Jacob Haddon (Editor)
September, 2013; $22.99 PB
Reviewed by Josh Black
This anthology contains the first four issues of the quarterly dark fiction magazine LampLight. Given the quality and organization of the content, it stands as a very strong anthology in general.
The first thing that must be mentioned is the cover by Paula Snyder. Its minimalistic aesthetic is both an inspired stylistic choice and a good indication of the tone of the writing to follow.
LampLight is a venue for dark fiction of all sorts, horror being only a part of the mix. Literary fiction has a significant presence as well. You’ll also find Lovecraftian weird tales, near-future sci-fi, dark fantasy, detective stories, even some brief humor pieces. As varied as genre is, most of the stories are of the subtle variety. This is the kind of fiction that intends to unsettle as opposed to horrify, and it does so slowly and deliberately.
Loss, guilt, and grief are prominent things explored in the stories. There’s the ever-present fear of death, but more often it’s the thoughts and feelings on the periphery of that great equalizer that will set up camp in the reader’s mind. Death itself isn’t the main subject here so much as the state of mind of those causing it or those left behind. Much of the writing exudes a feeling of melancholy, if not outright sorrow.
The organization of the book differs from that of the original publications, and it’s clear that as much care was taken with this as with every other aspect. Each story flows naturally into the next, whether because of common themes or minor details. Some are reprints of genre classics or obscurities. These older tales rest comfortably with the original content. The cumulative effect is a well-balanced look at old-fashioned dark fiction, both bygone and contemporary.
Although the stories make up the bulk of the book, there are also insightful author interviews (conducted by Jeff Heimbuch), and an informative column by J.F. Gonzalez devoted to the history of the horror genre. The interviews are well done and the column covers a lot of ground, from reprint anthologies, to the birth of horror magazines, to the centuries-long rise of the genre.
LampLight’s first year has proven to be an impressive and auspicious one. This first anthology is a great introduction. It’s a perfect literary fit for anyone looking for dread in a low key.