THE ARCHITECTURE OF FEAR — edited by Kathryn Cramer and Peter Pautz — is a very specific horror short-story anthology concerning architectural horror, horror that’s centered around interior structures. Take Shirley Jackson’s works, which are all classic horror texts that utilize houses in a multi-faceted way: from the looming paranormal events in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE to the decay of the protagonists’ house in WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, they’re pieces where the manufactured space factor heavily into the story.
I was worried that it’d simply be back-to-back haunted house pieces, which I’m not a huge fan of, but the anthology is richer than that. The short stories range the gamut from fairy tales (Gene Wolfe’s IN THE HOUSE OF GINGERBREAD) to meditations on barroom masculinity (John Skipp and Craig Spector’s GENTLEMEN), then leaping to chewing over forbidden, abandoned spaces (naturally, Joyce Carol Oates’ HAUNTING), then mulls over a funeral home worker dealing with the presentation of a corpse (Michael Bishop’s IN THE MEMORY ROOM).
It’s a surprisingly eclectic and substantial collection, and definitely one of the best horror anthologies I’ve read since the iconic BORDERLANDS anthologies. (Fun fact: THE ARCHITECTURE OF FEAR pre-dates them, and the BORDERLANDS anthologies are currently being re-issued! Sadly, not re-issued with the original Dave McKean cover art.)
Practically every story is memorable, but my favorites (including the previously mentioned shorts) were Scott Baker’s NESTING INSTINCT, which captures the odd feeling of settling into a foreign abode, and Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s THE HOUSE THAT KNEW NO HATE, which closes out the anthology, and subverts a lot of haunted house tropes. It reminded me a bit of the classic film THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE.)
Cramer & Pautz really swung for the fences with this anthology, and it shows with their respective afterword and foreward. This is an anthology that takes horror seriously, and gives the reader an exceptional collection of works that, while framed around interior spaces, encompasses a broader area of humanity.