Future Treasures: Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror edited by John F.D. Taff

Future Treasures: Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror edited by John F.D. Taff

Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror, UK edition (Titan Books, March 22, 2022)
and US edition (Tor Nightfire, May 10, 2022). Covers uncredited.

Forty years ago Kirby McCauley packed up and moved to New York to try his hand at being a literary agent. His friend Richard L. Tierney helped him drive to the city; before long he was representing a host of young writers, including Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and George R. R. Martin, who credits McCauley with helping launch his writing career. In 1980 Kirby drew on his contacts to assemble a massive original anthology: Dark Forces, a landmark of modern horror and one of the most important fantasy anthologies of the 20th Century, with new stories by Robert Aickman, Karl Edward Wagner, T. E. D. Klein, Gene Wolfe, Clifford D. Simak, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury — and the first appearance of a horror masterpiece by Stephen King, The Mist.

Next month John F.D. Taff presents Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror, a new anthology that pays homage to the legacy of Dark Forces — and includes brand new stories by a Who’s Who of modern horror, including Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Graham Jones, Josh Malerman, Gemma Files, Usman T. Malik, Priya Sharma, John Langan, and many others.

[Click the images for more horrific versions.]

Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley (Bantam Books reprint, December 1981). Cover uncredited.

Tony Jones reviews Dark Stars at his blog InkHeist. Here’s the highlights.

Overall, the strength of Dark Stars is the sheer breadth and depth of the stories which dance around all areas of the horror spectrum, skillfully avoiding cliches and overused tropes with some highly original yarns… My absolute number one was “Trinity River’s Blues” by an author I had never read before, Chesya Burke, which turns the ‘I see dead people’ story on its head with a highly original musical spin…. Bizarrely, the spirit Trini sees most frequently is the legendary blues musician T-Bone Walker and her love for ‘the blues’ gets her in deep supernatural water, a battle which may even cost her soul…. What a terrific story.

The very quirky “The Attentionist” by Caroline Kepnes was another corker, flipping the reader back to troubled teen life in the early nineties. Oddly, the story is built around two sisters and the fallout of a missed telephone call. Narrated by the younger sister Mauve, sometime after the fact her older sister Reg realised that a boy she liked called and his message was not passed on. Following the realisation, she spirals into a fit of despair, believing and obsessing that the missed message from Davey could have been a turning point in her humdrum life… What follows is an angsty, funny, warped, but highly entertaining story about boundaries and why you should never take advise from a sibling. A strangely unsettling, but totally gripping, story…

I’ve read a couple of Alma Katsu’s novels but never her short work and was impressed by her quirky and sleazy take on the vampire mythology in “The Familiar’s Assistant.” A young man is obsessed with vampires and follows around a woman (Sarah) whom he believes to be the familiar to a vampire… John F.D. Taff was also on fine form with “Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream,” an odd Covid era story where a widowed man and young son are stranded at a truck-stop when a sudden snowstorm blows in and the spirit of his dead wife is not too far away.

I also loved Livia Llewellyn’s “Volcano,” an unsettling tale of an odd college student (with a great first-person narrative) who gets a summer job fixing upholstery in a basement theatre and stumbles upon an unused entrance. But to what?…

Here’s the publisher’s description.

Within these pages you’ll find tales of dead men walking, an insidious secret summer fling, an island harboring unspeakable power, and a dark hallway that beckons. You’ll encounter terrible monsters ― both human and supernatural ― and be forever changed. The stories in Dark Stars run the gamut from traditional to modern, from dark fantasy to neo-noir, from explorations of beloved horror tropes to the unknown ― possibly unknowable ― threats.

Created as an homage to the 1980 classic horror anthology Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, Dark Stars also features an introduction by Josh Malerman and an afterword from original contributor Ramsey Campbell ― a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection.

And here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Foreword by Josh Malerman
Introduction by John F.D. Taff
“The Attentionist” by Caroline Kepnes
“A Life in Nightmares” by Ramsey Campbell
“Papa Eye” by Priya Sharma
“Volcano” by Livia Llewellyn
“All the Things He Called Memories” by Stephen Graham Jones
“Trinity River’s Blues” by Chesya Burke
“The Familiar’s Assistant” by Alma Katsu
“Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream” by John F.D. Taff
“The Sanguintalist” by Gemma Files
“Mrs. Addison’s Nest” by Josh Malerman
“Challawa” Usman T. Malik
“Enough For Hunger and Enough For Hate” by John Langan
Afterword by Ramsey Campbell
Author Notes & Bios

Dark Stars will be published by Tor Nightfire on May 10, 2022. It is 368 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover art is uncredited.

See all our coverage of the best upcoming SF, fantasy, and horror here.

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Eugene R

Dark Forces is one of the most impressive anthologies in any genre that I have read, and it alerted me to the coming Horror wave of the 1980s. I would not ask Dark Stars to be so valuable a harbinger, but I would not mind if it were!

And they both have contributors with multiple initials, as John F.D. Taff fills in for T.E.D. Klein. (Hopefully with his words as well as his letters.)

Last edited 2 years ago by Eugene R

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