Friday, April 01, 2016

FFB: Horrible Beginnings, Steven H. Silver and Martin H. Greenberg, editors

Here we go again, with another anthology I bought mainly for the introductions to the stories rather than for the stories themselves.  The other one was Wondrous Beginnings, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  I have to say that Wondrous Beginnings is a much better title than Horrible Beginnings.  The anthology is a collection of the first horror stories by noted writers, true, but the editors should've done better by them.  I've tried to come up with an alternate title without success.  Maybe you can think of one.

The idea here is the same as it was Wondrous Beginnings, with the writers introducing their first published horror stories and telling how they broke into print.  Some of the writers had been published before, but not in the horror fiction field, but most of them became professional writers with their first horror sales.  This time, two of the intros are written by others because the writers were dead when the anthology was put together.  Fred Pohl does fine by Henry Kuttner, and Stefan R. Diemianowicz also well with Robert Bloch's intro.  It's too bad the writers weren't around to tell their own stories, though, because I'm sure they'd have been more personal and therefore more interesting.

Thomas Monteleone provides the longest intro this time around, and it even includes footnotes.  And this time it's Tanith Lee whose intro is longer than the story, which has only 100 words.  A couple of the writers here started out with novels and wrote short stories only after becoming well-known writers, which was almost the case with me.  Some of the introductions are more detailed and personal than others, but they're all fascinating.  

One thing I noticed was that several of the writers submitted without success to Twilight Zone before finally making that big first sale.  I'm not in the book, but I'm one of the writers who tried TZ a time or two without success.  One of those stories was eventually published as a collaboration with Joe Lansdale in Black Cat, a Canadian semi-prozine, and reprinted years later in a collection of Joe's worst stories (or something like that; I can't remember the title of the book).

I'd read a number of these stories before, and there are a couple of others I want to read Real Soon Now, but this is for sure another book in which the introductions are worth the price. 

Horrible Beginnings -- Table of Contents

Robert Bloch, Lilies, 1934
Henry Kuttner, The Graveyard Rats, 1936
Ramsey Campbell, The Church in High Street, 1962
Tanith Lee, Eustace, 1968
Ed Bryant, They Come Only in Dreams, 1970
F. Paul Wilson, The Cleaning Machine, 1971
Thomas Monteleone, Agony in the Garden, 1973
Neil Gaiman, The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds, 1984
Yvonne Navarro, Surprise Fall, 1984
Kim Newman, Dreamers, 1984
Poppy Z. Brite, Optional Music for Voice and Piano, 1985
Gary A. Braunbeck, Amymone's Footsteps, 1986
Rick Hautala, Colt .24, 1987
Elizabeth Hand, Prince of Flowers, 1988
Kathe Koja, Distances, 1988
P.N. Elrod, The Wind Breathes Cold, 1992

Matt Costello, Deep Sleep, 1992


George said...

I love anthologies like HORRIBLE BEGINNINGS. And, like you, I'm always fascinated by the introductions to stories when writers reveal the genesis of their work.

Bill Crider said...

I can't resist 'em.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

The introductions are usually my favorite part! That's why I've enjoyed Robert Silverberg's collected stories so much, for the insight and historical perspective of his introductions. Stephen King does a good job too, though his are usually afterwords.

Bud said...

Should have a better title, I'll grant you, but I see the editors' problem. Like you, I couldn't come up with anything better 8-)

Don Coffin said...

Terrifying Beginnings would seem appropriate, and less off-putting...

Bill Crider said...

I agree.

Todd Mason said...