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Peter Straub

American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps

American Fantastic Tales: Book 1

Peter Straub

From early on, American literature has teemed with tales of horror, of hauntings, of terrifying obsessions and gruesome incursions, of the uncanny ways in which ordinary reality can be breached and subverted by the unknown and the irrational. As this pathbreaking two-volume anthology demonstrates, it is a tradition with many unexpected detours and hidden chambers, and one that continues to evolve, finding new forms and new themes as it explores the bad dreams that lurk around the edges-if not in the unacknowledged heart--of the everyday. Peter Straub, one of today's masters of horror and fantasy, offers an authoritative and diverse gathering of stories calculated to unsettle and delight.

This first volume surveys a century and a half of American fantastic storytelling, revealing in its 44 stories an array of recurring themes: trance states, sleepwalking, mesmerism, obsession, possession, madness, exotic curses, evil atmospheres. In the tales of Irving, Poe, and Hawthorne, the bright prospects of the New World face an uneasy reckoning with the forces of darkness. In the ghost-haunted Victorian and Edwardian eras, writers including Henry James, Edith Wharton, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Ambrose Bierce explore ever more refined varieties of spectral invasion and disintegrating selfhood.

In the twentieth century, with the arrival of the era of the pulps, the fantastic took on more monstrous and horrific forms at the hands of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, and other classic contributors to Weird Tales. Here are works by acknowledged masters such as Stephen Crane, Willa Cather, Conrad Aiken, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, along with surprising discoveries like Ralph Adams Cram's "The Dead Valley," Emma Francis Dawson's "An Itinerant House," and Julian Hawthorne's "Absolute Evil." American Fantastic Tales offers an unforgettable ride through strange and visionary realms.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction - essay by Peter Straub
  • Somnambulism: A Fragment - (1784) - shortfiction by Charles Brockden Brown
  • The Adventure of the German Student - (1824) - shortstory by Washington Irving
  • Berenice - (1835) - shortstory by Edgar Allan Poe (variant of Berenice--A Tale)
  • Young Goodman Brown - (1835) - shortstory by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Tartarus of Maids - (1855) - shortstory by Herman Melville
  • What Was It? A Mystery - (1859) - shortstory by Fitz-James O'Brien
  • The Legend of Monte del Diablo - (1863) - shortstory by Bret Harte
  • The Moonstone Mass - (1868) - shortstory by Harriet Prescott Spofford
  • His Unconquerable Enemy - (1889) - shortstory by W. C. Morrow
  • In Dark New England Days - (1890) - shortstory by Sarah Orne Jewett
  • The Yellow Wall Paper - (1892) - shortstory by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Black Dog - (1892) - shortstory by Stephen Crane
  • Ma'ame Pélagie - (1893) - shortstory by Kate Chopin
  • Thurlow's Christmas Story - (1894) - shortstory by John Kendrick Bangs
  • The Repairer of Reputations - (1895) - novelette by Robert W. Chambers
  • The Dead Valley - (1895) - shortstory by Ralph Adams Cram
  • The Little Room - (1895) - shortstory by Madeline Yale Wynne
  • The Striding Place - (1896) - shortstory by Gertrude Atherton
  • An Itinerant House - (1897) - shortstory by Emma Frances Dawson
  • Luella Miller - (1902) - shortstory by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
  • Grettir at Thorhall-stead - (1903) - shortstory by Frank Norris
  • Yuki-Onna - (1904) - shortstory by Lafcadio Hearn
  • For the Blood Is the Life - (1905) - shortstory by F. Marion Crawford
  • The Moonlit Road - (1907) - shortstory by Ambrose Bierce
  • Lukundoo - (1907) - shortstory by Edward Lucas White
  • The Shell of Sense - (1908) - shortstory by Olivia Howard Dunbar
  • The Jolly Corner - (1908) - novelette by Henry James
  • Golden Baby - (1910) - shortstory by Alice Brown
  • Afterward - (1910) - novelette by Edith Wharton
  • Consequences - (1915) - shortstory by Willa Cather
  • The Shadowy Third - (1916) - novelette by Ellen Glasgow
  • Absolute Evil - (1918) - novelette by Julian Hawthorne
  • Unseen--Unfeared - (1919) - shortstory by Francis Stevens
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - (1922) - novelette by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Curse of Everard Maundy - (1927) - novelette by Seabury Quinn
  • The King of the Cats - (1929) - shortstory by Stephen Vincent Benét
  • The Jelly-Fish - (1929) - shortstory by David H. Keller, M.D.
  • Mr. Arcularis - (1931) - novelette by Conrad Aiken
  • The Black Stone - (1931) - shortstory by Robert E. Howard
  • Passing of a God - (1931) - shortstory by Henry S. Whitehead
  • The Panelled Room - (1933) - shortstory by August Derleth
  • The Thing on the Doorstep - (1937) - novelette by H. P. Lovecraft
  • Genius Loci - (1933) - shortstory by Clark Ashton Smith
  • The Cloak - (1939) - shortstory by Robert Bloch
  • Biographical Notes - essay by uncredited
  • Note on the Texts - essay by uncredited
  • Notes - essay by uncredited

American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940's to Now

American Fantastic Tales: Book 2

Peter Straub

The second volume of Peter Straub's pathbreaking anthology American Fantastic Tales picks up the story in 1940 and provides persuasive evidence that the decades since then have seen an extraordinary flowering. While continuing to explore the classic themes of horror and fantasy, successive generations of writers- including Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Stephen King, Steven Millhauser, and Thomas Ligotti-have opened up the field to new subjects, new styles, and daringly fresh expansions of the genre's emotional and philosophical underpinnings. For many of these writers, the fantastic is simply the best available tool for describing the dislocations and newly hatched terrors of the modern era, from the nightmarish post- apocalyptic savagery of Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" to proliferating identities set deliriously adrift in Tim Powers' "Pat Moore."

"At its core," writes editor Peter Straub, "the fantastic is a way of seeing." In place of gothic trappings, the post-war masters of the fantastic often substitute an air of apparent normality. The surfaces of American life-department store displays in John Collier's "Evening Primrose," tar-paper roofs seen from an el train in Fritz Leiber's "Smoke Ghost," the balcony of a dilapidated movie theater in Tennessee Williams' "The Mysteries of the Joy Rio"-become invested with haunting presences. The sphere of family life is transformed, in Davis Grubb's "Where the Woodbine Twineth" or Richard Matheson's "Prey," into an arena of eerie menace. Dramas of madness, malevolent temptation, and vampiristic appropriation play themselves out against the backdrop of modern urban life in John Cheever's "Torch Song" and Shirley Jackson's unforgettable "The Daemon Lover."

Nearly half the stories collected in this volume were published in the last two decades, including work by Michael Chabon, M. Rickert, Brian Evenson, Kelly Link, and Benjamin Percy: writers for whom traditional genre boundaries have ceased to exist, and who have brought the fantastic into the mainstream of contemporary writing. The 42 stories in this second volume of American Fantastic Tales provide an irresistible journey into the phantasmagoric underside of the American imagination.

Table of Contents:
• Introduction • essay by Peter Straub
• Evening Primrose • (1940) • short story by John Collier
• Smoke Ghost • (1941) • short story by Fritz Leiber
• The Mysteries of the Joy Rio • (1954) • short story by Tennessee Williams
• The Refugee • (1943) • short story by Jane Rice
• Mr. Lupescu • (1945) • short story by Anthony Boucher
• Miriam • (1945) • short story by Truman Capote
• Midnight • (1946) • short story by Jack Snow
• Torch Song • (1947) • short story by John Cheever
• The Daemon Lover • (1949) • short story by Shirley Jackson
• The Circular Valley • (1950) • short story by Paul Bowles
• I'm Scared • (1951) • short story by Jack Finney
• The Vane Sisters • (1951) • short story by Vladimir Nabokov
• The April Witch • [The Elliott Family] • (1952) • short story by Ray Bradbury
• Black Country • (1954) • short story by Charles Beaumont
• Trace • (1961) • short story by Jerome Bixby
• Where the Woodbine Twineth • (1964) • short story by Davis Grubb (variant of You Never Believe Me)
• Nightmare • (1965) • short story by Donald Wandrei
• I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream • (1967) • short story by Harlan Ellison
• Prey • (1969) • short story by Richard Matheson
• The Events at Poroth Farm • (1972) • novella by T. E. D. Klein
• Hanka • (1974) • short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (trans. of Hanka)
• Linnaeus Forgets • (1977) • short story by Fred Chappell
• Novelty • (1983) • short story by John Crowley
• Mr. Fiddlehead • (1989) • short story by Jonathan Carroll
• Family • (1989) • short story by Joyce Carol Oates
• The Last Feast of Harlequin • [Cthulhu Mythos] • (1990) • novelette by Thomas Ligotti
• A Short Guide to the City • (1990) • short story by Peter Straub
• The General Who Is Dead • [Ambergris] • (1996) • short story by Jeff VanderMeer
• That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French • (1998) • short story by Stephen King
• Sea Oak • (1998) • novelette by George Saunders
• The Long Hall on the Top Floor • (1999) • short story by Caitlín R. Kiernan
• Nocturne • (2000) • short story by Thomas Tessier
• The God of Dark Laughter • (2001) • short story by Michael Chabon
• Pop Art • (2001) • novelette by Joe Hill
• Pansu • (2001) • short story by Poppy Z. Brite
• Dangerous Laughter • (2003) • short story by Steven Millhauser
• The Chambered Fruit • (2003) • novelette by M. Rickert
• The Wavering Knife • (2004) • short story by Brian Evenson
• Stone Animals • (2004) • novelette by Kelly Link
• Pat Moore • (2004) • novelette by Tim Powers
• The Little Stranger • (2004) • novelette by Gene Wolfe
• Dial Tone • (2007) • short story by Benjamin Percy
• Biographical Notes • essay by uncredited
• Note on the Texts • essay by uncredited
• Notes • essay by uncredited

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