Review: Miscreations edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey

Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey
Written Backwards (February 2020)

342 pages; $29.95 hardcover; $16.95 paperback; $3.95 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

I clearly remember a debate that transpired last summer on social media about anthologies. An author wondered about the future of anthologies because it seemed to him they don’t make any money. Several industry people weighed in with their strong opinions either in support of anthologies or against them (not really opposed to anthologies in general but speaking more about the profitability, or lack thereof).

Watching from the sidelines, I was beside myself. Anthologies are some of my favorite books to read. I chimed in on the conversation, only to add that I enjoy a well put together, themed anthology and that I am wholeheartedly in support of their continued success. Miscreations, by award-winning editors Doug Murano and Michael Bailey, proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that anthologies are well worth any amount of effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears.

The table of contents boasts an impressive collection of diverse, talented authors bringing original stories to the table. There isn’t a single lackluster tale in the whole lot.  Perhaps my favorite reason to share with others why I love anthologies so much is that I get excited to read new short stories from my favorite authors, but even more delicious is the potential to find new favorite authors!

A solid example of this would be the first two stories. I read everything I can get my hands on from Michael Wehunt, and his story “A Heart Arrhythmia Creeping Into A Dark Room” is so perfectly Wehunt, I’d know it was his story without his name following the title. A reader enjoying his unique storytelling for the first time is given the best opportunity here to become a fan and buy more of his work. 

The next story, “Matryoshka” by Joanna Parypinski, reads like modern folklore. A woman is in her childhood home, seeing her mother’s doll collection and its purpose for the first time. Halfway through, I made note of Joanna Parypinski: “Buy something from this author!”

Scott Edelman, also new to me, appears with a story about a victim of domestic violence who turns the tables on her aggressor. She decides to commemorate her victory in a startling way. This story stuck around in my mind long after I read it.

I read my first book by Victor LaValle this month, so reading another story so soon afterward was a real treat. “Spectral Evidence” is proof that an author can dig deep in a manner of pages. This one moved me.

I’ve been dying to read something from both Lisa Morton and Lucy A. Snyder; their stories blew me away. Morton’s is this strange story of a woman who sets her mind on creating a man from her own body. The results were both humorous and upsetting. Snyder’s is a brutal account of a sex worker encountering some kind of…monstrosity. It was really quite disarming and disturbing. Of course, I loved it. 

I must make mention of the amazing work some of my long-time favorites did for this anthology. Nadia Bulkin captured my imagination and my heart with her mechanical giant. Josh Malerman did the same with his werewolves. I adored “You Are my Neighbor” by Max Booth III, once again confirming Max as one of the most consistently solid writers in the genre right now. 

The poetry offerings peppered throughout by Christina Sng, Linda Addison, and Stephanie Wytovich are both impressive representations of their individual talents, but also a nod to Murano and Bailey for knowing that those lyrical reprieves were just what readers needed in between such meaty stories.

I can’t forget to say that Alma Katsu’s foreword and the interior illustrations by M. Fersner (hagcult) assist in making all the moving parts of this anthology feel like one, cohesive…beast. Monster. Miscreation. 

Standouts from this collection: It’s no surprise to me that Bracken MacLeod’s dark tale, “Not Eradicated in You,” made a huge impact on me. I’ve read several anthologies featuring a story from MacLeod and they always stand out among the others. He is my favorite short story writer.

“Umbra Sum” by Kristi DeMeester, features her underlying dread and special brand of earthy, atmospheric storytelling. Mercedes M. Yardley’s “Asylum Ophelia” has that dark fairytale quality I have come to love from Mercedes. This story is so lush and beautiful I was dreading the turning of the last page.

“Paper Doll Hyperplane” by R. B. Payne. Who is R. B. Payne?* I don’t know but I assure you that after reading his story about a mathematician turned serial killer, I’ll be on the hunt for more of his work. Truly a standout. Lastly and perhaps the most colorful piece, Laird Barron’s, “Ode to Joad the Toad.” Trust me, you need this story in your life.

Miscreations is like a present stuffed with quality horror. Readers can open the gift slowly; tasting. Or tear through it; devouring. Authors you know and love delivering exactly what you want. New authors showing off and gathering new fans. Anthologies this good are an invaluable resource. Thank goodness for Doug Murano and Michael Bailey.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: R.B. Payne occasionally writes reviews for us here at Cemetery Dance.

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