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The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror
      Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror
edited by Stephen Jones
      edited by Ellen Datlow
Robinson, 745 pages
      Tachyon, 480 pages

Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones is the winner of multiple World Fantasy Awards, the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Awards, British Fantasy Awards 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 100 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: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 20
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 19
SF Site Review: H.P. Lovecraft In Britain
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #18
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Monsters
SF Site Review: The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #17
SF Site Review: Shadows Over Innsmouth
SF Site Review: Dark Terrors 5
SF Site Review: White of the Moon
SF Site Review: Dark of the Night

Ellen Datlow
Ellen Datlow was the fiction editor of OMNI from 1981 until it folded in 1998. She later worked as the fiction editor of SCIFI.COM. Her well-deserved reputation as an editor for both The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series and for the Fairy Tale Anthologies series has garnered her numerous awards.

Ellen Datlow Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008: 21st Annual Collection
SF Site Review: The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: 20th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: 17th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: The Green Man
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 14th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 13th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Black Heart, Ivory Bones
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 12th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Silver Birch, Blood Moon
SF Site Review: Black Swan, White Raven
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 11th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: 10th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Fairy Tale Anthologies

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Advertisement
The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror
Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror
The last twenty years have offered plenty of excellent short horror fiction, so it doesn't come as a surprise that the two major anthologists in the field, Stephen Jones in the UK and Ellen Datlow in USA, have endeavoured to collect the short stories they liked better, among the ones they chose for either Best New Horror (Jones) or the horror section of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (Datlow).

As a matter of fact both editors in their Introductions to The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror and Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror hasten to deny that their selections represent the actual "best" among the horror stories that appeared in print during the last two decades, but it's plain to see that this is exactly the meaning of the two volumes they have been editing.

While Jones sticks strictly to his own twenty Best New Horror anthologies and singles out one story from each annual volume (so we have twenty "best" stories), Datlow includes a total of twenty-five stories and is more eclectic in her selection, even though many of her favourite pieces had already appeared in her Year's Best books.

Now, to comment in detail about the merits of the various tales assembled in the two volumes would be time-consuming, boring and also a bit unfair. Suffice to say that both books certainly provide a good summation of what contemporary short story writers have produced in the horror area. This should especially benefit the newcomers to the genre, whereas the long-time fans of horror fiction will hardly find anything there that they haven't already read sometimes during the years.

Another important point is that a good number of horror writers are included in both anthologies, proving they are true masters of the genre. This is the case with Ramsey Campbell, Michael Marshall Smith, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, Elizabeth Hand, Joe Hill, Glen Hirshberg and, naturally enough, Stephen King.

Interestingly, however, neither Jones nor Datlow have chosen the same story by the same author, which emphasizes how personal taste plays a pivotal role also in the editorial practices of two famous anthologists.

If we take into consideration prolific writers, the lack of overlapping in the choice of the story is understandable. For example, from Ramsey Campbell's huge body of work the editors have selected two really excellent stories: the classical "The Same in Any Language" (Jones) and the more recent "No Strings" (Datlow). The same applies to Stephen King, whose comparatively old "Chattering Teeths" is reprinted in the Datlow anthology and the recent "THE NEW YORK TIMES at Special Bargain Rates" is Jones' choice.

On the other hand Neil Gaiman is included in both anthologies with two unmemorable poems ("Queen of Knives" in The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror and "Eaten" in Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror) Go figure.

Joe Hill's equally remarkable "20th Century Ghost" (Jones) and "My Father's Mask" (Datlow) are both taken from the author's outstanding debut collection.

Among Peter Straub's short fiction, the dark "The Juniper Tree" is Datlow's favourite, while Jones's pick is the questionable "Mr Chubb and Mr Cuff."

Both editors complain that due to space limitations they were unable to include some excellent stories. That explains, perhaps, why Jones has selected stories by Christopher Fowler, Terry Lamsley, Mark Samuels (all of them British…) but Datlow hasn't. By contrast she included pieces by Dan Simmons, Joe Lansdale, Dennis Etchison, Thomas Ligotti (all of them Americans…), but Jones ignored them all.

In short, if you want to get a complete overview of some of the best horror stories published in the last twenty years, I'm afraid you have no choice: you have to buy both books…

Copyright © 2010 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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