Haunted Nights, a new anthology from editors Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton, takes as its subject a logical blend of genre and setting: namely, horror fiction centered around Halloween. Stylistically, this encompasses a wide range of tales, from riffs on the origins of the jack o’ lantern to stories of supernatural revenge to “The First Lunar Halloween,” which moves off of Earth and into the cosmos. Among the writers included: Brian Evenson, Stephen Graham Jones, Pat Cadigan, and John Langan. I talked with the editors via email about the anthology’s origins, some of the highlights from it, and more.
In the introduction to Haunted Nights, you write about the anthology as being centered around Halloween. Some of the stories in the anthology put Halloween front and center, while others – “Lost in the Dark” comes to mind – place it in a slightly different narrative space. How did you communicate the guidelines for the book to the writers you approached for it?
We specifically asked for stories that explore the festival from many different points of view. Stories about the emotional meaning of the night, stories investigating historical angles, stories about a modern element of the holiday – haunted attractions, large-scale festivals, retailing. With Halloween’s two-thousand-year history and its spread around the globe, we pushed for a range of stories just as long and broad.
What would you say is the advantage to setting a story of horror or the uncanny on Halloween?
Not sure it’s an advantage, but Halloween is such an iconic holiday of the uncanny that the expectations are that any story taking place around that day is going to be dark.
It’s almost a disadvantage because of that…
In the introduction, there’s an allusion to the different ways that Halloween is celebrated across the globe. To what extent did you want to get a global perspective within the anthology?
Very much so. We tried to encourage our writers to take advantage of our broad guidelines. Some did but I think we would have liked to have seen more stories in the non-western tradition of the holiday. For example, in the guidelines we encouraged writers to explore related holidays like Dia de los Muertos and All Souls’ Day.
Most of the stories are set in the present or the past–but it ends with a story that veers into the future. Was that always in mind to bring the book to a close?
Not at all, but we were so thrilled by the idea of John Little doing that, that we felt it was the perfect story with which to tie up the anthology.
How long did it take for the lineup of writers for this anthology to come together? Were there any names that you immediately thought of after coming up with the concept?
Some of the writers we solicited via personal invitations, since we thought they’d be perfect for the anthology; the rest of the stories came from our open submissions within the Horror Writers Association.
Are there any other holidays that you think might be abundant sources of horror stories?
Most holidays come with their own rituals and folklore, two things that go well with dark fiction. Valentine’s Day works, because its romantic flavor seems to inspire the anti-romance of horror.
Christmas, such a joyous holiday, often inspires some pretty dark stories, twisting the joyousness into