cover image Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3

Edited by Simon Strantzas and Michael Kelly. Undertow, $19.99 trade paper (382p) ISBN 978-0-9950949-1-8

The uneven third volume in this annual series positions “weird fiction” closer to horror than slipstream or fantasy. The weaker stories included here reproduce the genre’s flaws: staid language, reliance on stock tropes, a core of stodgy and old-fashioned values. In “Honey Moon” by D.P. Watt, supernatural passions overtake a prim pair of newlyweds. The tale is vaguely alarmist: sex is a slippery slope toward the total dissolution of the self, and, eventually, the flesh. Ramsey Campbell’s “Fetched” features a lost couple in a sinister suburb, one of whom gets turned into a dog; this sounds an awful lot like an old Goosebumps plot. The best stories take innovative risks and have better payoffs. “The Guest” by Brian Conn is written in the second person, a narrative disguised as instructions on dealing with the appearance of a sudden, odd guest. The eponymous “Orange Dogs” in Marian Womack’s tale are carnivorous butterflies, born in a future of floods and climate change. In Nadia Bulkin’s “Violet Is the Color of Your Energy,” members of a farming family are transformed into something strange and alien. Mirroring their metamorphosis, Bulkin’s language becomes mellifluous and unsettling. Strantzas, describes the weird as horror’s advance guard, stories that scout unmarked terrain in the genre. Though some of the stories fall short and feel too familiar, others are remarkable, hitting the right notes of dread and delight. (Oct.)