In the Shadow of the Gargoyle
Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche
Ace Dark Fantasy
US Trade Paperback First
257 pages; $12.00
Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 1998
Of all the fiction genres, horror has the biggest umbrella. Anthologies have a way of demonstrating this, and an excellent example is 'In the Shadow of the Gargoyle' edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche. The seventeen stories here run the gamut of the fictional spectrum, from the whisper-quiet weird of Charles L. Grant and Niel Gaiman to the ultra-weird dark fantasy of Jo Clayton. Each and every story is nominally concerned with gargoyles, which is something of a treat if you have fond memories of a 1970's movies titled 'Gargoyles' featuring excellent makeup by a very young Stan Winston. Or if you have a much loved book of the photographs of one F. Stop Fitzgerald titled 'Nightmares in the Sky', with text by none other than Stephen King. Presumably, this anthology is playing off the popularity of the current animated TV series, which has been headed down the very rocky road of development into a movie over at Disney. As with many horror anthologies, 'In the Shadow of the Gargoyle' shows just how much room the horror genre gives authors to play.
'The Soft Sound of Wings' by Charles L Grant is quieter than even its title would suggest. Viscous murders in a blur. It's also a story that is likely to leave the reader wondering what, if anything, happened.
'How Do You Think It Feels?' by Niel Gaiman is one of the standout stories, an emotional map of bad breakup. It's intense, heartfelt and weird in equal portions.
'The Gargoyle's Shadow' by Katherine Kurtz gets us back into more familiar territory with animated statues that protect an Irish neighborhood. It's kind of campy fun, and the logical opposite of the story that precedes it.
Don D'Ammassa, author of a novel about gargoyles titled 'Blood Beast', follows up with 'Scylla and Charybdis'. Adolescent rebellion is the subject of this story and, not surprisingly, two statues. The insights into the thoughts of the main character are occasionally chilling.
'Studies in Stone' by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris gets us back to animated statues in an enjoyably offbeat, humorous fashion.
Melanie Tem's 'Hagoday', is the disturbing, dark, and well-written story of the revenge a teenage drunk driver wreaks upon himself.
Charles De Lint sets his story 'May The Be Your Last Sorrow' in Terri Windling's Bordertown. It's pretty darn interesting community property.
Nancy Holder does a viscous feminine guilt trip in 'Little Dedo'. She does it well.
Alan Rodgers 'The Gargoyle's Song' is an effective supernatural romance, with an absurd, surreal edge. It would have been prime material for an excellent episode of 'The Twilight Zone'.
An excerpt from Brian Lumley's 'The Lustone' is one of the re-runs selected for this anthology. It's an effective little snippet, written in Lumley's loquacious colloquial storytelling voice.
Christa Faust and Caitlin Kiernan's 'Found Angels' gets down to the grit of the LA streets and then up and struts for the LA art scene. Effectively drawn characters, good atmosphere and hot prose wire a familiar story together with barbs.
Jo Clayton takes us entirely out of this reality with 'Hour of the Sisters'. The very weird, almost impenetrable world she draws is thorny and fascinating.
Wendy Webb's 'Smiling Beasties' is probably the type of story you imagined you would find in this anthology. Some nice psychology and grotesque statuary are the highlights here.
John Skipp is back with Mark Levinthal in the excellent and imaginative 'Now Entering Monkeyface'. Some humorous prose and a dingy, SF setting make this one another standout.
Lucy Taylor's 'Tempters' is the powerful story of man who loses his children to his wife in a divorce. Taylor is a talented writer and this story seems like award material. It's very dark and the characterization is closely observed. 'Tempters' is the kind of story that can make an anthology.
'Cenotaph' by Brian Hodge, is probably the kind of story you would hope to find in this anthology. This well-researched story takes the reader to Cornwall, and mixes myth with archaeology to create a church filled with statues and stories.
Harlan Ellison's 'Bleeding Stones' gives us animated statues and excellent prose. Though it's a 1972 re-run that in some ways shows its age, that actually does not diminish the power of its still current message. It's a blood-and cheese-filled chocolate dessert that nicely finishes up the volume.
At least half the stories of 'In the Shadow of the Gargoyle' are excellent, and the other half, if not excellent, are entertaining to readers of varying taste. The old quote about all the people and all the time certainly applies to this anthology. It's a short, nicely formatted trade paperback, that could benefit from some interior illustrations or black and white photographs. It's not as if there's a dearth of subjects.