Karl Edward Wagner – Year’s Best Horror Stories

Don’t let anyone attempt to tell you that the horror boom is over. A dozen years back once I began as editor of The Year’s Best Horror Stories, I won’t to reserve space on one shelf for genre publications with room for stories of note published outside the horror field. For 1989 hardcover, paperback anthologies and booklets filled three Jack Daniels’ cartons — this in addition to the ordered rows of monthly magazines ostensibly devoted to science fiction.

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Karl Edward Wagner – Year’s Best Horror Stories XVIII

This reflects a yearly progression, and there is no sign of things leveling off. While one anthology series dies, another takes its place; when one magazine folds, two more take its place — rather like the old story about the Hydra. As a consequence, your overworked editor is being crowded out of his house by tottering stacks of horrors. Only your dauntless editor, who probably will have to trade in his mirror shades for bifocals, has chosen the best of the best for you from amongst the many hundreds of horror stories of 1989 — painstakingly and painfully.

Don’t think it’s all been fun. Increasingly in recent years as the genre has proliferated the criticism has been leveled that far, far an excessive amount of current horror fiction is absolute rubbish. This, unfortunately, is all too true. Skipping over the dismal quality of most horror films and novels, the short story has also fallen victim to pure and simple bad writing. Plots, when present, are too often so obvious and trite that one can only wonder as to why the author is bothering to clone a cliché. Characterization is too often lacking, motivation absent, and writing skills laughable. One piece of evidence of this is the shrinking average word length of the horror story.

This reflects a growing trend in horror writing simply to introduce a few faceless expendables and rush them to a grisly end — the grislier the better. Your editor yawns and turns to the next and similar pointless exercise.

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