True Review
Current Issue Number 77 Vol.20  March 2011


DARKNESS: Two Decades of Modern Horror, ed. by Ellen Datlow. Tachyon (, 2010, 470 pp., $15.95. ISBN 978-1-892391-95-7

In any given year, in any particular anthology, the editor deserves the right to select stories that often make you wonder: what in the world did the editor like about THAT? Of all the edited anthologies I have seen, I wonder the LEAST about Datlow’s selections. You can be assured they will be Edgy.

It sounds trite, almost clichéd, when you hear the word “edgy.” What does an “edgy” story represent? To me, growing up reading the original DANGEROUS VISIONS anthologies, the stories are one of two things: taking chances, or perhaps REALLY taking chances.

For horror, the more genuine flight-from-normal scenarios, the more dark the situations, the more prevalent the evil, the more diabolic the forces – well, the better the story.

Actually, you can forget all that – the better and more believable the characters, the better the story.

Here are the “edgiest”:

“Two Minutes Forty-Five Seconds” by Dan Simmons. An aerospace engineer, long fascinated by aerial disasters, is a passenger on a plane. Anxious, edgy, his imagination is fired by a fall he suffered as a young child. What goes through a person’s mind in a freefall state – especially those who know they are going to die? The story title describes the length of time it would take to fall from 46,000 feet before a person would hit water or land. What do those people think about during that time? And how, as an engineer, can he record those moments of “frightened” sanity, despite the science that backs any calculations of safety?

“The Juniper Tree” by Peter Straub. Sordid memories of the past weigh heavily on the story’s narrator, who matures into a successful writer despite a cruel father and an absent mother. He relies on his only love – film and the theater – both of which hold the scenes of not only the bad memories but also good ones.

“The Phone Woman” by Joe R. Lansdale. Some “writer fellah” somewhere Down South tries to help a woman who needs to make a call to her mother – and promptly turns the whole affair into an emergency medical scene. This isn’t anything new, apparently, after the writer does a little investigation into this woman from who-knows-where on his own. The writer is at first tormented by, then attracted to the woman’s actions. He realizes how primal – or how essential – her behaviors are.

“Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite. This tale pits zombies in a place where the living and the dead bear a strangely cooperative existence.

“The DogPark” by Dennis Etchison. The suburbs of Los Angeles (actually Beverly Hills) are the setting for a tale of a park where dog-walkers go – but the dangers of mountain lions and coyotes are just as prevalent.

“RainFalls” by Michael Marshall Smith. A man who enters a London bar gives us a visceral understanding of bad decisions and random violence, and how SOME violence is not so random.

“Dancing Men” by Glen Hirshberg. A golem from the Chelmno Concentration Camp of World War II takes over the near-dead body of Mr. Gadeuszki’s Native American grandfather, reminding him of the dead, or near dead, that can’t be forgotten, including one that may have escaped the camp . . . or not.

“My Father’s Mask” by Joe Hill. At the end of the journey to BigCat Lake, one boy is mesmerized by the sight of many masks in the lake house and the strange behaviors of his parents. What is a game and what is reality? Could the reality be more dangerous than the consequences of any card game?

There are other stories as well, but these are the really memorable ones from DARKNESS.

Andrew M. Andrews

In This Issue

Soft Apocalpyse Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 Click on the Book Cover for Review Best Sci-Fi of the Year Oscar Wilde & Vampire Murders

Dawn to Dusk Brave New Worlds All Clear Zombie Autopsies Best of Kim Stanley Robinson

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet Griftopia Sleight of Hand Immaculate Deception Pump Six

Sympathy for the Devil Atlantis & Othe Places Darkness Holiday Nano Comes to Clifford

Game Changers Armageddon In Retrospect   The Fall of the House of Usher Realms of Fantasy

Next Time In True Review


FLAMING ZEPPELINS: The Adventures of Ned the Seal, by Joe R. Lansdale. Tachyon Publications (, 2010, 285 pp., $14.95. ISBN 978-1-61696-002-5

FLAMING ZEPPELINS is a combination of two short novels, ZEPPELINS WEST (Subterranean Press, 2001) and FLAMING LONDON (Subterranean, 2005). The love of westerns and pulp fiction, comic books and Texas weirdness, come into play. The best campy fiction in all of America? Probably.

Andrew M. Andrews


THE COLLECTED FANTASIES VOL. 5, THE LAST HIEROGLYPH, by Clark Ashton Smith, ed. by Scott Connors and Ron Hilger. Night Shade Books (, 2010, 370 pp., $39.99. ISBN 978-1-59780-032-7

THE COLLECTED FANTASIES is the last of five volumes to collect all of Smith’s tales. Included are works ranging from “The Dark Age” (April 1938) to “The Dart of Rasasfa” (July 1961).

Andrew M. Andrews