Welcome to Week 86 of my horror short fiction review project! A couple of duds in the batch this week (some weeks are just like that, no big deal). The best story of the week was very clearly Ramsey Campbell’s “Apples,” a story that is often reprinted in Halloween-themed anthologies. Good stuff.
Alone with the Horrors, by Ramsey Campbell (Tor, 2004)
Local children steal a mean old man’s apples and harass him. One night he comes out after them, has a heart attack, and dies. They do nothing and his body is found the next day. Note that he seemed like a pretty nasty guy, and came outside menacingly with garden shears; it’s unclear if he was going to use them on the children. In any case, fast forward a few days and the children are having a Halloween party and bob for apples using some of the stolen apples. The specter of the man shows up in a Scooby-Doo-style sheet costume but once again the children get the better of him. The guy can’t even catch a break after death. The Halloween scene was actually fairly creepy and effective, so it wasn’t a bad little story.
The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, edited by Paula Guran (Running Press, 2016)
“Falcon-and-Sparrows” by Yoon Ha Lee
This story is set in South Korea after the Korean War, but for some reason all the place and nationality names have been changed (why?). The protagonist is a half-American/Half-Korean boy whose mother has died. He travels to a rural area where there is a sort of paper airplane festival (no, I’m not kidding). There are paper prayer tributes left for the dead, and scribes to write them for the illiterate. There is a kind of vague theme—never really explored—about indifferent deities, which I guess kinda sorta ties it thematically to Lovecraft, though not in content. I can only describe this one as cryptically uninteresting.
The Hastur Cycle, Second Edition, edited by Robert M. Price (Chaosium, 1997)
“Planetfall on Yuggoth” by James Wade
This was a very short story (just three pages in my copy, though the font in this edition is abominably small) about the first manned expedition to Pluto. As it turns out Pluto is indeed inhabited by the Mi-Go; there is also a brief allusion to Planet X, which seems to be inhabited by Ramsey Campbell’s Insects from Shaggai. Not a bad little story, but there’s just not much to it—it’s just too brief.
The Crawling Chaos and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 1, edited by S.T. Joshi (Arcane Wisdom, 2012)
“Four O’Clock” by Sonia H. Greene
We begin in media res: the unnamed narrator has done some madman wrong—it seems likely that the narrator was somehow instrumental in the madman’s death—and the madman has vowed revenge, to take place at 4 am on a given day. The madman has been buried in a cemetery across the street from the narrator’s home, and he watches and awaits, as some shadowy, fiery creatures slowly comes for him, knowing all the while that his doom is sealed. This is a very short, simple story—a narrator is terrified as he awaits his death, knowing that he can do nothing to stop it—but it is extremely evocative, and far better than Greene’s other fictional effort, “The Horror at Martin’s Beach,” which I did not especially care for.