Christmas and Other Horrors: An Anthology of Solstice Horror - Ed. Ellen Datlow (Titan Books) Pick of the Month
There’s a certain obviousness to an Ellen Datlow anthology. As perhaps the premiere short horror editor, she has a winning formula: pick a concept and then find the best writers in the field to contribute to it. Christmas and Other Horrors does this by sticking to the winter holiday theme and then soliciting a huge range of stories for it from some of her favorites, which promises to be a prize right from the outset. Part of what allows this particular book to excel as much as it does is that it doesn’t actually just focus on Christmas: we get solstice, Hanukkah, and other types of communal celebrations, with a heavy focus on folk traditions that often underlie our public yuletides. It is nice seeing Jewish horror in particular, something that, while discussed frequently, is rarely on offer. John Langan’s story may be the strongest of the bunch, but there are amazing entries by Stephen Graham Jones, Nadia Bulkin, Nick Mamatas, and several others.
The Ghost Sequence - A.C. Wise (Undertow Publications)
The Ghost Sequence is a collection of some of A.C. Wise’s best short fiction from the past several years in another fantastic volume from Undertow Publications. Featuring a stunning cover and a couple totally new stories, this is one of the best literary horror offerings of the year and includes some particularly choice Lovecraftian and ghost stories from her recent canon. Wise’s subtle storytelling does more than elevate her genre tropes: it is an example of what makes horror the transgressive and emotional vessel it can so often be.
Nightmare Carnival - Ed. Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books)
This older volume, from 2014, also shows Datlow in prime form. All stories center on carnivals, often the surreal, mythic, or nightmarish quality that centers around an institution that inspires equal parts nostalgia and dread. There are especially prescient stories by A.C. Wise and Stephen Graham Jones, and another important one from Laid Barron that would later lead his 2016 book of interlocking stories, Swift to Chase. While not as strong as Christmas and Other Horrors and leaning into the fable aesthetic, Nightmare Carnival is a capable and relevant anthology for those looking for some diversity in storytelling.
Nightfall: Double Feature - David Andry, Tim Daniel, and Daniel Kraus (Vault Comics)
While there is a dearth of horror comics the last few years, what newcomer Vault wanted to do with Nightfall was to present a classic horror double feature. Over the four issue life of the miniseries, each expanded issue would include two stories that would play out over the life of the comic. We end up with two stories here, one about bones that seem to spontaneously replace essential real world objects at an accelerating rate (The Cemetarians), and another about a family on a camping trip who seems to be possessed by Lovecraftian spirits (Denizen). Both are above average entries into the world of horror comics, avoiding the kitsch and comedy so common in the subgenre and instead presents a truly horrifying formula. While this is still only in single issue format, a collected edition from Vault is forthcoming.