Week 241 – Weekly Horror Short Story Reviews: Zelazny, Oates, Moore, and Reaves

Welcome to Week 241 of my horror short fiction review project! One of our four collections is new today: The Black Magic Omnibus, which contains a wealth of obscure stories from some very well-known authors, all on the topic of black magic. My favorite story of the week was “Black Thirst” by C. L. Moore, which is a Northwest Smith story set in a kind of retro-futuristic setting that is vaguely SF, but containing many horrific elements.

The Black Magic Omnibus, edited by Peter Haining (Taplinger, 1976)

“The Salvation of Faust” by Roger Zelazny

I normally love Zelazny’s work (he’s one of my favorite writers), but I found this one woefully underwhelming. It’s just a snippet of a story about Faust that really does nothing remarkable or memorable. Disappointing coming from Zelazny and an inauspicious start to the collection.

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (Tor, 2012)

“Family” by Joyce Carol Oates

The story of a family living on a remote-ish ranch in a strange dystopia in which it seems society is collapsing. This family is beset by all manner of terrible diseases, deaths, tragedies, and mutations. I don’t quite know what to make of it to be honest. Some horrific happenings here though.

A Taste for Blood, edited by Martin H. Greenberg (Barnes & Noble Books, 1992)

“Black Thirst” by C. L. Moore

The second Northwest Smith story I’ve read. He’s an adventurer and well-known scoundrel in a kind of pulpy future setting where humans and quasi-humans and alien species have settled on Venus and Mars. There are also implications that these places have been settled for a very long time—thousands of years—and that there were previous human civilizations from Earth that had voyaged into space and settled on these places. So, an intriguing kind of setting. Here, Northwest Smith is hired by Vaudir, a Minga courtesan to perform some unspecified task and secreted into the Minga stronghold. The Minga seem to be some ancient commercial concern that breeds incredibly beautiful women who are sold as pleasure slaves. Once inside, Smith is nearly driven insane by the inhuman level of beauty of the other Minga women, who are never allowed to leave the stronghold because humans couldn’t take this level of beauty. The head of the Minga, Alendar, seems to be some kind of alien vampire that feeds on beauty. Smith eventually manages to kill Alendar, returning it to the primordial slime from whence it came. It’s a padded story (I get it, it was likely sold by a working writer to an editor paying by the word), but there are some very interesting ideas here.

The Children of Cthulhu, edited by John Pelan and Benjamin Adams (Del Rey/Ballantine, 2002)

“Red Clay” by Michael Reaves

Zeb is a hillbilly who lives alone in a remote area. He finds a pool of strange red clay that seems to compel him to use it to obsessively sculpt statuettes of monstrous beings and creepy trees. Not a bad story for what it is—a kind of creepy take of unexplained obsession—but my terse description here literally sums up the entire story.

Buy the book on Amazon

Buy the book on Amazon

Buy the book on Amazon

Buy the book on Amazon

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