story of a curse placed on a reviewer by a disgruntled author, and the few times that said curse comes to the fore are quite effective, but mostly the threat just looms in the distance. Usually it is the subtler stories that most impress me, but for some reason it doesn’t work for me. Maybe it’s the happy ending? I did appreciate the excellent prose this time, and a very droll humor shines through at points. 1912 - Caterpillars - E. F. Benson - 5/5 Weird as a theory of cancer contagion. A boarder, curious about an empty bedroom in the Italian villa in which he is staying, opens it late one night to find a terrifying mass of luminous, clawed caterpillars writhing on the bed. He writes it off as a dream, of course, before another guest finds a tinier version outside the house the following day, and decides to name it “Cancer Inglisensis” after his own name and the latin for “crab,” after its pincer-esque feet. It turns out to be even more insidious than it appeared at first glance. Much back-and-forth between the narrator and Inglis about the rational v. the occult. 1913 - The Testament of Magdalen Blair - Aleister Crowley- 4/5 Speaking of rational v. occult, this one spends an inordinate amount of time setting up some sort of faux-rational explanation for mind-reading, in order to justify having a woman able to read her husband’s mind as he becomes increasingly ill, lapses into a coma, and then dies. This sets in motion the most unsettling and horrifying series of images yet presented in this volume. The proceedings are somewhat reminiscent of Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” (wherein a man is hypnotized at the moment of death) and one wonders if the faint similarities between titles was intentional on Crowley’s part. In a sense, this is an early version of cosmic horror, with illness and death as the catalysts to unending, unknowable human misery in the face of an indifferent universe. 1914 - The Place of Pain - M. P. Shiel Well. I read this story and then, having it in my head for some reason that Shiel was a Creole of Color, looked him up to verify it. I found that he was actually a British man with some West Indian ancestry, although I’m not clear on how he personally identified. I also found out, though, that he was an incestuous pedophile. As such, I can’t claim to be much interested in commenting on the man’s art. I don’t listen to Stan Kenton, and now I don’t read M. P. Shiel. As for the story itself: this falls squarely into the “horror-once-removed” tradition, wherein our point-of-view character is told, ever so vaguely, of the horrors another man saw, through a telescope of sorts, living on the moon. None of this can be verified, of course. The germ of a good idea with a poor execution. 1915 - The Spider - Hanns Heinz Ewers - 3/5 Also read in The Weird. A student comes to live in an apartment after several other men have, one after the other, killed themselves within the premises. There to help solve the mystery, the student falls under the spell of a mysterious neighbor. The protagonist bound by an unbreakable fixation on the horrific intrusion into his life is on full display here. I don’t have any patience for the Weird Woman trope, but I can admit that this story is at least well-constructed. Both “The White People” and “Magdalene Blair” were also epistolary narratives, but this one (the student’s diary) holds truest to the form. Some vexing plot holes remain unanswered (how did the student last so long?), but I guess that it could be argued that that just adds to the aura of mystery at hand. 1916 - Thirteen at Table - Lord Dunsany - 2/5 Opens with a seemingly endless foxhunt that leaves its protagonist stranded at an estate haunted by a dozen women wronged by the local lord. An uncomfortable dinner ensues, with the protagonist initially and it’s clear that the hunt interested Dunsany much more than the supernatural goings-on, and, even though this is a ghost story, it’s all so staid and optimistically-resolved that I’m not even sure that I would classify it as “horror.” It is, in some ways, kind of an inversion of the Weird Woman story - instead of an alluring female monster inviting a man to his own destruction, we have ghostly women haunting him after encountering some unspecified wronging/destruction of their own. 1917 - The Black Pool - Frederick Stuart Greene - 1/5 Our first decidedly non-supernatural story (which is, for my tastes, bad news). Pelan notes in his introduction (which tend, unfortunately, to a kind of formulaic list of also-rans followed by “But this story was simply the best of the year”) that this story was too shocking for conventional publishing in its day, and had to be self-published, and it does contain the most unflinching depiction of violence and murder so far. We have a pair of identical twin men, and we’re following the happy engagement of one, and so jealousy drives the other to… well, you know. This sets in motion a series of events that lead to madness (when don’t they, in non-supernatural horror stories?), relying on the reflective pool of the title to really drive it home. I did not care for anything about this. 1918 - The Middle Bedroom - H. de Vere Stacpoole - 3/5 A brief haunted house tale, most noteworthy for large chunks being written in Irish dialect (on account of the fact that it is a large Irish family who have rented the haunted estate). This one doesn’t take itself too seriously, although the haunter (not quite a ghost, and uniquely voluntary haunting figure, at that) was quite creepy, in his unfortunately short appearances. 1919 - The Sumach - Ulric Daubeny - 4/5 I could have sworn I had read this before but it appears not - just an excellent example of straight generic conventions, I guess. And one that passes the Bechdel test, at that. A woman, having inherited her cousin’s estate, finds herself drawn to an unhealthy-looking sumach in the garden. The ex-cousin’s journal is found, in pieces, and has to be decoded. I do love these sorts of embedded texts. This is, one might say, a vampire-once-removed story, and particularly interesting to read as a story of the vampiric effect of the home on women. 1920 - In the Light of the Red Lamp - Maurice Level - 2/5 Very Poe, as was “The Black Pool,” and another non-supernatural tale. Level, Pelan tells us, was one of the central playwrights of the Grand Guignol, and this reads very much like a short play, with two men conversing in a darkroom (what a naturally creep setting that is!). Upon developing a photo of his greatly-lamented wife’s body at her funeral, one man makes an unsettling discovery. Given the Poe similarities, you can guess what it was. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- A dip in quality this decade - I don’t know how much of this to attribute to the (seemingly) sudden rise in Poe’s influence, which is a strand that has never really spoken to me - I will take mysterious texts and monsters and cosmic horror over human insanity and confusions between life and death any day. Zero women, ten men. Three stories of the supernatural, two as close to the realist mode as horror gets, one ghost story, two non-human monsters, one human monster, and one vampire-ish tale.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Canavan

    ✭✭✭½ “The Undying Thing”, Barry Pain (1901). ✭✭✭ “The Monkey's Paw”, W. W. Jacobs (1902). ✭✭✭✭✭ “The Valley of Spiders”, H. G. Wells (1903). ✭✭✭½ “The White People”, Arthur Machen (1904/1906). ✭✭✭✭½ “The Lover's Ordeal”, R. Murray Gilchrist (1905). ✭✭✭ “The House of the Nightmare”, Edward Lucas White (1906). ✭✭✭✭½ “The Willows”, Algernon Blackwood (1907). ✭✭✭✭½ “Thurnley Abbey”, Perceval Landon (1908). ✭✭✭ “The Coach”, Violet Hunt (1909). ✭✭✭½ “The Whistling Room”, William Hope Hodgson (1910). ✭✭✭½ “Castin ✭✭✭½ “The Undying Thing”, Barry Pain (1901). ✭✭✭ “The Monkey's Paw”, W. W. Jacobs (1902). ✭✭✭✭✭ “The Valley of Spiders”, H. G. Wells (1903). ✭✭✭½ “The White People”, Arthur Machen (1904/1906). ✭✭✭✭½ “The Lover's Ordeal”, R. Murray Gilchrist (1905). ✭✭✭ “The House of the Nightmare”, Edward Lucas White (1906). ✭✭✭✭½ “The Willows”, Algernon Blackwood (1907). ✭✭✭✭½ “Thurnley Abbey”, Perceval Landon (1908). ✭✭✭ “The Coach”, Violet Hunt (1909). ✭✭✭½ “The Whistling Room”, William Hope Hodgson (1910). ✭✭✭½ “Casting the Runes”, M. R. James (1911). ✭✭✭✭✭ “Caterpillars”, E. F. Benson (1912). ✭✭½ “The Testament of Magdalen Blair”, Aleister Crowley (1913). ✭✭ “The Place of Pain”, M. P. Shiel (1914). ✭✭½ “Die Spinne” [“The Spider”], Hans Heinz Ewers (1915). ✭✭✭✭ “Thirteen at Table”, Edward Plunkett (as by Lord Dunsany) (1916). ✭✭ “The Black Pool”, Frederick Stuart Greene (1917). ✭½ “The Middle Bedroom”, H. de Vere Stacpoole ("1918). ✭✭✭ “The Sumach”, Ulric Daubeny (1919). ✭✭✭ “Sous la lumière rouge” [“In the Light of the Red Lamp”], Maurice Level (1906/trans. 1909). ✭✭✭ “Master of Fallen Years”, Vincent O’Sullivan (1921). ✭✭✭✭ “Seaton’s Aunt”, Walter de la Mare (1922). ✭✭✭✭ “The Thing From — ‘Outside’ ”, George Allan England (1923). ✭✭✭ “The Loved Dead”, C. M. Eddy, Jr. & H. P. Lovecraft (as by C. M. Eddy, Jr.) (1924). ✭½ “The Smoking Leg”, John Metcalfe (1925). ✭✭✭ “The Outsider”, H. P. Lovecraft (1926). ✭✭✭½ “The Red Brain”, Donald Wandrei (1927). ✭½ “The Red Lodge”, H. R. Wakefield (1928). ✭✭✭✭✭ “Celui-là”, Helen M. Leys (as by Eleanor Scott) (1929). ✭✭✭✭½ “The Spirit of Stonehenge”, Rosalie Muspratt (as by Jasper John) (1930). ✭½ “Cassius”, Henry S. Whitehead (1931). ✭✭✭ “The Thing in the Cellar”, David H. Keller (1932). ✭✭✭✭✭ “Shambleau”, C. L. Moore (1933). ✭✭✭✭ “The Tower of Moab”, L. A. Lewis (1934). ✭✭✭½ “The Dark Eidolon”, Clark Ashton Smith (1935). ✭✭✭½ “The Crawling Horror”, Thorp McClusky (1936). ✭✭½ “The Eerie Mr. Murphy”, Howard Wandrei (1937). ✭✭✭½ “Pigeons from Hell”, Robert E. Howard (1938). ✭✭✭✭✭ “Far Below”, Robert Barbour Johnson (1939). ✭✭✭✭½ “Evening Primrose”, John Collier (1940). ✭✭✭✭½ “The Words of Guru”, C. M. Kornbluth (1941). ✭✭✭ “The Idol of the Flies”, Jane Rice (1942). ✭✭✭ “They Bite”, William Anthony Parker White (as by Anthony Boucher) (1943). ✭✭✭✭½ “The Jar”, Ray Bradbury (1944/1955 rev.). ✭✭✭✭✭ “Carousel”, August Derleth (1945). ✭✭✭ “Shonokin Town”, Manly Wade Wellman (1946). ✭✭ “Bianca’s Hands”, Theodore Sturgeon (1947). ✭✭ “The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson (1948). ✭✭✭✭✭ "The Pond", Nigel Kneale (1949). ✭✭✭✭ “Born of Man and Woman”, Richard Mathieson (1950). ✭✭✭✭

  3. 5 out of 5

    Squire

    100 years, 100 stories. 100 authors (volume 1 covers 1901-1950). Established classics like "The Moneky's Paw" by W.W.Jacobs, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "The Outsider" by H.P.Lovecraft; but also extraordinary gems such as the barely intelligible, but immenently readable pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo of "The Testament of Magdalen Blair" by Aleister Crowley, this is a bonanza feast of weird fiction through the first half of the 20th century. There are a few clunkers to found within these p 100 years, 100 stories. 100 authors (volume 1 covers 1901-1950). Established classics like "The Moneky's Paw" by W.W.Jacobs, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "The Outsider" by H.P.Lovecraft; but also extraordinary gems such as the barely intelligible, but immenently readable pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo of "The Testament of Magdalen Blair" by Aleister Crowley, this is a bonanza feast of weird fiction through the first half of the 20th century. There are a few clunkers to found within these pages (such as "The Valley of the Spiders" by H.G.Wells), but overall this is a first rate anthology. I found the notes preceding each story to be enlightening as editor Pelan explains his choices for what was included as well as left out. This volume also has the advantage of showing how weird fiction has evolved over the years.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Deren Kellogg

    I enjoyed this anthology of horror fiction collecting what the editor considers the best short stories from each year of the twentieth century (defined here as 1901-2000; this volume covers the years through 1950). In order to include a wider variety of authors, a rule was followed that no author could be represented more than once. The most glaring omission of an author was F. Marion Crawford, though his best stories may originally have been published before the turn of the century. However, mo I enjoyed this anthology of horror fiction collecting what the editor considers the best short stories from each year of the twentieth century (defined here as 1901-2000; this volume covers the years through 1950). In order to include a wider variety of authors, a rule was followed that no author could be represented more than once. The most glaring omission of an author was F. Marion Crawford, though his best stories may originally have been published before the turn of the century. However, most of the authors I know and love were represented: Algernon Blackwood ("The Willows" - definitely one of the 5 best horror stories ever written), M.R. James ("Casting the Runes"), Arthur Machen ("The White People"), E.F. Benson ("Caterpillars"), H.P. Lovecraft ("The Outsider"), Clark Ashton Smith ("The Dark Eidolon"). I would prefer to have seen some of these authors represented by different stories, but not really knowing all the contenders for each year, I can't be too critical. There were some very fine stories here that I had never encountered before. Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell" was scary, although the racism was tough to take. Thorp McClusky's "The Crawling Horror" seems like an inspiration for both "Who Goes There?" and the film, "The Blob". "Celui-la" by Eleanor Scott was impressive. H. Russell Wakefield's "The Red Lodge" was a good straight-ahead ghost story with no symbolism, nothing left unexplained, and no doubt that the events described are literally true within the story's reality (i.e. no wondering whether it's all taking place in the characters' minds). Henry S. Whitehead's "Cassius" made me wonder if it inspired the film "Basket Case" (also, if you are a cat person, you'll like this story). Perhaps the most impressive story that I read for the first time here was Anthony Boucher's "They Bite", which made good use of its bleak, California desert setting. To digress slightly, it was very interesting that C.M. Kornbluth's "The Words of Guru" and Jane Rice's "The Idol of the Flies" were featured back-to-back (for 1941 and 1942). "The Words of Guru" is about an evil little boy who is given supernatural powers by a figure meant to represent a demon, or perhaps Satan himself, while "The Idol of the Flies" is about an evil little boy who is destroyed by a figure meant to represent a demon, or perhaps Satan himself. Together the two stories were a perfect encapsulation of the conflicting views of the devil in Western culture : sometimes he is seen as an ally of evil people, other times he is seen as a being who punishes evil people. I didn't like all the stories here (which doesn't necessarily mean that they're bad). For instance I really didn't "get" Walter de la Mare's "Seaton's Aunt" and didn't understand why it is considered a horror story. There were a few others that I didn't particularly enjoy. However, I really did like this anthology. If you enjoy short horror fiction like I do, it is worth seeking out. I checked out both volumes from the library at the same time and am really looking forward to starting on volume 2 tonight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike Schwartz

    Pt. I of this review - I've gotten through the first 25 years which produced some of the greatest stories ever written. Here are my favorites: 1901: The Undying Thing by Barry Pain. A true bloodcurdling horror tale, revenge for the sins of the father is meted out four generations later on the descendents of the man who threw away a “wolf baby”. Truly horrifying. 1900: The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. One of the greatest horror tales of all time (also see the film “Deathdream / Dead of Night” to Pt. I of this review - I've gotten through the first 25 years which produced some of the greatest stories ever written. Here are my favorites: 1901: The Undying Thing by Barry Pain. A true bloodcurdling horror tale, revenge for the sins of the father is meted out four generations later on the descendents of the man who threw away a “wolf baby”. Truly horrifying. 1900: The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. One of the greatest horror tales of all time (also see the film “Deathdream / Dead of Night” to check out a modern version). 1904: The White People by Arthur Machen. Probably my favorite supernatural story ever. Subtle, magical, – a child’s perspective on witchcraft, fairies, and the underworld, reads like a hallucination/nightmare. 1907: The Willows by Algernon Blackwood. Here it is, hands down– THE BEST HORROR STORY EVER WRITTEN. The true genius of this story is in the atmosphere, amazing level of detail, and the fact that nearly everything supernatural in the story could probably be explained away rationally. 1909: The Coach by Violet Hunt. Great twist ending in the mode of de Mauppasant or O. Henry. A coach full of recently departed people sharing their death stories, full of great black humor. 1910: The Whistling Room by William Hope Hodgson. A simple conundrum that resolves itself with an incredibly frightening image. Hodgson was a big influence on Lovecraft and like him, created a recurring mythology. 1911: Casting the Runes by M.R. James. One of the classics, it gave rise to a pretty good horror film too (Night of the Demon, which in turn gave rise to Ringu). 1912: Caterpillars by E.F. Benson. Excellent imagery with caterpillars that could be could be a metaphor for cancer.1913: The Testament of Magdalen Blair by Aleister Crowley. The most loathsome author in this book and this story certainly has many loathsome qualities as well, dealing with mental telepathy and life after death. The afterlife in this story is an afterlife of disease. Possibly the scariest story in the book and an early influence on splatterpunk. 1915: The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers. Another masterpiece. It reminded me of Polanski’s Tenant with the spectre of inevitable suicide hanging over the latest resident of room #7. 1916: Thirteen at Table by Lord Dunsany. Reminiscent of Lovecraft or Hodgson until Dunsany’s trademark fantasy kicks in. As in all Dunsany stories, the fantasy takes a weird twist and the dream resolves itself back into reality. 1917: The Black Pool by Frederick Stuart Green. Classic twin horror tale.1919: The Sumach by Ulric Daubeny. One of the best haunted tree tales I’ve ever read.1922: Seaton’s Aunt by Walter de la Mere. A big influence on Ramsey Campbell and James Herbert, this tale is truly weird fiction. 1923: The Thing – From Outside by George Allen England. Another masterpiece and a big influence on Lovecraft, this story appeared in the debut issue of Amazing Stories. There’s so much eeriness going on here, every paragraph is filled with something horrific.1924: The Loved Dead by C.M. Eddy Jr. The grisliest story in the book, an early example of the serial killer genre, An influence on Robert Bloch.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Patrizia

    Sadly, I wasn't able to finish reading all the stories in this book before I had to return it to the library. It's an ambitious approach to short fiction: The editors reviewed an enormous pile of horror stories written throughout the 20th century and chose the "best" written in each year. Of course, their "best" is a subjective standard. My favorite? Seton's Aunt, a delightfully creepy story by the under-rated Walter de la Mare that's not really a supernatural story at all, but rather a meditatio Sadly, I wasn't able to finish reading all the stories in this book before I had to return it to the library. It's an ambitious approach to short fiction: The editors reviewed an enormous pile of horror stories written throughout the 20th century and chose the "best" written in each year. Of course, their "best" is a subjective standard. My favorite? Seton's Aunt, a delightfully creepy story by the under-rated Walter de la Mare that's not really a supernatural story at all, but rather a meditation on 19th century racism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael T

    I read the majority of stories in this tome, not all, because I read the stories in random order. With the exception of a couple, the stories in here are excellent. The ones which really stuck out for me are: The Monkey's Paw - often imitated, never duplicated. The Coach - reminded me of Oscar Wilde in its intelligence. The Red Brain - my personal favorite - Written in 1927 this story blew my mind, a true masterpiece. I read the majority of stories in this tome, not all, because I read the stories in random order. With the exception of a couple, the stories in here are excellent. The ones which really stuck out for me are: The Monkey's Paw - often imitated, never duplicated. The Coach - reminded me of Oscar Wilde in its intelligence. The Red Brain - my personal favorite - Written in 1927 this story blew my mind, a true masterpiece.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian Sammons

    The title sort of says it all. A great collection.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sheri White

    Good collection of horror fiction; I really enjoyed some stories, mostly in the latter years. Earlier stories were kind of dry. Full review to come at The Bag and The Crow.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    You may have heard of the premise of this collection from Cemetery Dance Publications. The editor, John Pelan, picked just one short horror story from each year throughout the twentieth century. No more than one from any single author was allowed. This process seems fair and has resulted in an impressive two volume collection, but there are some shortcomings. Some years had strong competition for the “best” story and many great stories, even some notable authors, are left out. In some cases an a You may have heard of the premise of this collection from Cemetery Dance Publications. The editor, John Pelan, picked just one short horror story from each year throughout the twentieth century. No more than one from any single author was allowed. This process seems fair and has resulted in an impressive two volume collection, but there are some shortcomings. Some years had strong competition for the “best” story and many great stories, even some notable authors, are left out. In some cases an author’s best work is not included because they already had an entry in another year. The editor explains some of the process in his all too brief introductions, mentioning some of the also rans. This has led me to do a little digging to find some of those others. You could make an entirely separate and similarly impressive collection of the stories that almost made it into this one. A good handful of these stories were familiar to me already from other anthologies. You may decry overexposure and skip over a few oft repeated entries, but they have earned their place here. “The Monkey’s Paw” from 1902 is one that you’ve likely seen before as well as some of the countless stories it has inspired over the decades. Yet, it still holds up well, while even some more recent feel somewhat old and clunky. Perhaps the best known from other anthologies is Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” from 1948. Go ahead and reread it, it is as devastating as ever. Other well known and well told stories include, “Casting the Runes” by M. R. James, 1911; “The Spider” by Hans Heinz Ewers, 1915; “The Outsider” by H. P. Lovecraft, 1926; “Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard, 1938; “Evening Primrose” by John Collier, 1940; “They Bite”, by Anthony Boucher, 1943; and the last one in this volume, “Born of Man and Woman” by Richard Matheson, 1950. Some stories are wonderful discoveries. In particular, “The Eerie Mr. Murphy” by Howard Wandrei, 1937; “The Words of Guru” by C. M. Kornbluth, 1941 and “The Idol of the Flies” by Jane Rice of the following year, are new favorites. I will keep an eye out for other works by these authors. On the other hand, some stories have not aged gracefully and simply don’t have the impact they may have had at one time. I understand that Algernon Blackwood was trying to build atmosphere in 1907’s “The Willows”, but it just doesn’t do it for me. It seems slow and as if he’s trying too hard to make something from nearly nothing. 1933’s “Shambleau” by C. L. Moore is unique in this volume as it is also in the sci fi genre. Unfortunately it suffers from too much exposition, or perhaps supposition. After the climactic moment has come and gone, the characters spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the possible origin of the horror they faced. “The Crawling Horror” by Thorp McClusky, 1936, is wonderfully effective except for the point at which the narrator offers a speculative explanation of how to deal with the titular threat. That passage seems silly and takes me out of the story. Others have their flaws including questionable actions by some of the protagonists. Most of the entries, though, are fairly strong. What I like about this collection and the horror genre in general are the strange twists and turns such stories may take. Even when not successfully frightening, they are usually inventive and delightfully off the beaten path. Also, at the typical length of a short story, they never outwear their welcome. This makes for fun, nighttime, by-the-fireplace reading that you can consume a portion at a time. At a hefty 706 pages and fifty stories, you will find plenty of entertainment and many that will stick with you. Now on to Volume Two…

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Hobbs

    Read so far: *1901: The undying thing / Barry Pain -- 1902: The monkey's paw / W.W. Jacobs --3 *1903: The valley of spiders / H.G. Wells -- *1904: The white people / Arthur Machen -- 1905: The lover's ordeal / R. Murray Gilchrist -- *1906: The house of the nightmare / Edward Lucas White -- *1907: The willows / Algernon Blackwood -- *1908: Thurnley Abbey / Perceval Landon -- *1909: The coach / Violet Hunt -- *1910: The whistling room / William Hope Hodgson -- *1911: Casting the runes / M.R. James -- 1912: Ca Read so far: *1901: The undying thing / Barry Pain -- 1902: The monkey's paw / W.W. Jacobs --3 *1903: The valley of spiders / H.G. Wells -- *1904: The white people / Arthur Machen -- 1905: The lover's ordeal / R. Murray Gilchrist -- *1906: The house of the nightmare / Edward Lucas White -- *1907: The willows / Algernon Blackwood -- *1908: Thurnley Abbey / Perceval Landon -- *1909: The coach / Violet Hunt -- *1910: The whistling room / William Hope Hodgson -- *1911: Casting the runes / M.R. James -- 1912: Caterpillars / E.F. Benson --2 1913: The testament of Magdalen Blair / Aleister Crowley 1914: The place of pain / M.P. Shiel -- 1915: The spider / Hanns Heinz Ewers -- *1916: Thirteen at table / Lord Dunsany -- 1917: The black pool / Frederick Stuart Greene -- 1918: The middle bedroom / H. de Vere Stacpoole -- 1919: The sumach / Ulric Daubeny -- 1920: In the light of the red lamp / Maurice Level -- *1921: Master of fallen years / Vincent O'Sullivan -- 1922: Seaton's aunt / Walter de la Mare --2 1923: The thing from "Outside" / George Allan England -- 1924: The loved dead / C.M. Eddy, Jr. -- *1925: The smoking leg / John Metcalfe -- *1926: The outsider / H.P. Lovecraft -- 1927: The red brain / Donald Wandrei -- 1928: The red lodge / H. Russell Wakefield -- 1929: Celui-lá / Eleanor Scott -- 1930: The spirit of Stonehenge / Rosalie Muspratt -- 1931: Cassius / Henry S. Whitehead --2 1932: The thing in the cellar / David H. Keller -- 1933: Shambleau / C.L. Moore -- 1934: The tower of Moab / L.A. Lewis -- 1935: The dark eidolon / Clark Ashton Smith -- 1936: The crawling horror / Thorp McClusky -- 1937: The eerie Mr. Murphy / Howard Wandrei -- 1938: Pigeons from Hell / Robert E. Howard -- 1939: Far below / Robert Barbour Johnson -- *1940: Evening primrose / John Collier -- 1941: The words of Guru / C.M. Kornbluth -- 1942: The idol of the flies / Jane Rice -- 1943: They bite / Anthony Boucher --1 1944: The jar / Ray Bradbury --2 1945: Carousel / August Derleth -- 1946: Shonokin Town / Manly Wade Wellman -- *1947: Bianca's hands / Theodore Sturgeon -- 1948: The lottery / Shirley Jackson --3 1949: The pond / Nigel Kneale -- 1950: Born of man and woman / Richard Matheson --

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Introduced me to several unknown authors, most noteably, Jane Rice. Was disappointed in more stories than I expected..if these were the best??? But the excellent outnumbered the disapointments!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ebenmaessiger

    "The Undying Thing," by Barry Pain (1901): 9.25 - An apposite read on this dark Halloween night! A Victorian, gothic tale--that's not the famous ones--that lives up to its genre. And even the stilted dialogue wasn't necessarily that stilted; or, the “modern” characters talked in a recognizably fin-de-siecle modern way. Had a nice large sweep too (the downfall of a family because of an ancestors sins), as well as an interesting narrative structure, such as the middle section narrated through the "The Undying Thing," by Barry Pain (1901): 9.25 - An apposite read on this dark Halloween night! A Victorian, gothic tale--that's not the famous ones--that lives up to its genre. And even the stilted dialogue wasn't necessarily that stilted; or, the “modern” characters talked in a recognizably fin-de-siecle modern way. Had a nice large sweep too (the downfall of a family because of an ancestors sins), as well as an interesting narrative structure, such as the middle section narrated through the memories of a village elder over beers at the pub. Some genuinely cold lines as well [the Drs. Interpolation in Edric’s Note: “the thing is not dead. I don't know if it will ever die”], as well as a commendably brisk yet affecting conclusion (esp. the grandson finally seeing the thing and asking who it is before fighting with it). Good stuff. "The Willows," by Algernon Blackwood (1907): 9.25 - so, this is good. It's good, and remains nonetheless difficult to discuss. And that is because the sometimes seminar already covered Blackwood, and I don't know how much novel or interesting I will have to say that isn't mostly cribbed -- consciously or not -- for their takes: that being, primarily, that what Blackwood lacks as a horror writer, he actually makes up, to their large surprise, as an innovative and evocative nature writer. Our story: two Englishman, rafting down the Danube, put up in a heavily wooded, and very creepy, clearing, increasingly feeling themselves in the liminal Space between worlds. My major addendum to their verdict is that this is actually quite wonderful, with the interesting added wrinkle of the disjunction between the prose description of the willows and the ominous omnipresent feeling of the others around them, and the dialogue and repartee between the two men, which felt more lifelike than I would have supposed based upon the former. I wonder why this doesn't get talked about more. Maybe something to do with the strangeness of a prewar British fantastical story set outside of England. Nonetheless, it should have a more robust reputation, especially as it mixes the large cosmic unease with the more corporeal, granular, and intimate terrors of, for example, the final one-two punch of the minute description of the dead man's skin, as well as seeing him float off and begin to resemble an “otter,” thereby re-re-framing our appreciation for what exactly they been going through from the beginning.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Joseph Schumann

  16. 5 out of 5

    Grimm Morrison

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Quinlan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Merzbau

  19. 5 out of 5

    Letande D'Argon

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andy Blacet

  22. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  23. 5 out of 5

    L J Field

  24. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Uminsky

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lee Howman

  26. 5 out of 5

    Yakface

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lexxnet

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Wright

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kristie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Bacon

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