2014’s Ghosteria Volume 1: The Stories is the first of two ghost-story collections by Tanith Lee. I wish I’d read this in time for Halloween.
“Ablan” • (2014) • short story
Afterlife is no kindness if it means living among loved ones you can never touch.
This crammed a surprising amount of sadness into very few words.
“The Abortionist’s Horse (A Nightmare)” • (2000) • short story
Unconventional old Alice Barlow is long dead, the stuff of smirking legend to locals. Yet the ghost of the long-dead abortionist still knows who needs her services. Even if they don’t.
I wonder what methods old Alice used, given that whatever they were left her patients sterile. Well, no doubt when the NHS is privatized, those methods will reappear.
Blue Vase of Ghosts • (1983) • novelette
Obsessed with a woman who finds his powers unremarkable, a sorcerer at first sees the enchanted vase as a way to finally win her respect. It turns out to be so much more.
This is one of the rare cases where it doesn’t matter if the sorcerer is wrong about the results of his last bold gambit. Any result will give him the challenges he craves.
“The Ghost (In Two Letters)” • (2012) • short story
Spurned by his lover, the jilted boyfriend haunts her wedding banquet like a ghost.
Wow, overreact much?
The Ghost of the Clock • (2003) • novelette
When her niece turns to her for help, a spiteful old woman is quick to see the opportunity this offers her for revenge. She begins by using her niece as an unpaid maid and moves on to more… malicious gambits. But can she control what she calls up?
“The Lady of Shalott House” • (1997) • short story
Cruel Edmund Casey seemed indifferent to Maudra’s broken heart. Even her death left him unaffected. Or so it seemed. But guilt is like water, patient and inexorable.
“The Minstrel’s Tale” • (1988) • short story
The shepherd could never win shallow Rose’s heart. Instead he stole something far more precious.
Well, the next time I need an example of disproportionate revenge, this will do very nicely. “Her rejection made me sad so I CARRIED HER SOUL OFF TO HELL WITH ME FOR ETERNITY!”
I am also a bit disappointed in the minstrel who encounters the eldritch couple. Once he understands what’s going on, he tucks the story away for later use and legs it. Aren’t minstrels obligated to venture into hell to rescue women?
“A Night on the Hill” • (1990) • short story
Far too bold a bandit to fall for peasant claims of cursed hills, courageous Hone strides out to take the hill’s secret for his very own.
Hone is Wrong Genre Savvy. But people in ghost stories often are.
“Seeing, Believing” • (2014) • short story
Only a blind girl has the purity to see the forest’s secret.
Not all ghost stories are scary.
“The Sky Won’t Listen” • (2009) • short story
High in the skies of an alien world, a psychic tries to convince the shadow of a dead man to abandon his futile quest.
Holtzmann would handle the dead sky captain much more expeditiously. It’s not as if they don’t make person-portable atomic-powered proton cannons in the future.
“The Squire’s Tale” • (1980) • short story
Previously reviewed in Women as Demons .
“Tan” • (2010) • short story
Tragedy leaves its mark on an unsuspecting woman.
Lee’s stories often feature jackass boyfriends but the guy in this one, whose reaction to his girlfriend being marked by the supernatural is “Put on a more concealing dress! You’re embarrassing me!” really sets the standard by which all jerks should be judged.
“Thuvia Made of Mars (Spilt Milk)” • (2014) • short story
The cat and the doll’s ghost forge a bond that last beyond death itself.
Some ghost stories are not even sad. This does remind me that I really need to review A Fine and Private Place, perhaps the finest novel about a couple who die, meet, and fall in love. In that order.
“The Winter Ghosts” • (1991) • short story
An old lady’s fancy grants her skeptical nephew an enchanting evening.
I don’t like the notion that the dead are wandering around being grumpy about being dead. People spend so much more time dead than alive. It seems a pity to spend most of one’s existence grumpy.
“Yesterday” • (2014) • short story
A trio of scientists examine their world and by so doing extinguish every droplet of wonder.
This is one part George R. R. Martin’s “With Morning Comes Mistfall” and one part Ray Bradbury’s “The Exiles”.
“Yesternight” • (2014) • short story
Everyone dies. Even pretty brides. Especially pretty brides.
It is far too easy for collections and anthologies on a given theme to strike the same note over and over and over. Lee avoids that trap here. We find the eldritch encounters and dread fates one might expect in ghost stories … but we are also offered some that are merely sad. Others offer unexpected solace. It’s a collection other authors might well use as an example.
Ghosteria Volume 1: The Stories is available here.