A.M. Rycroft opens the anthology with a forward regarding anthologies. Why do some places think anthologies need certain themes to drive them?
My theory is some publishers might want to force writers to consider topics or come up with ideas they maybe didn't consider before OR it lets a writer know their limits, and subsequently the reader's limits, regarding suspension of disbelief. Mine is zombified kumquats. The idea of sentient fruit that can die and come back to life to attack others is so out there.....oops, got off topic....
The idea of this anthology centered around the notion of dark fiction. Not necessarily the stuff that churns your stomach or causes sanity to be questioned, but an exploration on the items that go bump in the night. Or that mistake you made that will haunt you or experiences that scar us for the remainder of our days.
THE DARKNESS HAS TEETH- Our dark fiction journey begins with Pamela Jeffs, who gives us a tale of time travel. This isn't the happiness you found in Back to the Future, kids. This is living with the horror of what your actions cause. Demons are powerful and painful things!
THE HUNTRESS OF BUR- Justin Chasteen tells of a robbery gone wrong. There are just some people you don't mess with. Too bad Gligk and his companions learn this lesson in the most painful way possible.
FRY MACHETE'S MONSTERS, MUNCHIES AND MAYHEM- Stuart Conover introduces us to Fry Machete, a Nom Network host. Fry has become completely weary with his job and wants out. Too bad what he's become leads him to commit actions that will render that decision impossible.
ONLY IN DEATH- Zoey Xolton's Amara is a woman who knows she's trapped in a gilded cage. She knows she has to escape, not only for her safety and sanity, but her child's. Amara's plan to escape to the light fails, but she manages to find her freedom and safety in the dark.
THESE CLAWS DIG SHALLOW GRAVES- Kevin Holton's protagonist personifies what drives him to his misdeeds as a spectral female form. He must kill to keep her at bay, so he does not blame her, same as he does not blame himself. She is the only light he needs after all.
SLIPPED STITCH- KT Wagner shows a world like our own, only with a little more violence and this leads to questions. What happens when what you valued before slips and another feeling slips in? Do they truly deserve better or do you need to find a new way to deal with your knowledge?
SPOTLIGHT- David J. Gibbs gives another take on Thanksgiving traditions. Sure, you gather with your family in order to celebrate all the traditions that have been handed own over the years, but do you stop to consider any of the old traditions? The ones used to deal with what came with the settlers. Times change, but the old ones don't acknowledge that.
COYOTEMAN- Robert Perret's narrative reminds us it's a bad idea to pick up strung out hitchhikers. And if you have to pick them up, don't take them somewhere where there are drugs. And if you have to do that, beware of murder and the woods. On second thought- let the hunt begin!
THE KILLERS- Meredith Schindehette's story has a ditch. Broken people who can't be saved go in the ditch. Jamie finds someone in the ditch who isn't broken. They didn't stay dead, so how can they be broken?
Annabel Lee- Erin Kahn wraps things up with a ghostly tale of yore. Sadly wrapping, sadly tapping, run along the lane to your door! Sadly, Annabel Lee is no more.
What great fun we had today! This is why anthologies are great things to read. It doesn't matter if you've heard of the writers or there's a central theme. It doesn't even matter if you liked everything written or found every story amazing because all that stuff is subjective.
The key thing is the stories you read and the author's words sparked some sort of reaction and get your imagination running (even if the theme is sentient zombified fruit).