1. Have you ever come across a story so unsettling that you chose not to include in a collection?
ED: Only once, and I ended up taking it after all–a western horror story by Chet Williamson titled : ‘Yore Skin’s Jes’s Soft ‘N Purty‘ He Said” but I was persuaded by my writer friend Ed Bryant to take it for my Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror…
because it was so unsettling. This was way back in 1989.
2. Do you enjoy other horror media (movies, shows, artwork, etc.)? If so, what are some of your favorite selections?
ED: In the last few years: The Witch, Get Out, The Babadook, Personal Shopper, A Quiet Place (despite huge plot holes), The Blackcoat’s Daughter,the Hannibal tv series. True Detective, Fargo (which has some very dark stuff in the first couple of seasons). Art by Dave McKean, Richard Wagner, Vincent Chong, Tran Nguyen, Daniele Serra, Erik Mohr.
I know there are movies and lots of tv shows I haven’t gotten around to (I binge on tv dvds).
3. Was there a particular author that drew you to literary horror?
ED: I started reading dark fiction very young, enjoying the collections my parents had in their library by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Guy De Maupassant. A bit later I read collections by Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison. Also JG Ballard’s dystopic fictions.
But what really turned me on to literary horror were the landmark anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison and The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural, which anthologized stories originally
published in Playboy by horror greats Ray Russell, Bradbury, Robert Bloch, John Collier, Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson, among others.
4. Which 2 books, within the last decade, would you liked to see as a film?
ED: Interestingly several I would love to see as films already have been made into films or are in production: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey was made into a brilliant film, as was Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is in production and Bird Box by Josh Malerman will be coming out by the end of the year starring Sandra Bullock. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay has been picked up by Osgood Perkins (director of The Blackcoat’s Daughter). Others that need to be made are Elizabeth Hand’s Cass Neary series of dark crime novels beginning with Generation Loss. They’re only tinged with the supernatural but would make brilliant movies. Also The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. Again, not strictly classified as “horror” but both the Hand books and the Hawkins have very dark elements in them.
5. Could you break down the process for assembling the the Best of the Year anthologies.
ED: I read for it all year round, taking a break of a month or so after finishing the last one. I try to cover-at least skim-every short piece of fiction that could be considered horror published in a specific year. Of course, I always miss things, by accident. But I check out literary, crime, mystery, science fiction, fantasy magazines and websites and anthologies and collections that I believe might contain some horror in them.
I now have 2 readers-one for online material and one for print. I ask them to check out the venues that I know will have minimal, if any horror and pass on the stories that are dark enough and good enough for me to consider.
As I read I make notes of those stories that impress me, adding them to my “rec” list, some with asterisks next to them. Those stories (with the asterisks) will make up the final table of contents for the year’s volume. But toward the end of the year, when I return to those marked stories, I count up the total wordage and generally end up with at least twice what the volume can accomodate, so I reread each of the marked stories. And reread and reread until I eliminate enough that I’ve got a viable TOC. As I make the decision to take a story, I contact the author and send them a contract.
The final process is figuring out the story order. I do that as with any other anthology, although it’s even harder than other anthologies because I of course, feel all the stories are super strong. Anyway, a strong, straightforward, engaging story goes first. Last story is the one that totally knocks me out. (or the next to last-sometimes I’ll put a “grace note” story last as a breather). More complex stories go in the middle when I hopefully have already hooked the reader. I try to vary tone, voice, sub-genre, place, and length.
Of course, I work on my summary during the entire year, too, taking notes on what I’ve read-including novels, chapbooks, nonfiction, and poetry.
6. What color do you associate with fear?
7. Was there ever an anthology you wish you did differently? Which and why?
ED: My only annoyance/dismay was when my World Fantasy Award winning sexual horror anthology, Little Deaths, commissioned by a UK publisher was licensed to a US publisher that forced me to cut the book in half, butchering it. So I consider the US edition a travesty and not what I intended at all. The only real edition is the one from Orion-UK (and now ebook).
8. What is 1 irrational fear and 1 rational fear that you have?
ED: I’m one of those people who are afraid that if I look over an edge, high above the ground I may fall/slip-whatever– but go over the edge.
My quite rational fear is of the spiralling de-evolution of democracy in the US.
9. Excluding “best of the year” what was another anthology you were pleased with or especially fond of.
ED: I love editing unthemed horror anthologies such as Inferno and Fearful Symmetries. But it’s difficult to sell them to publishers, as they don’t do as well as themed ones.
10. Both The Devil and the Deep and The Doll Collection focus on very specific fears—do you have plans to incorporate other fears as an overarching theme in a future collection?
ED: I wasn’t actually intending for those two anthologies to specifically deal with a fear of dolls or the sea, but most of my anthologies certainly encourage that: Black Feathers (avian horror); my ghost story anthologies, my Lovecraft-ian anthologies deal with cosmic horror; movie horror, etc.