I can’t even tell you how excited I was for Dreams From the Witch House, courtesy of Dark Regions Press. We’re living in a world with TWO all-women Lovecraftian anthologies (She Walks in Shadows being the first one)! What a time to be alive. In the interest of fairness, I won’t say whether I liked one over the other or imply that one is somehow better, because as it turns out they’re both really different and definitely hit different tastes.
For one, I thought She Walks was pretty accessible even for folks who don’t care for the whole Cthulhu-mythos thing and just want a starting place. But, aside from a couple of stories (“Cthulhu’s Mother” being the most obvious one), Dreams as a whole is not even as lore-heavy as that, so if you’re not up for a lot of talk of elder gods and human sacrifices, this might be the reading for you. Really, it’s great to take a break from Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep for a bit. That’s not to say there are no monsters at all, though, of the human and…non-human kind. I would say a lot of the stories tend to encompass more of the existential celestial dread that comes from Knowing Things We Weren’t Meant To Know, and those are not the most famous Lovecraftian stories but they definitely have their place. Here, we have stories that range from historical pieces to contemporary settings that update pretty well.
There’s a prevailing sense that somehow women-written horror isn’t scary simply because it’s “emotional” and “personal” (haha, because “women”, sigh) and the stories in this collection shout a big “SO WHAT?” to that idea. After all, isn’t that the point of genre fiction, to view society’s problem through a fictional lens? These stories definitely run from creepy to squick while still tackling age-old problems such as body image and how patriarchy affects women in society while never letting you forget this is weird lit–ask me how I felt about reading The Twilight Zone-infused “Eye of the Beholder” on my lunch break. Yikes.
As with all anthologies, not everything in here had my number but that aside I’d say the writing was pretty consistent and strong all the way across. Even stories I didn’t like, I found merit in them because they fit well enough that I didn’t mind. It’s weird, but I didn’t really care for the introduction–that’s one thing that I thought She Walks did a bit better, setting the general purpose for the anthology and uniting all the stories together. Another thing that was disappointing here: not much going in the way of diversity with authors. As both projects are crowd-funded and I believe submissions were going around the same time, I’m thinking that might have been just a case of…well, timing! So I’m willing to let that go in a bit, but hopefully in the future it won’t be a problem.
Did I forget to mention the beautiful artwork by Daniele Serra? So beautiful even my lil’ e-reader screen couldn’t hold back the lush, wispy, somewhat foreboding watercolor paintings that perfectly fit the stories in the collection!
I’m so thrilled there’s even two anthologies like this to even compare and contrast and choose from–all the more reason to support both and show the increasing demand for women writing weird fiction. I got my copy from Amazon, but feel free to support DRP directly and buy from their website. Available in paper/hardcover and e-book!