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Dark Forces: Part 1 –

Dark Forces: Part 1

Wednesday , 21, December 2022 Leave a comment

Dark Forces (Viking Press, 1980) is viewed as one of the greatest horror short fiction anthologies. Editor Kirby McCauley was able to bring together new and some of the still living Weird Tales writers for a very large book.

I have read a few stories reprinted elsewhere back in the 1980s. I can remember seeing the book listed in Science Fiction Book Club catalogs in the 80s. Did I ever see it at used bookstores? I might have seen the hardback. I definitely did not see the paperback.

I had an out of town trip in April and checked out a local used bookstore. The small science fiction, fantasy, horror section had a copy of the Bantam edition with a sticker on the front cover: “Compliments of Bantam Books Inc. Seventh World Fantasy Convention October 30 November 1, 1981.” Someone got this paperback at the World Fantasy Con and later ditched it. This anthology won a World Fantasy Award in 1981.

I have begun to read the contents of Dark Forces.

Dennis Etchison, “The Late Shift”: I have read some Etchison back in the 80s and never really cared for his fiction. Two guys out for beer recognize a cashier at a grocery store after midnight. Something is not right with the cashier. One character is going to check it out and ends up in a car accident and the hospital. His buddy decides to watch a van pick up the cashier at the end of his shift. A company is turning recently dead people into zombie workers and you guessed it, the main character is being turned into one. Hit, miss, or draw: draw.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, “The Enemy”: Story told by Polish Jew refugee to a friend taking an Argentine ship from Rio to New York City. The waiter in the galley has a hatred for Chaikin and gives him a hard time during the voyage. While out on the deck, someone attacks Chaikin who manages to throw him overboard. The friend theorizes an astral projection attacked Chaikin. G. G. Pendarves did it better. Rating: miss.

Edward Bryan, “Dark Angel”: Woman runs into high school boyfriend years later who got her pregnant and skipped town. Turns out she is a practicing witch. I did not like the ending. The first of what I call a disjointed story.  Rating: miss.

Davis Grubb, “The Crest of Thirty-Six”: Grubb had a story in Weird Tales in 1948. Story told by teenage boy of a wharf master who hates the Ohio River and married to a woman whose appearance changes from crone to beauty and in-between. Kind of Unknownish. Rating: miss.

Robert Aickman, “Mark Ingestre: The Customer’s Tale”: Another tale related to an acquaintance in the 1930s of story from the 1800s. Fleet Street in London is a bustling place. A seventeen year old enters a barber shop and awakes in a basement where he is interrogated by sinister women. Some ickiness ensues and our young man shoots the woman and escapes. Rating: miss.

Gahan Wilson, “Traps”: A short piece about a pest exterminator dealing with a pain in the butt old woman who claims the rats in her house are scratching messages. A cute story. Makes sense if you are familiar with Wilson’s cartoons. Rating: hit (barely).

Charles L. Grant, “A Garden of Blackred Roses”: Grant has been called the master of the “quiet” horror story. The story is broken up into sections about different characters. The first is a family man who stole some black roses in bloom in February from the house down the street. His daughters find his cat dead. He goes out at night thinking he heard the cat and the section ends with a big black spot coming at him. The second section concerns a gamma high school nerd who has a thing for the beautiful girl. He has taken the roses. In gamma fantasy, the girl who has ignored him all of a sudden is all over him. The section ends abruptly. The diner owner had gone with his wife years before to some abandoned mansion to spend the night. Still have not figured how that fits in. The story ends with a creepy preacher type looking out the window with new plants to put next to his house. This story makes me appreciate H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft explained things along the way so you knew what happened at the end. This story by Grant is all disjointed with abrupt endings to each section without any real explanation. It is a type of horror story I don’t like at all. You did not see this in the pulp magazines. Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” comes to mind. Maybe the 50s guys like later Bradbury, Matheson, and Beaumont are responsible for this. Rating: miss.

So far, Dark Forces has been pretty disappointing being filled with what I call “Boomer Horror.” Next week, I will look at another batch of stories.

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