Several years ago–long before this blog was born–I stumbled upon a series of books that i absolutely love and that I dip into every once in a while, although I know them basically by heart.
These books were published in the early 2000s by Collector’s Press (which I can’t seem to find today, so perhaps they no longer exist): Fantasy of the Twentieth Century and Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century. The fantasy volume in particular is spectacularly well-thought out, but both are good.
But I needed to complete the genre set.
Horror of the Twentieth Century, written by Robert Weinberg, didn’t let me down. Although it wasn’t quite up to the Fantasy volume (I am in awe of that one, it’s a wonderful history), it does an excellent job of tracking the literary and cinematic fortunes of the horror genre through the 1900s (and with a bit of history to set the stage).
Of the three genres, Horror is probably the one that, particularly in the first half of the 20th century survived because of the movies, and that is reflected particularly well in this book. Also, the horror boom and crash are looked at long and hard, which is key to understanding the genre today.
Since I’m not a collector, the text is as important as the images here, but as a writer, it’s always fun to fantasize about what would have happened if I’d been active in any of the eras described within. Would this or that Weird Tales cover have had my name on it, or, better still would I have rated a Hannes Bok cover painting? Reading these books creates a tangible feeling of connection with the men and women writing in bygone eras, sometimes even more than reading the stories did.
For readers who aren’t writers, these books are just as good (probably even better, as there’s no pressure to compare yourself to the heroes of the past…) and it’s the kind of book you’ll find yourself pulling off the shelves whenever you have a few minutes of free time and the novel you’re reading just isn’t as engrossing as you wanted.
In short, this is a great primer for those just getting in to any of these genres, but it’s also the stuff experts’ dreams are made of.
Gustavo Bondoni’s latest book is a collection of dark fiction which would fit beautifully within the volume we’re discussing. It’s called Pale Reflection and you can buy it here.