Haunted Legends, edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas. 'Local legends and ghost stories from around the world' the cover blurb says, except the library sticker covers up the 'local legends' part. But yeah, what it says on the tin.
There's a forward by Mamatas. "Sadly, most of these books of "true" ghost stroies tend to be... bad." "It wasn't high technology or modern rationality that exiled most ghost stories to books nobody reads-- it was sheer bad writing. Most of the ghost stories just don't scare us anymore." Mamatas is confident that by getting 'some of the best writers of horror and dark fantasy' to have a go at it, he and Datlow have produced a truly chilling exemplar.
Err no: any book I can read late at night and sleep soundly afterwards fails the basic ghost story test. It's the accounts of real sightings that keep my lights on all night long, and the less polished the account, the more likely I am to be scared witless by it. Whereas local legends, especially on this continent, are either too adolescent or too 'twisted natural history' to be frightening. Truly, that was a great horned owl you saw; and if it was some other kind of fauna, well, fauna is just fauna. Black bears are more likely to kill you than the Jersey Devil, so why not write a horror story about black bears? (There's one horror story in the collection, set in Russia, and it's horror because it references real events. This is why I don't see the point of horror as a genre: history is always so much worse than anyone's imaginings. When I first read horror in the 60s, half the stories referenced the Holocaust.)
What these stories do excel at is sense of place, and the places aren't all in the US, so go the editors. Lily Hoang's The Foxes, set in Vietnam, is the best, for my money:
During the incubation period, the disease makes you believe you're living the past all over again. You walk through the past in the present, such that you collide our present body into a building that exists today but you still continue walking, continue your course of motion as though the building is not there because from where you stand- in the past- it isn't.Yeah, I can identify. And I fancy it's not just about vengeful foxes.
What are you reading now?
Perennially, Fade to Black, Pandemonium and Parade, and The Difference Engine. All these may become 'abandoned in despair' or at least, 'postponed till a more salubrious season.'
What will you read next?
Or possibly right away: Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand.