I’m very proud to be included in this line up, which has had some great reviews. It contains some superb stories, including the much lauded “Skullpocket” by Nathan Ballingrud. The anthology is on Locus 2014 Recommended Reading List , as is “Hibbler’s Minions” by Jeffrey Ford, another story that’s to be found within.
TOC: “Scapegoats” by N. Lee Wood, “The Firebrand” by Priya Sharma,“Work, Hook, Shoot, Rip” by Nick Mamatas,“And the Carnival Leaves Town” by A.C. Wise,“Corpse Rose” by Terry Dowling, “Last of the Fair” by Joel Lane, “A Small Part in the Pantomime” by Glen Hirshberg, “Hibbler’s Minions” by Jeffrey Ford, “Swan Song and Then Some” by Dennis Danvers, “The Lion Cage” by Genevieve Valentine, “The Darkest Part” by Stephen Graham Jones, “The Popping Fields” by Robert Shearman,“Skullpocket” by Nathan Ballingrud,“The Mysteries” by Livia Llewellyn, “Screaming Elk, Mt.” by Laird Barron.
For her anthology Nightmare Carnival, Ellen Datlow has assembled fifteen new stories that explore the horrific possibilities inherent in carnivals and their entertainments. The dark carnival theme has been a staple of weird fiction since the early part of the twentieth century, and over the decades numerous writers have written stories drawn from its most familiar inspirations, notably sideshow performers whose incredible feats border on the uncanny and the grotesque physical horrors of the freak show. Several of the stories in Nightmare Carnival fit this bill, but to Datlow’s credit a number of her selections take the dark carnival theme into provocative new territory…Ballingrud’s tale is a magnificent piece of storytelling. Accompanied by another fourteen estimable acts, it makes admission into Nightmare Carnival well worth the price. Locus review by Stefan Dziemianowicz (March 2015 issue)
Jeffrey Ford’s “Hibbler’s Minions” diminishes the carnival to its smallest possible manifestation: a flea circus. These fleas, however, are not ordinary—nothing presented in Nightmare Carnival is ordinary. They rise from the dust bowls of the 1930s to infect and devour, first animals, then fellow performers. And, if they get their way, all of humanity. Michael R. Collings
Beyond the tent flap—er, cover—of this book, you will encounter the horrifying and extraordinary: a richly deserved performance staged for a bloodthirsty audience; a beautiful fire eater who evokes flames of desire; a man with a particular talent who is chosen for a bizarre presentation; a family who disappears in the wake of a traveling carnival; a fatal sexual obsession; a group of academics who chase the memory of a carnival into the darkness; vicious, anthropomorphic fleas; a singing voice to die for; caged lions that are not what they seem; a delightfully horrific twist on the killer clown trope; a carnival’s association with mass murders in Alaska; and my favorite story of all, Nathan Ballingrud’s “Skullpocket”, a wonderfully warped and brilliant tale that resonates with Bradbury’s darkest “Something Wicked” period. Count Gore
This new collection of dark fantasy and horror is edited by the inestimable Ellen Datlow, editor of scores of genre anthologies and the winner of many, many awards, including the Hugo, the Bram Stoker, the Shirley Jackson, and most recently the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. Datlow continues to show her impeccable ability for spotting good and chilling stories with Nightmare Carnival…I’ve raved a bit about Priya Sharma before. Her story, “The Anatomist’s Mnemonic,” in Datlow’s most recent Year’s Best Horror was brutal, but very well-written. Her story here, “The Firebrand,” is about a fire act in a circus that ends tragically… and mysteriously. The story revolves around a love triangle, and in some ways it’s just a murder mystery and soap opera rolled into one. But Sharma’s characters and dialogue really suck you in. “The Firebrand” wasn’t exactly horror, but a very intriguing thriller…I highly recommend this anthology for “Skullpocket” alone. James McGlothlin for Black Gate
Best Short Story – ‘Skullpocket’ by Nathan Ballingrud. Nathan Ballingrud’s story of the ghoul next door blew me away when I read it in the Datlow edited anthology Nightmare Carnival. It’s beautifully written, blackly comedic and enormous fun, from first word to last, and I simply didn’t want it to end. Other stories that rocked my world in 2014 include Priya Sharma’s ‘The Firebrand’ (also from Nightmare Carnival), ‘The Night Just Got Darker’ by Gary McMahon, ‘Water for Drowning’ by Ray Cluley, ‘This Many’ by S. P. Miskowski, ‘And the Children Followed’ by Richard Hirst, and ‘Little Devils’ by Thana Niveau. There may be others I should mention, but off the top of my head and at this moment right now, those are the ones that come to mind.
Best Anthology – Nightmare Carnival edited by Ellen Datlow. This one was a no-brainer. Ellen Datlow’s carnival themed anthology was streets ahead of any other anthology I read in 2014, with another offering from her, The Cutting Room, the only volume that came close.