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The Books of David G. Hartwell: The Early Horror Paperbacks

Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Screaming Skull and Other Great American Ghost Stories-small Bodies of the Dead and Other Great American Ghost Stories

We lost David Hartwell on January 20th. This is our third article in a series that looks back at one of the most important editors in our industry.

When I think of David Hartwell, I think chiefly of his forte — the massive retrospective anthologies like Foundations of Fear and The Science Fiction Century that gave deep insight into the changing nature of our field. But David also produced a small number of mass market paperback anthologies, especially early in his career. The two I want to look at today are The Screaming Skull and Other Great American Ghost Stories (1994) and Bodies of the Dead and Other Great American Ghost Stories (1995), both published by Tor.

Mass market anthologies like this really don’t exist today, chiefly because modern audiences weren’t raised on short stories the way I was. But I’m very glad they did when I was a young reader haunting bookstore shelves in the 80s and 90s. Cheap enough to be a quick impulse buy, they were a great way to get introduced to a wide variety of authors — and a lot of fun to read, I might add.

Both of these books collect classic American horror fiction from the 19th and early 20th Century… entirely out of copyright stuff, I would imagine. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of interest here. I don’t own a copy, so I can’t give you complete details, but I do know The Screaming Skull contains a dozen supernatural tales, including

“The Screaming Skull” by F. Marion Crawford
“Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe
“Consequences” by Willa Cather
“A Ghost Story” by Mark Twain

plus eight more tales of spirits by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edward Lucas White, Frank R. Stockton, Henry James, Edith Wharton and more.

The Screaming Skull and Other Great American Ghost Stories was published by Tor Books in September 1994. It is 217 pages, priced at $4.99 in paperback. The cover is by Jim Thiesen.

Bodies of the Dead appeared a year later (and I’ve noted some sellers list it as The Screaming Skull #2, although there’s no obvious connection between the two.) Here’s the complete TOC:

“Kerfol” by Edith Wharton (1916)
“The Intoxicated Ghost” by Arlo Bates (1893)
“The Golden Rat” by Alexander Harvey (1913)
“A Grammatical Ghost” by Elia W. Peattie (1898)
“The Affair at Grover Station” by Willa Cather (1900)
“The Doll’s Ghost” by F. Marion Crawford (1911)
“The Gray Champion” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1835)
“The Boy Who Drew Cats” by Lafcadio Hearn (1898)
“The Scarecrow” by G. Ranger Wormser (1918)
“Circumstance” by Harriet Prescott Spofford (1860)
“Ken’s Mystery” by Julian Hawthorne (1883)
“Bodies of the Dead” by Ambrose Bierce (1888)
“Berenice” by Edgar Allan Poe (1835)

Bodies of the Dead and Other Great American Ghost Stories was published by Tor Books in August 1995. It is 218 pages, priced at $4.99 in paperback. The cover is by Eric Peterson.

Sadly, there are no digital editions of either book, and there are no later editions. They’ve both been out of print for over two decades. But used copies in good condition are available online for about the same price you would have paid for them new in 1995.

The articles in our David Hartwell tribute series are:

The Masterpieces of Fantasy
The Dark Descent and The World Treasury of Science Fiction
The Early Horror Paperbacks
Foundations of Fear and The Ascent of Wonder
The Canadian Anthologies
Visions of Wonder and The Science Fiction Century

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

3 Comments »

  1. Currently reading Hartwell’s The Hard SF Renaissance. Great book. it will join Ascent of Wonder and The Space Opera Renaissance among my all-time favorite anthologies.

    Comment by Amy Bisson - February 5, 2016 7:41 pm

  2. Glad to hear it, Amy. I’m looking forward to getting to those books in my survey!

    Comment by John ONeill - February 5, 2016 8:31 pm

  3. I devoured anthologies of ghosts and creepiness as a teen. That was well before 1995 though. Seon Manley & Gogo Lewis’s all-women collections were mainstays. I think there is still a place for anthologies of public domain stories in the age of Project Gutenberg; the attraction is having a skilled editor find stories you wouldn’t have thought of and combine them into a collection that feels cohesive.

    Comment by Vasha - February 6, 2016 3:32 pm


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