Learn the ABC’s of Horror with Mark Morris

Learn the ABC’s of Horror with Mark Morris

The first four volumes of the ABCs of Horror anthology series, edited by Mark Morris
and published by Flame Tree Press. Covers by Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio

I miss the days of the paperback horror anthology. The great horror anthologists of the late 20th Century — Peter Haining, Sam Moskowitz, Charles L. Grant, Karl Edward Wagner, David Hartwell, and others — curated dozens of volumes of top-notch fiction that kept me thrilled and entertained many a late night, and introduced me to countless new authors in the process.

Mark Morris has been working hard to recapture that old-school magic with a brand new series of anthologies, all of which feature new work from the top names in horror today — including Ramsey Campbell, Grady Hendrix, John Langan, Simon Strantzas, Nathan Ballingrud, Christopher Golden, Seanan McGuire, Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Littlewood, Josh Malerman, Tim Lebbon, Angela Slatter, Michael Marshall Smith, Simon Bestwick, Robert Shearman, Stephen Volk, Catriona Ward, Paul Finch, Priya Sharma, Aliya Whiteley, Lisa Tuttle, Lynda E. Rucker, Nina Allan, Brian Evenson, Peter Atkins, Mark Gatiss, Simon Clark, Helen Marshall, and many, many more.

Mark Morris posted his first article at Black Gate on Sunday (a rave review of the Netflix series The Fall of the House of Usher, which he calls a masterpiece,) and while we were chatting I asked him about his inspiration and plans for the series. His response was interesting enough that I thought I’d share it with you here.

[Click the images for more horrifying versions.]

The first three books: After Sundown, Beyond the Veil, and Close to Midnight
(Flame Tree Press, 2020, 2021, and 2022). Covers: Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio

Here’s Mark.

I grew up reading the annual Pan and Fontana books of horror and ghost stories, and so influential did I find them that for years I wanted to edit an annual, long-running, non-themed horror anthology series of my own. After a couple of false starts (the anthologies I edited for both Spectral Press and Titan Books ran for only two volumes each), I have now found a more receptive home with Flame Tree Press.

Realising, however, that numbering volumes would be problematical in today’s very different marketplace (if volume one didn’t sell well, booksellers would be less inclined to order copies of volume two), Flame Tree and I decided that each volume would have its own, separate title, BUT that the titles would be alphabetical, thus establishing the books as a series, and subtly denoting which volume was which (After Sundown = 1, Beyond the Veil = 2 etc).

Both Flame Tree and myself now refer to this series as The ABCs of Horror, and I’m currently contracted up to volume 6, the title for which will of course begin with F. Can we make it all the way to Z? I guess only time will tell.

I’ve been following this series with keen interest. The fourth volume, Darkness Beckons, arrived right on time last October, and looks like one of the best.

Volume four: Darkness Beckons, published October 2023

Here’s the complete TOC for Darkness Beckons.

“Saint Barbara” by Nina Allan
“Hare Moon” by H.V. Patterson
“Under Cover of Darkness” by Stephen Volk
“Dusk” by Angela Slatter
“A Face Leaving No Traces” by Brian Evenson
“Good Bones” by Sarah Read
“Facts Concerning the Disappearance of the Orloff Six” by Alyssa C. Greene
“He Wasn’t There Again Today” by Peter Atkins
“Dodger” by Carly Holmes
“From the Man-Seat” by Reggie Oliver
“The Service” by Ally Wilkes
“The Late Mrs. Applegarth” by Mark Gatiss
“The Fig Tree” by Lucie Mcknight Hardy
“If Your Soul Were a Pitchfork I’d Despise You” by Eric Larocca
“Heebie Jeebies” by Amanda Cecelia Lang
“Killing Bones” by Simon Clark
“Il Crepuscolo” by Helen Marshall
“Remember Me” by Ronald Malfi
“Witch’s Clutch” by Simon Strantzas
“Camp Never” by J.S. Breukelaar

There’s plenty of great discussion of this book out there, but my favorite review was from Blair at Goodreads, who wrote (in part):

My favorite stories from this anthology:

‘Saint Barbara’ by Nina Allan… Two women meet at a book signing, become unlikely friends, and encourage one another in their dreams of revenge…. Like all the best short stories, ‘Saint Barbara’ feels like a whole world in miniature.

‘Facts Concerning the Disappearance of the Orloff Six’ by Alyssa C. Greene. A plausible urban legend, smartly told, full of foreboding.

‘The Service’ by Ally Wilkes. A Spanish waitress in a run-down English seaside town, a shabby 1970s hotel, a missing girl… I’m really looking forward to reading a collection of short stories by Wilkes one day as she is stunningly good at capturing atmosphere and mood succinctly.

Of the rest, I liked Ronald Malfi’s ‘Remember Me’, which nails the atmosphere of Halloween (a surprisingly rare thing), and Carly Holmes’ uncomfortable and deeply terrifying ‘Dodger.’

We’ve covered all four volumes in the series over the years; the links below will get you all the details.

After Sundown (295 pages, $14.95 trade paperback/$6.99 digital, October 20, 2020) — cover by Nik Keevil
Beyond the Veil (320 pages, $14.95 trade paperback/$6.99 digital, October 19, 2021)
Close to Midnight (320 pages, $16.95 trade paperback/$6.99 digital, October 18, 2022)
Darkness Beckons ((304 pages, $16.95 trade paperback/$6.99 digital, October 10, 2023)

Keep up with all the great horror and releases from Flame Tree Press at their entertaining Gothic Fantasy blog.

See all our coverage of the best new horror and fantasy books here.

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