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Black Static


Desert Island Anthologies: Allyson Bird

21st Oct, 2010

Author: Peter Tennant

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Today's editor in the spotlight is Allyson Bird, co-editor with Joel Lane of the anti-fascist and anti-racist anthology Never Again, which I reviewed in Black Static #19.

This is Allyson's contribution to our 'Anthology Month':-

Favourite Anthology

My favourite anthology is Ray Bradbury Introduces Tales of Dungeons and Dragons, edited by Peter Haining and published in 1986 by Guild Publishing of London. I dislike the title but the book contains many stories which are 'rare or forgotten gems from the past hundred years'. Included is a story by Bram Stoker called 'The Dualitists', with the alternative and ominous title 'The Death Doom of the Double Born', which has to be one of the most brutal stories I have ever read and is briefly referenced at the beginning of a story of mine, 'Wings of Night', in Bull Running for Girls.

The anthology is split into three sections:-

The Sealed Section: Tales of Horror. Including 'The Dualitists' by Bram Stoker, 'The Mysterious Mummy' by Sax Rohmer, 'The Lighthouse' by Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Eighty-Third' by Katherine Fullerton Gerould, 'The Kid Learns' by William Faulkner, 'The Monster of the Deep' by John Collier, 'The Grip of Death' by Robert Bloch, 'The Great Stone Death' by John MacDonald, 'Vengeance by Proxy' by John Wyndham and 'The Mangler' by Stephen King.

Stoker racks up the tension in 'The Dualitists' to an unbearable gore level with the repeated efforts of the young Harry Merford and Tommy Santon's evil games. The story originally appeared in The Theatre Annual of 1887 and had not seen the light of day since until Haining's anthology...with good reason. Haining tells us in the introduction to John Wyndham's 'Vengeance by Proxy' that this story appeared under the name of John Beynon in Strange Stories in February 1940 and the theme of possession is dealt with before the appearance of The Midwich Cuckoos in 1957, and that Stephen King's Christine, published in 1983, had earlier roots in the possessed machinery of the story 'The Mangler', which appeared in Cavalier Magazine in 1972.

The Ghost Section: Tales of the Supernatural. 'Borrhomeo the Astrologer' by Sheridan Le Fanu, 'The Malice of Inanimate Objects' by M.R.James, 'Three Wishes' by F. Anstey, 'The Haunted Pampero' by William Hope Hodgson, 'The Magic Mirror' by Algernon Blackwood, 'The Overman' by Upton Sinclair, 'The House Party at Smoky Island' by L.M. Montgomery, 'Shining Hat at Tarring Neville' by T.H. White, 'A Modern Magician' by Olaf Stapleton and 'The Glove' by Fritz Leiber.

A stand out in the section above is Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's 'Borrhomeo the Astrologer', a pact with the devil story first published in the Dublin University Magazine in 1862 and never collected until this anthology. Another tale of possession, echoing the possessed machinery in the first section, is 'The Glove' by Fritz Leiber from Whispers magazine in 1975. It is a classic supernatural story but Leiber pulls no punches: "Gloves are ghostly to start with, envelopes for hands - and if there isn't a medieval superstition about wearing the flayed skin of another's hands to work magic, there ought to be." The story reminds me of the films The Hands of Orlac from1924 and The Beast with Five Fingers from 1946.

The Wonder Section: Tales of Fantasy. 'The Hollow Land' by William Morris, 'The Mystery of the Ultimate Hills' by Ambrose Bierce, 'The Field Where the Satyrs Danced' by Lord Dunsany, 'The Ageing Faun' by Arthur Ransome, 'Biddulph' by W. Heath Robinson, 'The Bat King' by James Hilton, 'The Challenge from Beyond' by H. P. Lovecraft, 'People of the Black Coast' by Robert E. Howard, 'The Ravages of Spring' by John Gardner and 'Bright Phoenix' by Ray Bradbury.

Ah...William Morris. I studied News from Nowhere at university and have always admired his work. What a writer. Using poetry and the medieval romance tradition, in 'The Hollow Land' he elevates fantasy into 'high fantasy'. Poetry within text. Another favourite is Lord Dunsany's 'The Field Where the Satyrs Danced' from 1928 - wonderful and colourful prose, and full of detail that enriches the story. This is followed immediately by the poignant tale 'The Ageing Faun' by Arthur Ransome from 1912, which is as rich as the Dunsany. The style of the two stories just mentioned is very similar. This section, and indeed the anthology, ends with 'Bright Phoenix' written in 1947, which Bradbury says was his starting point for the novel Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953, and contains the chilling words: "'How can you be sure,' he said, 'I won't burn people, as well as books?'"

About Me

My second collection Wine and Rank Poison is out November in hardback from Dark Regions Press with the tradeback to follow not long after that. My debut novel Isis Unbound is to be launched at the World Horror Convention in Texas next April by the same press. I've recently co-edited with Joel Lane an anti-fascist, anti-racist anthology Never Again which is available from Gray Friar Press. I won the British Fantasy Award for best collection with my debut collection Bull Running for Girls last year.



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