Saturday, November 12, 2011


When I was a young man learning how to write, one of the publications that I looked forward to every single year was THE YEAR'S BEST HORROR published by DAW Books and edited by Karl Edward Wagner. DAW no longer publishes a year's best collection of the finest horror stories, and of course Karl Wagner has fled this mortal coil. Anyway, who was going to try to fill Wagner's shoes at the helm of DAW's year's best collection every year? It would have been a really tough act to follow.

Wagner had a truly unique way of looking at horror fiction, and no one who collects this material has equaled his ability to choose the finest of the works of short fiction to be published each year. And, of course, the industry itself has changed. Almost all of the magazines are gone, and even the little fanzines and micro-zines have, like Wagner himself, faded into oblivion.

I really miss that yearly collection. More than anything else from the days of my youth, I miss that volume that would hit the shelves every year. I'd go to the bookstores and check every week until it arrived. I have every single one of that series. Including the six that preceded Wagner's arrival, mostly edited by Gerald Page. Mr. Page did a good job, too, with some memorable hits in his own tenure at the editor's desk. But nobody topped Wagner.

I miss DAW's Year's Best Horror. And I miss the professional presence of Karl Wagner. I wish they were still with us.

Alas, time passes. And everything, and everyone, eventually heads for extinction.

Two of my editions of DAW's YEAR'S BEST HORROR. I have them all.


MarkGelbart said...

Amazon has used copies of these collections for next to nothing...39 cents, $2.64, etc.

I think I have one somewhere on my bookshelf but can't remember for sure.

Do you recall a standout year off the top of your head? I might want to get one or two.

When I read anthologies or pulp magazines (Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine for example) I find that I enjoy about 1/6th of the stories. That's a consistent percentage. I always thought that if I was the editor of an anthology, picking stories from all the ones submitted, my selection would probably be much different.

HemlockMan said...

Nab all you can. Especially if they're cheap. The best ones were edited by Karl Wagner who started his tenure with Volume VII. Any of the ones he edited are well worth the price. If I had a single favorite volume it would have to be (appropriately) Volume XIII which contains two stories by John Gordon. Every story in it is excellent, which is rare for any anthology. Most collections have at least a few awful works in them--but this one is unique in having nothing but great work.

One thing that I miss in modern anthologies are great ghost stories. Wagner had a special love for British ghost stories and everyone who reads that stuff knows that the Brits are the best at writing ghost stories. Americans are close...but those UK dudes take the prize.