Review: Poe’s Children - The New Horror - An Anthology

About The Book

From the incomparable master of horror and suspense comes an electrifying collection of contemporary literary horror, with stories from twenty-five writers representing today’s most talented voices in the genre.

Horror writing is usually associated with formulaic gore, but New Wave horror writers have more in common with the wildly inventive, evocative spookiness of Edgar Allan Poe than with the sometimes predictable hallmarks of their peers. Showcasing this cutting-edge talent, Poe’s Children now brings the best of the genre’s stories to a wider audience. Featuring tales from such writers as Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll, Poe’s Children is Peter Straub’s tribute to the imaginative power of story-telling. Each previously published story has been selected by Straub to represent what he thinks is the most interesting development in our literature during the last two decades.

Crossing boundaries and packed with imaginative chills, Poe’s Children bears all the telltale signs of fearless, addictive fiction.

My Thoughts On The Stories (some may contain spoilers) 

♦ The Bees ♦ Dan Chaon
©2003 Originally published in McSweeney’s #10
Well-written psychological tale of how guilt can come back and haunt you.

♦ Cleopatra Brimstone ♦ Elizabeth Hand
©2001 Originally published in Redshift
Butterfly collecting woman moves to London, and goes through a very strange metamorphosis. We all know how collections can get out of control.

♦ The Man On The Ceiling ♦ MelanieTem and Steve Rasnic Tem 
  ©2000 Originally published as chapbook from American Fantasy
This story is narrated by a husband and wife writing team – the actual concept is very interesting with them taking turns telling about what scares them, but a few pages in it began to feel disjointed and it became hard to tell who was doing the telling. On my second read through this story the narrative came together much easier, so I would say this one is worth a read or two.

(photo – Closet Sounds by smacshop – check out this Etsy shop for amazing art)

♦ The Great God Pan ♦ M. John Harrison
©1988 Originally published in Prime Evil
I was not crazy about this story at all. But if you come across a novella of the same name by Arthur Machen – read it! It’s available online to read for free, just google the title.

♦ The Voice Of The Beach ♦ Ramsey Campbell
©1982 Originally published in Fantasy Tales 10
This one is perhaps the creepiest story of the bunch. A couple guys, a deserted beach, hints of Lovecraft mythos.

♦ Body ♦ Brian Evenson
©2004 Originally published in The Wavering Knife
Of all the stories this one has completely grabbed my attention. I cannot wrap my mind around the meaning of it – seriously I felt dumb after reading it, so I read it a few times. And I’ll probably keep going back to it again and again – which is exactly why I liked this story so much. It’s told from the perspective of someone being forced to undergo a change in order to better fit/follow what society demands/expects. There are the Brothers who lead this being through the process, but there is also a voice (subconscious?) that rebels against everything it hears. Something about shoes? And in the end I’m left wondering what the Brothers were trying to create/change and what the society is like that they come from. Were they actually trying to create their own monster or is this what passes for normal? Is this story meant to provoke a misogynistic feeling, is it only a metaphor or is it just a way of showing hatred of Manolo Blanhiks – lol yes this story has my mind begging for explanation.
(photo - Kamil Vojnar / Getty Images – found at

♦ Louise’s Ghost ♦ Kelly Link
©2001 Originally published in Strangers Things Happen
At first, I thought that Louise’s ghost was actually one of the Louises’. But then it becomes obvious that it isn’t. The two Louises’ are close friends, drawn together by their shared name, and when one Louise dies, the Louise left behind must learn to mourn and live with herself as just one Louise. A little too long, the story starts off well enough, but doesn’t seem to have the oomph it needs. I think if this story were lengthened into a novella with more space for development it would be amazing.

♦ The Sadness Of Detail ♦ Jonathan Carroll
©1990 Originally published in Omni
Only 11 pages of writing, but this story is full of power and potential. I would loved it to have been the prequel to a series of books. It seems God has grown old, he’s basically useless. There are people however, that can help by creating transcendental artwork to remind God of what he created. A female artist is approached and shown that her drawings hold power to change the world. But is she willing to assist the mysterious people who want her help? And if there are good uses for her art, doesn’t that also mean that it could be used for evil?  Quite thought-provoking.

♦ Leda ♦ M. Rickert
©2002 Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
This one is pretty strange, but not a bad little story. Leda appears to be a modern re-telling or interpretation of a famous tale from Greek Mythology. In this story of Leda, a woman lays an egg after being raped by a swan. The story then goes on to describe how her husband and her deal with this. In mythology, there is the story of Leda And The Swan, where Zeus goes to Leda in the form of a swan and seduces her. Leda ends up giving birth to two sets of twins, with a child from each set belonging to Zeus (as swan) and King Tyndareus (her husband). Many artists have portrayed Leda and a swan together, some say it was a more acceptable way to present eroticism than having a man in the paintings/sculptures. 

(photo – ‘Leda And Swan’ by Cesare Sesto, reproduction of lost original by Leonardo da Vinci)

♦ In Praise Of Folly ♦ Thomas Tessier
©1992 Originally published in Metahorror
The word folly has two definitions and both are relevant to this story. First, Folly in Architecture. a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, found especially in England in the 18th century. And the more widely known, Folly as a lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight, an act or instance of foolishness, a costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome, or a perilously or criminally foolish action. So in the story, we have a man who is obsessed with finding the most extravagant folly ever, which will make him extremely well known in this field. But he goes about it in a very foolish way and ends up a little too involved in a folly.

♦ Plot Twist ♦ David J. Schow
©2002 Originally published in Dark Terrors 6
Perfect example of a story that should have been on Twilight Zone. Three people traveling through the desert, are stranded when their car breaks down. They decide to start walking and along the way they begin to think the desert isn’t exactly as it should be, they have just entered their own personal Twilight Zone. All three have certain ideas of what’s going on and they discuss these as the reader is offered a more in-depth glimpse into the three character’s personalities and the complexities of their relationships. Then out of nowhere BAM! an amazing plot twist. I love these things!

(photo – ‘Road, Nevada Desert’ by Ansel Adams)

♦ The Two Sams ♦  Glen Hirshberg
©2002 Originally published in Dark Terrors 6
This could be classified as a ghost story or it could be an investigation into how a father may deal with the loss of his children before they are born. Raises the thoughts of what type of ethereal existence a miscarried child may be capable of having. Not my kind of story, but well written regardless of personal preference.

♦ Notes On The Writing Of Horror: A Story ♦ Thomas Ligotti
©1991 Originally published in Dark Horizons #28
Interesting use of fiction as non-fiction, or non-fiction as fiction, where a writer of horror shows the many various ways in which a horror story may be presented to change the overall tone.

♦ Unearthed ♦ Benjamin Percy
©2006 Originally published in The Language Of Elk
The characters and relationships in this story were great, but haven’t we read a thousand different stories about digging up things that don’t belong to us?

♦ Gardener Of Heart ♦ Bradford Morrow
©2005 Originally published in Conjunctions 44: An Anatomy Of Roads
Huge spoiler alert! This story is about a male twin’s return home to attend his twin sister’s funeral. Along the way he reminisces about their shared lives, only to arrive at the church and find out that it’s his sister who is attending his funeral. Sorry, but this was too predictable and I’ve read far too many versions of this plot to even think of what makes this one stand out.


♦ Little Red’s Tango ♦ Peter Straub
©2002 Originally published in Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists
I don’t remember much specific about this story and my copy of the book was a library loaner.

♦ The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet ♦ Stephen King
©1984 Originally published in The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction
This is a terrific story, paranoia abounds and the writing is classic King. Just as good as when I read it in King’s collection Skeleton Crew in the late 80’s.

♦ 20th Century Ghost ♦ Joe Hill
©2002 Originally published in The High Plains Literary Review
Not my favourite of Hill’s stories, this one concerns a haunted theatre that is facing demolition.

♦ The Green Glass Sea ♦ Ellen Klages
©2004 Originally published in Strange Horizons
This story takes place in the 1950’s and is about a little girl whose father is involved in and dies during the development of military weapons. It tells of how she goes to see what is left after the first test blast of a nuclear weapon which would later be used to bomb Hiroshima. After detonation, this weapon leaves behind a solid vista of green glass called Trinitite. Before leaving she gathers a piece of the green glass and keeps it as the last gift her father gave her. Not exactly horror, but it is slightly disturbing to see how a child’s innocence may make something horrible seem magical. 

(photo – Trinity test explosion in New Mexico, USA)

♦ The Kiss ♦ Tia V. Travis
©1999 Originally published in Subterranean Gallery
Again I cannot recall too much about this and didn’t get a chance to make any notes.

♦ Black Dust ♦ Graham Joyce
©2002 Originally published in Black Dust
This story centers around two boys who are best friends and their fathers both work the coal mines. Set during a particular dark time as one father is trapped in the mine and the other father is part of the rescue. Narrated by the son of the trapped coal miner, he struggles with his emotions over his father’s situation and looks back on the relationships that the four males have. I love Joyce’s writing style, another author whose horror stories are the quietly dark sort.

(photo - ‘children living in Company House’ found at West Virginia Pics)

♦ October In The Chair ♦ Neil Gaiman
©2002 Originally published in Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists
One of my favourite short stories by Gaiman, more of a story within a story. The main story begins with a peek at a meeting of the twelve months personified. Sitting in a circle, around a blazing fire they are there for a story, and it is October’s turn to tell. This is where the second story comes in. For me, the main story of the months was fantastic enough. Gaimans given each month a particular personality and it’s awesome to see how they interact with one another. I would love to see a story for each month!

(photo – October in the chair… by steeringfornorth – check out this artist’s amazing photostream)

♦ Missolonghi 1824 ♦ John Crowley
©1990 Originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
Another story within a story. This time Lord Byron is telling a young boy about his supposed run-in with some sort of creature in the woods.

♦ Insect Dreams ♦ Rosalind Palermo Stevenson
©2003 Originally published in Trampoline
A fictionalized account of an expedition by the naturalist, painter and scientist Maria Sibylla Merian. You can read the entire text of the story here.  


About The Editor

Peter Straub is the author of seventeen novels, including Ghost Story and Koko, as well as two collaborations with Stephen King. Winner of eight Bram Stoker Awards, two International Horror Guild Awards, two World Fantasy Awards, and both a Lifetime Achievement Award and election as a Grand Master from the Horror Writers Association, he lives in New York City.

(photo of Peter Straub found at Time Entertainment – great interview found there too)

Title: Poe’s Children
Editor: Peter Straub
Book Genre: Horror Anthology
Book Type: Hardcover 534 pages
Publisher: Random House / Doubleday
Publication Date: October 2008

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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


E. L. Fay said...

I don't usually read anthologies but this sounds really interesting! "The Sadness of Detail" and "The Green Glass Sea" sound especially poignant. I'll have to check this one out.

Icedream said...

Thanks so much for this review Joanne! It's new info to me and I love, love horror and sci-fi anthologies. I've put this on the top of my wishlist because I HAVE to own this book!

Anonymous said...

I never knew there was such a thing as New Wave horror. When I think of New Wave, I think of Flock of Seagulls.

Lightheaded said...

Ooh, quite a handful you remembered quite well so I'll keep this title in mind next time I scour the bins of books here in my hometown.

I've only read Gaiman's story (from his compilation) and I love that one.

Trish said...

LOL--Looks...horrifying! I can't do scary. I don't even like scary looking pictures (and yes, the pictures from Coraline count as scary). :P Glad you enjoyed, though!

naida said...

wow, this sounds like a great collection!
excellent review, I'm adding this to my TBR right now.
I havent read Straub yet, I do have the book he and King wrote sitting on my shelf.

Maree said...

Must ... read.
Thanks for the great review :)

the_young_dude said...

passing by, good review !

Ladytink_534 said...

Love the pics! Sounds like an interesting read- I just love anthologies! I believe the only authors I've read from it before are Peter Straub, Stephen King (read the story before too), and Joe Hill.

Zibilee said...

Great review! I think this one is going on the list. Some of those stories sound really good.

Nymeth said...

The list of contributors alone would make me want to get this! It sounds excellent. I'll keep it in mind for the next RIP.

Bibliolatrist said...

I just decided to purchase this thanks to your post!

PolyPassionate said...

Just purchased this book from a clearance sale at Border's for a dollar. Googled it to send a link to a friend. I'll let you know when I finish it, might even write up my own review and pay special attention to the couple you forgot. ;)