The Boom: The Literati - Volume 2: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

Unutterable Horror - A History of Supernatural Fiction - S. T. Joshi 2014

The Boom: The Literati
Volume 2: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

There were, during this period (the 1970s and 1980s), any number of weird writers who didn’t make the bestsellers lists but who nonetheless contributed to the ever-increasing corpus of weird writing; indeed, a number of them produced work that revolutionised the field in a variety of ways and thereby engendered the fields of supernatural and non-supernatural horror as we now know them.

Many of these writers (and the blockbusters of the previous chapter as well) took advantage of several new publishing venues to market their wares. From the demise of Weird Tales in 1954 to the 1970s, relatively few magazines of wide distribution welcomed supernatural short fiction; but that changed with the founding of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1981—89), edited successively by T. E. D. Klein and Tappan King, which featured the leading writers of the field and achieved impressive newsstand distribution. This magazine was far more visible than Stuart David Schiff’s Whispers (1973f.), which had evolved from a small-press journal devoted to Lovecraft to one that published some of the bestselling writers of the day. Weird Tales itself was sporadically revived—first by Sam Moskowitz (1973—74), then as a series of four paperback volumes edited by Lin Carter (1981—83), and then finally as a quarterly in 1988; it is still publishing. But this latest incarnation, long edited by Darrell Schweitzer, appeared to focus more on whimsical fantasy than supernatural horror, although it did feature the work of Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, and many other luminaries.

But increasingly the preferred venue for short fiction was the original anthology. Perhaps inspired by the landmark volume Dark Forces (1980), edited by Kirby McCauley, which assembled an impressive cast of both popular and literary horror writers, many other editors began publishing anthologies containing original contributions by leading writers. We have already taken note of Charles L. Grant’s Shadows series (1978—91), while Stuart Schiff edited six volumes of Whispers anthologies (1977—87). Several competing anthologies of “year’s best” horror tales emerged, including The Year’s Best Horror Stories (1973—94), many volumes of which were edited by Karl Edward Wagner; The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (1987f.), edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling; and Best New Horror (1990f.), the first five volumes of which were coedited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell, the remaining by Jones alone. Each of these volumes had a slightly different focus (Wagner devoted himself to the thankless task of canvassing the small press for meritorious work), but each displayed a wealth of substantial short fiction that presented a kind of snapshot of the state of the field.