Vintage Treasures: Dark Imaginings: A Collection of Gothic Fantasy edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski

Vintage Treasures: Dark Imaginings: A Collection of Gothic Fantasy edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski

Dark Imaginings 1978-small Dark Imaginings 1978-back-small

Dark Imaginings is the first dark fantasy anthology I can remember lusting after in a bookstore. It was published in 1978, when I was 14 years old, at the lordly price of $4.95 — pretty steep in an era when a typical paperback was a buck fifty, even for a big oversized trade paperback.

In those days I would make weekly sojourns to downtown Ottawa every Saturday afternoon to hunt through the used bookstores on Bank Street for science fiction paperbacks, and I would gaze at it longingly on the bookshelf at WHSmith, or take it down and thumb through it. Joel Schick’s beautiful cover, featuring a canopy of dead, grasping trees in a twisted wood, spoke to me of dark tales whispered by strangers on Halloween. Man, I wanted this book.

And who wouldn’t? Dark Imaginings is packed with classic tales of gothic fantasy, including a Kull tale by Robert E. Howard, a Northwest Smith novelette by C. L. Moore, an Averoigne story by Clark Ashton Smith, a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tale by Fritz Leiber, a Cthulhu Mythos story by H. P. Lovecraft, a novel excerpt from Poul Anderson, and ten more stories. Each is illustrated with a sparse b&w pencil sketch by James Cagle. It’s a fine volume to curl up by the window with on a blustery winter evening, as I learned when I finally bought a copy, over a decade later.

[Click the images for bigger versions.]

Check out this delicious tale of contents.

Introduction by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski

Gothic High Fantasy

“Cross Purposes” by George MacDonald (The Gifts of the Child Christ: Fairy Tales and Stories for the Childlike, 1862)
“The Woman of the Wood” by A. Merritt (Weird Tales, August 1926)
“The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” by Robert E. Howard (Weird Tales, September 1929)
“Werewoman” by C. L. Moore (Leaves #2, Winter 1938)
“The Enchantress of Sylaire” by Clark Ashton Smith (Weird Tales, July 1941)
“The Unholy Grail” by Fritz Leiber (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, October 1962)
An excerpt from Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September-October 1953)
“Darkness Box” by Ursula K. Le Guin (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, November 1963)

Gothic Low Fantasy

“The Brown Hand” by Arthur Conan Doyle (The Strand Magazine, May 1899)
“The Habitants of Middle Islet” by William Hope Hodgson (Dark Mind, Dark Heart, 1962)
“Smith and the Pharaohs” by H. Rider Haggard (The Strand, December 1912 – February 1913)
“The Dance of Death” by Algernon Blackwood (The Listener and Other Stories, 1907)
“The Haunter of the Dark” by H. P. Lovecraft (Weird Tales, December 1936)
“The Troll” by T. H. White (Gone to Ground, 1935)
“The Crowd” by Ray Bradbury (Weird Tales, May 1943)
“Lila the Werewolf” by Peter S. Beagle (Guabi #1, 1969)

Robert Boyer and Kenneth Zahorski were a productive team for some fifteen years, producing a wide range of fantasy anthologies and nonfiction collections.

The Fantastic Imagination-small The Fantastic Imagination-back-small

Their collaborations include:

The Fantastic Imagination (1977)
Dark Imaginings (1978)
The Fantastic Imagination II (1978)
Fantasy Literature with Marshall B. Tymn (nonfiction, 1979)
The Phoenix Tree (1980)
Visions of Wonder: An Anthology of Christian Fantasy (1981)
Lloyd Alexander, Evangeline Walton Ensley, Kenneth Morris: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography (nonfiction, 1981)
Fantasists on Fantasy (nonfiction, 1984)
Visions & Imaginings: Classic Fantasy Fiction (1992)

Unlike some of the recent titles we’ve covered here, Dark Imaginings is an easy find for the modern collector. I bought an unread copy in beautiful shape at the Windy City Pulp & Paper show last year for $5 — essentially cover price. Not bad for a 30-year old trade paperback. There are over a dozen sellers offering copies on Amazon today, starting at $1.99.

Dark Imaginings was published by Delta in July 1978. It is 348 pages, priced at $4.95 in trade paperback. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition. The cover is by Joel Schick.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Joe H.

They did some great collections, didn’t they?

Joe H.

I know I’ve read the first Fantastic Imagination, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read Fantasists on Fantasy; at least, I’ve dipped in & out of it.

Huh! Visions & Imaginings (which I was not aware of, and which appears to be kind of a greatest-hits of the initial five fiction anthologies) is actually available on Kindle!

Eugene R.

Oh, Boy(er)! And Zahorski. I fell in love with Dark Imaginings via a library copy, one that I checked out multiple times (akin to my re-borrowings of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes). And I did buy a used copy, finally. As well as track down the Fantastic Imagination pair. Certainly easy to recommend any Boyer and Zahorski collection.

James McGlothlin

Whenever my wife and I go on a road trip, we usually pick out a book or two to read on the way. She usually reads while I drive, or vice versa. We just got back from a two-week break and were on the road about four full days altogether. I had bought Dark Imaginations and The Fantastic Imagination about a year ago when this post first came out. But I brought The Fantastic Imagination along with us this past trip. I absolutely loved this! However, more surprisingly, my wife loved it as well. Great stories here! Thanks again John for bringing to my attention a lost gem.

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