I never wanted my reviews for this blog to be exclusively for film and television. I write things that are meant to be read, and I want my examination of media/culture to include things that were meant to be read. The problem is that reading a book in preparation for a full review is a long and time-consuming task. That’s why I’m doing what I intend to call Book Look. Not quite a review, but more of a brief overview and a few words on whether or not I recommend the book in question. It’ll be something short, sweet and to the point. Plus it’s a catchy name!
In keeping with this month’s focus on horror media, the book I’ll be discussing today is A World of Horror: An Anthology of New Dark and Speculative Fiction Stories From Authors Around the World, edited by Eric J. Guinard. The title gives you pretty much all you need to know. It’s a collection of twenty-two stories representing eighteen different countries. They come from as near as Canada and as far away as Indonesia and Ukraine, with lots more inbetween.
Guinard’s intention with this anthology, as he states in the introduction, is to highlight the diversity of the genre fiction community and put a spotlight on writers who come from mostly non-Western backgrounds. Personally, I think reading fiction and nonfiction about different cultures is a great and rewarding exercise. When you read a story by someone from a different culture, you get the chance to see another angle of the human experience and potentially see yourself reflected in people and things you didn’t think you had much in common with. It expands your mind, which is valuable for anyone and especially valuable for a writer.
When you think about it, compiling a diverse anthology focused on universal emotions that’s also horror-themed is a stroke of genius. After all, what emotion is more universal than fear? We can all relate to a spooky scare or a slow, creeping dread. The stories in this collection touch on a wide variety of horror, reminding us that the genre isn’t limited to just a few well-known tropes. There are stories which have no paranormal elements at all or only hint at their existence. Take Billie Sue Mosiman’s “Country Boy,” which follows the hunt for a serial killer in the American South, or Mohale Mashigo’s “Mutshidzi,” which is about a South African girl’s struggle to sustain herself and her brother following their mother’s death. On the other end of the spectrum, you have stories that are steeped in the myth and folklore of the author’s native region. That’s when you get stories like L Chan’s “One Last Wayang,” about a Singaporean boy’s encounter with some sinister shadow puppets, or Thersa Matsuura’s retelling of a gruesome Japanese folktale in “The Wife Who Didn’t Eat.” My personal favorite would have to be “How Alfred Nobel Got His Mojo” by Johannes Pinter, which combines fantasy with history to create an alternate origin for both the Nobel Prize and the invention of dynamite. Spoiler alert: trolls.
If you ever happen across A World of Horror or now want to track down a copy, I would recommend giving it a shot. It’s not the kind of book you pick up and read from cover to cover, but if you flip through it for a while, you’ll find something to like. The short notes from Guinard that precede each story give you a good idea of what to expect, making it easier to find the one for you. It’s an entertaining way to spend a few hours, especially if you’re in the mood to catch up on some scary stories during this time of year.
Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for the rest of my October posts!