10. Women of Darkness – Kathryn Ptacek, ed.
So far, I have to say that all of the anthologies of women writing horror short stories that I’ve read have been really good. Women of Darkness was one that I checked out of the library after reading about it on Too Much Horror Fiction and after I read it, I made sure to find an ex-library copy for myself before I returned it. I really like ex-library copies. Sometimes they’re pretty beat, but, they always have mylar wrapped dust jackets or the paperbacks have been book-taped to hell and back and that’s very satisfying to me. Plus it’s fun to see how many different kinds of “Withdrawn” stamps there are and what classifications have been used. Fun…for me. I know this is not everyone’s idea of a good time.
Merricat’s idea of a good time is posing in front of horror parody paintings of her on a log pillow. I wish she’d been able to pose for more of them, but perfect sassy pigs can’t always stay.
Speaking of things that aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time, the first story in Women of Darkness is “Baby” by Kit Reed and it is creepy as hell. Damn, baby. I really love how Kit Reed is able to make the normal, the stuff we’re told to want, super terrifying. I recently saw a trailer for the horror film Hereditary and I feel like it’s probably going to cover some Kit Reedish territory. Exciting.
“The Spirit Cabinet” – Lisa Tuttle – Another story that I read by Tuttle also dealt with the spiritualist movement and I definitely like this one better – it was scarier and had less mucus. It reminded me of a vastly unsuccessful young adult book I read a while ago- this story mounts the dread and demonstrates a lot of the creeping mystery of ghost stories and buying antique furniture.
Little Merri on some non-haunted antique furniture.
“Mother Calls But I Do Not Answer” – Rachel Cosgrove Payes – The bad side of loneliness and looking for answers in the mirror. The main character reminded me a little bit of Henrietta the goth kid from South Park when she thought she became emo because of invading plant spores and was ever-so-slightly nicer to her mother. Poser.
“The Devil’s Rose” – Tanith Lee – Beware the out of towners. They’re usually not there to rescue you. This story touches on one of my favorite topics – syphilis – and also has a bit of fairytale magic to it. Syphilitic fairytale magic.
Merricat and Peregrine did run off with me when I came to the shelter they were in from out of town, but, thankfully, I was actually there to rescue them. They super needed their nails clipped, I would’ve done that before I left even if I hadn’t adopted them.
“Midnight Madness” – Wendy Webb – Super whispery scary Black Friday-style shopping. It was pretty fun to read a story about shopping that was this chilling. I didn’t think it could be done.
“Aspen Graffiti” – Melanie Tem – A topic just as mundane as shopping – the dissolution of a marriage when the husband suddenly decides he’s got to be younger, cooler, and that wife of his is holding him back… Sometimes the real horrors are pretty familiar. He has an earring and got a younger girlfriend! NOoooo!
Peregrine and Merricat hide from the harmful effects of midlife crises.
“Slide Number Seven” – Sharon Epperson – I know this author better as S.K. Epperson from her book Borderland. It was kind of brutal and that carries through into this story. I love it when women take agency with disease; I really am keen on disease stories – I think because I’m chronically ill. This one is short but packs quite the punch.
“The Unloved” – Melissa Mia Hall – Rachel and Celia, two sisters, on their own, taking in some random manipulative drifter…it goes super well and everyone ends up perfectly happy.
“Cannibal Cats Come Out Tonight” – Nancy Holder – Friends don’t let friends eat their other friends. Until they get stuck in a desert house trying to gain the affections of the same free spirited girl.
Always a true woman of horror, Merricat scares Danger Crumples.