No, “Gorey, Wagner and Belshevis” is not the name of a law firm in league with Beelzebub, but perhaps it should be. Those three names are but a few of a distinguished list of horror authors whose works are included in Dark Forces– a superb anthology of literary horror fiction.
But, more importantly, it is my first and only encounter (until last year) of the great Edward Gorey. Edward Gorey, a strange and rather eccentric artist and author specialised in beautifully illustrated tales of the macabre.
He contributed one such story called The Stupid Joke to the Dark Forces anthology. To this day I find it hard to believe that infant death could be tackled in such a sinister, funny and, at the same time, moving manner. Although the tale stayed lodged in my psyche over the years, my busy schedule of teen-hood and because Gorey doesn’t seem to be as well known in the UK, meant that I never read any of his other work.
Last year though, as I was preparing to leave Canada, I found another of his short works, The Insect God, in the children’s section of Vancouver public library. It took me all of five minutes to whiz through it and discover the final fate of the unfortunate Millicent Frastly. Amazing, dark, horrifying and more gothic than a nest of Helena Bonham-Carter’s hair.
So I googled him and, of course, he was already dead. How typical of Gorey. I fully intend to continue my quest for Goreyana as soon as I make it to a decent bookshop.
The other names in the title of this post?
Isaac Bashevis Singer’s tale The Enemy is something to behold. It is the story of a man’s unaccountable persecution during a long journey by sea. But what raises it above the mundane is the elegant writing of the author. It is creepy and unpleasant without any of the traditional schlock associated with supernatural fiction. I only hope I can emulate this writer’s elegant style one day.
Karl Edward Wagner is yet another sadly deceased (though long before his allotted time) writer of the fantastic. I discovered his work a few year’s before Dark Forces in the shape of the blistering fantasy Dark Crusade, featuring the anti-Conan Kane. His contribution to Dark Forces was a perfect creature feature and a wonderful example of concise, visceral fiction. His books will almost certainly be the subject of another post. Even my mother enjoys his grisly stories!
By the way, you’ll be happy to hear that Isaac Bashevis Singer reached the age of 89 before popping his clogs. He also won a Nobel prize.