Literary Quickies May Lead to True Love
Think of short story anthologies as the dating apps of the literary world. It doesn’t matter if you prefer Tinder, ok cupid or Ashley Madison (you dirty dog), the point of using a dating app is to find a partner who is compatible with you and your lifestyle. Short story anthologies generally feature a variety of authors writing about the same genre or variations on a specific subject, making it easy for you to quickly decide if you like their style. I’ll be discussing horror recommendations, but there are great anthologies for every genre!
Recommendation: Ellen Datlow Best Horror of the Year. Year after year, Ms. Datlow puts out her anthologies, featuring the best horror and she is always on point. With famous authors such as King, Gaiman and Tremblay mixed in with impressive newcomers, there is truly something for everyone. The stories are all horror, but there is a thorough representation of the diverse subgenres and writing styles from the different authors. I discovered Kristi DeMeester through a Datlow anthology and I am so thankful for that.
Our Time— for the golden oldies
Recommendation: Penny Dreadfuls (B&N edition). Ok, ok, there are two actual novels in here (“The String of Pearls” and “Frankenstein”), but there is also a great selection of short stories from masters like Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and a few others who get by with less than three names.
Recommendation: 100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories (B&N) Coming in at just under 500 pages, this anthology features flash fiction from familiar authors such as Poe, Lovecraft, Chizmar, Laymon, Dickens and Kipling. Each story is only a few pages long, but they touch on some of our deepest fears. You never know what you’re going to get. You may be covered by millions of angry ants for a couple of pages and then get bitten by a head in a jar. It may not be as scary as an actual Craigslist hookup, but you will need fewer antibiotics by the time it’s over.
eHarmony— no surprises
Recommendation: Dark Cities (Priest/Kenyon). This is a horror anthology with a theme. There are other anthologies with more specific themes (think werewolves, zombies, etc.), but I really enjoyed the freedom a broad theme like cities gave the authors. There are stories about haunted buildings, cursed land and post-apocalyptic cityscapes, just to name a few. I felt the anthology was pretty consistent as far as quality and I enjoyed the theme without growing tired of the subject matter.
Ashley Madison— ultra-specific
Recommendation: “The October Country” by Ray Bradbury. If you have fallen in love with a certain author you read in an anthology, you can usually find a short story collection from them! I feel “The October Country” is a best-loved Bradbury collection. My personal favorite Bradbury short story (‘Homecoming’) is in this collection.
Well, there you have it! Anthologies are a great way to meet and try out different authors and if you find one you like, you can become obsessed with them and devour them one short story at a time. Let’s say you read a story about sentient genital warts* and that is not something you are into, when you see that author’s name again, you may want to avert your eyes and politely avoid. On the other hand, you may think it was an anomaly and choose to give them a second chance**. Short stories allow you to make that decision without wasting hours toiling away with an entire novel. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and find your perfect match!
*Sadly, that is an actual short story! I will conceal the author’s identity partly because it was a horrible story and partly because I am really bad at spelling his last name.
**This time you read the one about the girl who pimps out her horse to gay guys with a death wish and you regret your life choices.
Beth Griffith lives in Maryland with her husband, three children and a pathetically small herd of cats. She enjoys reading smut and gardening. You can watch saucy smut reviews, read salty book reviews and keep tabs on her questionable life choices on instagram @mrsbeverlygibbs