The first of DAW’s long-running “The Year’s Best Horror Stories,” from 1971, has a little cover line that advertises “a witch’s brew of sf grue”. That says a lot about the uneasy status the horror genre had in 1971, before the arrival of Stephen King on the scene. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s had just turned science fiction as mainstream as it could get with “2001,” so it made some marketing sense for the nascent horror scene to claim itself as a form of science fiction that stressed emotional effects over intellectual processes. The unnecessary shout out to the “sf” scene (or “S-F” scene, no one could ever quite decide) even shows up in later, alternate covers:
There’s no “sf” in the collection, but there’s some great classic horror by the likes of Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley. There’s two obvious trends to 1971 horror: Epistolary Lovecraftian homages, and tales of horror disrupting the lives of repressed suburbanites. Partly belonging to that second group is Richard Matheson’s “Prey,” the story that should have put the words “Zuni Fetish Doll” in the “Cabin on the Woods” whiteboard. (“Dolls” is there, of course.)
RATING : MIXED, like the majority of anthologies; COOL! overall.