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White of the Moon
edited by Stephen Jones
Pumpkin Books, 339 pages


Les Edwards
White of the Moon
Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones is the winner of 2 World Fantasy Awards, the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award and 2 International Horror Guild Awards, as well as being an 11-time recipient of the British Fantasy Award and a Hugo Award nominee. A full-time columnist, television producer/director and genre movie publicist and consultant, Stephen Jones is also one of Britain's most acclaimed anthologists of horror and dark fantasy. He has edited and written more than 50 books, including: Shadows Over Innsmouth; Exorcisms and Ecstasies, a Karl Edward Wagner collection; and Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror. He is co-editor of a number of series including Best New Horror, Dark Terrors and Dark Voices. He lives in London, England

Stephen Jones Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dark of the Night
Pumpkin Books Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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With a predominance of British writers, including horror veterans like Ramsey Campbell and Graham Masterton, and new blood like Joel Lane and Jay Russell, White of the Moon collects 21 original tales featuring horrors of the mind gone awry. Descents into madness, tales of crazed revenge, megalomaniacs, pyrophobes, serial killers, designer psychopaths, places where alternate worlds become reality are all here. The little gore or graphic violence in these stories is more than made up for by the portrayal of the skewed mental processes and associated twisted individuals who fall prey to their madness. Given the nature of these tales, they are almost all free of supernatural elements and happen, however twisted certain individuals' perception of it is, in a reality-based context.

Besides the excellent stories, White of the Moon's editor, Stephen Jones, had also included excellent little blurbs with each story. In addition to the usual listing of the author's latest works and literary achievements, Jones has allowed each writer to outline the origin and/or genesis of their story. The book also includes a nice creepy frontispiece (and an end-piece) by Randy Broecker.

Late 19th century scientific studies in psychiatry, neurobiochemistry, endocrinology and related fields signalled the death knell of the traditional English ghost story. Ghosts can now be attributed to any number of neuroses or biochemical imbalances. This is manifested by Ramsey Campbell's "Agatha's Ghost" where an old woman believes she is being haunted by her nephew, when she is merely sinking into paranoia about his attempts to help her. However, at the opposite extreme, "Getting a Life" by Terry Lamsley couches a tale of possession from beyond the grave in the thinnest of psychological context.

Even before Freud and Jung, writers were exploring the progression of madness and its treatment. As early as 1862, Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould was describing lycanthropy in terms of a psychological disorder in his The Book of Werewolves. In his In a Glass Darkly (1886), Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, includes a story where haunting was treated as a psychological disorder. During the same era, French authors like Henri Rivière ("La seconde vie du Dr Roger"), Guy de Maupassant ("Le Horla") and Jules Lermina ("Les fous"), dealt with schizophrenia, paranoia, and even an insane obsession centred on drilling holes through lunatics' skulls to somehow "see" their insanity... all stories that would fit perfectly into White of the Moon.

The now ever-popular psychotic human predator, glorified in such works as Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me (1952) or Robert Bloch's Psycho (1959), have been around since the literary spinoffs of Jack the Ripper. Sexual psychopaths in particular were the subject of study as early as R. von Krafft-Ebing's 1886 Psychopathia Sexualis (a very funny book by today's standards). A number of the stories in White of the Moon deal with such individuals. The narrator of David J. Schow's "Unhasped" recreates the timeline of his crimes through a collection of mementoes; Christopher Fowler's killer in "Home Again" is triggered by the changes progress has wrought on his idealized childhood working-class neighbourhood; Graham Masterton's character in "Friend in Need" shifts his guilt to his friend's imaginary-friend he himself has imagined; Joel Lane's character in "Another Frame" temporarily escapes his conscience in Amsterdam's red light district; the mother in "Little Contrasts" by Kathryn Ptacek is baking up the family that took her for granted; and in Kim Newman's "You Don't Have to be Mad..." the Pleasant Green Centre doesn't cure you, it moulds you into the best killing machine you can be. However, through all of these the accent is on the aberrant psychology, not on the graphic violence of the crimes.

Another group of stories delve into particular phobias, manias or delusions. In Caitlín R. Kiernan's "Rats Live on no Evil Star," a young man with a Fortean view of the world protects the woman down the hall from what she cannot see; "Heat," by Steve Rasnic Tem, deals with a pyrophilic woman obsessed with the fiery death of her family; in "I Spy," by Paul J. McAuley, the first person narrator explains his evolution from an abused/neglected child to a voyeuristic homicidal megalomaniac (to name only a few of his qualities).

Some stories are of alternate or not-so-alternate realities. In one of the most striking of the stories, "Collecting Dust" by Gregory Frost, a crumbling family is doing just that; in "The Roundabout" by Nicholas Royle and "The Strange Case of X" by Jeff VanderMeer, authors are trapped in literary worlds of their own or others' creation; and, in "Welcome" by Michael Marshall Smith, a misdated computer file presages the person's passage to another level of existence.

White of the Moon also includes stories about taking the concept of feng shui in redecorating to extremes ("Feng Shui" by Roberta Lannes); an ex-child star who helps rather than hinders a stalker ("Whatever Happened to Baby June" by Jay Russell); an internet site that predicts the same death date for everyone on Earth ("The Clock that Counts the Dead" by Edward Bryant); a modern-day witch who, in a nice quasi-noir tale, learns that revenge has its price ("Rose, Crowned with Thorns" by Brian Stableford); and a widely prescribed psychiatric drug that induces suicide ("A New Force of Nature" by Lisa Morton). The title story is in fact a poem by Jo Fletcher of a mother's fear of what effect the moon will have on her child.

If you're looking for your typical teenage-slashing, hockey mask-wearing psychos or guys with pincushion heads, White of the Moon isn't for you. However, if you are looking for a solid set of intelligent stories set in and around decaying minds, well then, when THEY aren't watching, listen to that little voice in your head (No, not that one!) and pick up a copy of White of the Moon; it might just be therapeutic.

Table of Contents (alphabetically by author, * indicates poem)
Edward Bryant The Clock That Counts the Dead
Ramsey Campbell Agatha's Ghost
Jo Fletcher White of the Moon (A Lullaby)*
Christopher Fowler Home Again
Gregory Frost Collecting Dust
Caitlín R. Kiernan Rats Live on no Evil Star
Terry Lamsley Getting a Life
Joel Lane Another Frame
Roberta Lannes Feng Shui
Graham Masterton Friend in Need
Paul J. McAuley I Spy
Lisa Morton A New Force of Nature
Kim Newman You Don't Have to be Mad...
Kathryn Ptacek Little Contrasts
Nicholas Royle The Roundabout
Jay Russell Whatever Happened to Baby June
David J. Schow Unhasped
Michael Marshall SmithWelcome
Brian Stableford Rose, Crowned with Thorns
Steve Rasnic Tem Heat
Jeff VanderMeer The Strange Case of X

Copyright © 2000 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.


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