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.

DADDY (2020)

I loved Emma Cline’s debut novel THE GIRLS, about a flailing fourteen-year-old girl who falls into a Manson-esque cult chock full of flawed members. Although I normally eschew short story collections and opt instead to reach for a novel, I didn’t want to miss out on more material from her.

DADDY is about similarly flawed folks — selfish, myopic, self-destructive, and/or hedonistic people — but they’re all intriguing examinations of individuals dealing with families, both biological and otherwise. Cline certainly has a number of themes and go-tos for her imagery, but they don’t feel overly redundant, and her prose is crisp, clean, but never clinical. If you’re looking for a number of tales about likable individuals learning life lessons and rightening their path, look elsewhere. Also, if you’re looking for shorts that end with a sense of closure, you should steer clear. If you pursue it, you’ll find a satisfying ensemble of fractured humanity.