Extreme Tales of Body Horror
by Ellen Datlow, editor, Carmen Maria Machado, Richard Kadrey, Seanan McGuire, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nathan Ballingrud, Tananarive Due, Cassandra Khaw, Christopher Fowler, and more
Pub Date 19 Oct 2021 | Archive Date Not set
[STARRED REVIEW] “Hugo Award–winning editor Datlow (Edited By) brings together 29 spine-tingling tales of body horror to terrify even the most seasoned horror reader."
Bestselling editor Ellen Datlow (Lovecraft’s Monsters) presents body horror at its most wide-ranging and shocking best. Discover these intricate, twisted tales of the human body, soul, and psyche, as told by storytelling legends including Carmen Maria Machado, Richard Kadrey, Seanan McGuire, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nathan Ballingrud, Tananarive Due, Cassandra Khaw, Christopher Fowler, and many more.
The most terrifying thing that you can possibly imagine is your own body in the hands of a monster.
Or worse, in the hands of another human being.
In this definitive anthology of body horror selected by a World Horror Grandmaster, you’ll find the unthinkable and the shocking: a couture designer preparing for an exquisitely grotesque runway show; a vengeful son seeking the parent who bred him as plasma donor; a celebrity-kink brothel that inflicts plastic surgery on sex workers; and organ-harvesting doctors who dissect a living man without anesthetic.
A Note From the Publisher
[STARRED REVIEW] “The stories in the latest collection edited by horror veteran Datlow run the gamut from ethereal creepiness (‘La beauté sans vertu,’ by Genevieve Valentine), to haunt-your-dreams gross-outs (‘Welcome to Mengele’s,’ by Simon Bestwick). One has even been made into an episode of Hulu’s series Monsterland (‘You Go Where It Takes You,’ by Nathan Ballingrud). There are some absolutely stellar stories that will follow readers for days, and not a single dud to weigh down the collection. John Coulthart’s interior illustrations of anatomical mysteries add to the overall ambiance. Contributors include all the big names in body horror as well as some lesser-known authors, making the collection a must-have for body horror neophytes and experienced readers alike. VERDICT: This authoritative collection is a must for any library, as an introduction to body and extreme horror for readers and librarians alike. Recommend to readers who love horror stories that make their skin crawl while they read about skin literally crawling.”
[STARRED REVIEW] “Hugo Award–winning editor Datlow (Edited By) brings together 29 spine-tingling tales of body horror to terrify even the most seasoned horror reader. These visceral works take myriad approaches to the genre, but all revel in the grotesque possibilities of the human body. ‘The Old Women Who Were Skinned’ by Carmen Maria Machado is an eerie, cautionary fable about the pitfalls of vanity. Terry Dowling’s stomach-churning ‘Toother’ follows the grim exploits of a serial killer who collects the teeth of his victims. The woman in Kirstyn McDermott’s ‘Painlessness’ feels no pain when injured and makes her living giving men an outlet for their violent fantasies. In ‘The Lake’ by Tananarive Due, a woman metamorphoses into a predatory sea creature. A confectioner transforms his fiancée’s ghost into delectable treats enjoyed by the Parisian elite in Lisa L. Hannett’s grossly gluttonous and deliciously weird ‘Sweet Subtleties.’ Cassandra Khaw’s intense ‘The Truth that Lies Under Skin and Meat’ follows a werewolf who takes distinct pleasure in devouring her victims, much to the dismay of her handler. And Simon Bestwick’s bizarre alternate history ‘Welcome to Mengele’s’ takes readers into a Nazi doctor’s movie theater where patrons watch their sickest fantasies play out on screen. These wholly original and truly chilling tales are not for the faint of heart.”
[STARRED REVIEW] “The emergence of body horror from a gross-out trope into a thought-provoking subgenre is one of horror’s biggest trends. Multiple award-winner Datlow has worked her way through previously published stories from across the dark fiction landscape, uncovering the breadth of these horrific tales. The 29 stories here represent moments across the spectrum, from violent and visceral to uncomfortable and quiet—alien rape, a person who can change their skin, parents who use their kid for blood, an uncontrollable fungus. These tales will burrow under the skin, leaving a lasting impression like the back-to-back blows of ‘Natural Skin’ by Alyssa Wong, a psychological gut punch about the commodification of young women’s bodies and ‘The Lake’ by Tananarive Due, a tale of physical transformation that is both terrifying and freeing. Marked by a diverse table of contents and illustrations that enhance the conflicting emotions of unease and wonder that lie at the heart of the appeal of body horror, this is an anthology that readers will inhabit, and when they ask for more offer The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste (2018), Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (2020), or The Cipher by Kathe Koja (1991).”
“The most respected anthologist of our time, Ellen Datlow has earned a permanent place in the history of prominent editorship of the dark and fantastic. She has left a mark that is unlikely to be surpassed.”
—Joe R. Lansdale, author of the Hap and Leonard series
“While it’s undeniable body horror is an acquired taste, Body Shocks is sure to delight horror fans from every walk of life. From the decidedly adult 'Welcome to Mengele’s’ by Simon Bestwick to the superbly twisted ‘Fabulous Beasts’ by Priya Sharma, this is a collection that will challenge the senses with delightful pains and punishing pleasures.”
“The degradation and transformation of the human form are explored in a grotesque and beautiful buffet within these pages.”
“Body Shocks is a celebration of body horror that brings outstanding narratives about pain and transformation together to offer a great introduc¬tion to a subgenre that’s here to stay.”
“Ellen Datlow is the undisputed queen of horror anthologies, and with Body Shocks her crown remains untarnished.”
—David J. Schow, author of Suite 13
“In working my way through Ellen Datlow’s shockingly good Body Shocks anthology, I found it had to be consumed in fits and starts. At times it was so disturbing I had to walk away . . . but it was also so good I had to keep coming back.”
—John DeNardo, SF Signal
“So vivid and intense as to result as a slap in the reader’s face.”
“Ellen Datlow doesn't just have her thumb on the pulse of horror, she is the pulse of horror.”
—Stephen Graham Jones, award-winning author of The Only Good Indians
“Ellen Datlow is the tastemaker, the greatest, most respected, and most prolific horror anthologist who’s ever lived. Every Datlow anthology is a gift to the genre.”
—Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Ararat
“To produce an excellent horror anthology that will endure, it takes an editor with the knowledge of the history of horror and a genuine feel for the delightfully grisly genre. It is a high bar to obtain. Only the best reach it and produce a book that is gilt-edged. Ellen Datlow’s books are the gold standard.”
—Del Howison, author of The Survival of Margaret Thomas
“Balanced to cover all tastes and types of body horror, from skin crawling to downright dirty. Some stories definitely shock more than others, swinging wildly from subtle to schlocky without warning, so be wary as you turn each page—or at the very least, have some dry toast and water on hand to keep your belly settled. You're not making it to the end of this book unchanged.”
—Ginger Nuts of Horror
*National marketing plan to include author and publisher social media campaigns, print and digital ARCs, book launch, author events and appearances, blog tour, podcasts, features, and interviews in leading media outlets.
Average rating from 14 members
Ellen Datlow always pulls from a variety of talents to serve up whatever delight readers are craving, but even the title Body Shocks can hardly prepare you for what’s in store. An avid horror fan from long ago, I found myself cringing through a few of these stories in spite of myself. Perhaps these offerings are too up-close and personal, when the horror isn’t near you, but on you or in you, which does put the terror on another level. The tales in Body Shock are vivid, like a nightmare, though even nightmares end; these just set the stage for a fresh start on the unthinkable processes that turn everyday people into unrecognizable creatures mentally and physically. A couple of stand-outs were The Lake by Tanarive Due and What I Found in the Shed by Tom Johnstone, though all have been curated by a master at her craft.
There is a reason 𝗘𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗻 𝗗𝗮𝘁𝗹𝗼𝘄 has a stack of awards listed in her credentials, she is one of, if not the best, anthology editors I have read. In 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝗰𝗸𝘀, 𝗘𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲 𝗧𝗮𝗹𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝗛𝗼𝗿𝗿𝗼𝗿 Datlow brings together some of the best horror authors to explore our fears on a primal level, through grotesque tails of things that can happen to the human body. This collection of body horror will do more than make you cringe, it will leave your mind reeling, as you continue to digest the story long after finishing it. Datlow has done an amazing job assembling this cast of stories that are all unique and imaginative, but share a common thought provoking thread of extreme human experiences like revenge, redemption, betrayal, & abandonment that will keep you burning the midnight oil. I was originally going to highlight my favorite stories, but honestly the list was too damn long. So I’m limiting myself to my stand out picks; however, I loved everything within these pages. 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗚𝗼 𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗜𝘁 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗲𝘀 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗯𝘆 𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝗕𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗿𝘂𝗱. This one creeped under my skin and has not left. Every time I look at my kid, every time I lay down to go to sleep, every time I pass a gas station - I THINK ABOUT IT. 𝗦𝗽𝗮𝗿 𝗯𝘆 𝗞𝗶𝗷 𝗝𝗼𝗵𝗻𝘀𝗼𝗻. This story was seriously effed. I’ve never had a desire to go to space, now even if the earth is coming to an end I will perish on my home planet before I venture into the unknown. 𝗦𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗲𝘀 𝗯𝘆 𝗦𝗲𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗻 𝗠𝗰𝗚𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗲. Really fun body horror that also plays on the concept of your deepest fears coming to fruition and will ensure you never look at fruit the same again. If you’re looking for stories that will make you squirm with fearful delight, and “extreme body horror” doesn’t send you running in the opposite direction, then my friend Body Shocks is for you!
Book Review: Body Shocks No literary subgenre evokes a more visceral reaction than body horror. Some people crave the bloody carnage at the center of these stories; while others instinctually shrink away from such distressing depictions. It’s easy to understand why so many readers skip over tales of physical peril. Unlike other types of thrills, body horror deals with something so universally relatable that a version of the genre’s terror is guaranteed to appear in your own life. From bum knees to sore gums, even the healthiest among us have some physical concern to contend with. And yet, horror readers’ appetite to experience corporeal destruction has remained strong no matter the fears writers send our way. If you count yourself among those lovers of carnal dismay, then Tachyon Publications’ new collection, Body Shocks (October 19, 2021), will be just what the doctor ordered. Edited by the acclaimed Ellen Datlow, Body Shocks collects nearly thirty short stories from some of horror’s most celebrated practitioners. Accounts of disfigured super models, skin-shedding transients, human monsters, and ecological havoc all pool together here like so much gleaming viscera down a demented doctor’s drain. But be forewarned, this collection is not for the faint of heart. Lauded in its subtitle as an anthology of “Extreme Tales of Body Horror,” Body Shocks aims to challenge its readers, and there’s not a story among these pages that doesn’t fit the bill. Highlights among the anthology’s impressive line-up include Nathan Ballingtraud’s “You Go Where it Takes You,” whose somber tone is pitch perfect for the startling revelation hidden at the center of this chance-encounter-turned-transformation story. Pat Cardigan’s “It Was the Heat” is equally impactful in its story of a suburban woman bewitched by the weird underbelly of New Orleans. Not since Dan Simmons’s The Terror has the temperature of a story been so empathetic. There aren’t enough platitudes to heap on Tananarive Due’s “The Lake,” which highlights Due’s impressive ability to craft a story that is effortlessly readable while still feeling dangerous. Body Shocks’ standout story comes from the legendary Splatterpunk fabulist Cody Goodfellow. “Atwater” tells the tale of a man who takes the wrong exit off the highway into a forbidding world of confounding contradictions. Goodfellow’s literary style is so visually precise it’s nearly cinematic. Readers will be swept away by his visions of honeycombed extremities and shrouded henchmen. But it’s not just the imagery that will set imaginations on fire; this story is so fresh it’s still alive. It’s almost a guarantee that some readers will start rereading “Atwater” the moment they finish. Paperbacks from Hell fans will be pleased to see that Datlow has included a short story from the late Michael Blumlein (X,Y, The Movement of Mountains). Of all the terrors included Blumlein’s “Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report” may be the most grisly, printed here for the first time in an American anthology. While it’s undeniable body horror is an acquired taste, Body Shocks is sure to delight horror fans from every walk of life. From the decidedly adult “Welcome to Mengele’s” by Simon Bestwick to the superbly twisted “Fabulous Beasts” by Priya Sharma, this is a collection that will challenge the senses with delightful pains and punishing pleasures.
Running tweet thread started here: https://twitter.com/sfsignal/status/1443981482922582043 In working my way through Ellen Datlow's shockingly good BODY SHOCKS anthology, I found it had to be consumed in fits and starts. At times it was so disturbing I had to walk away...but it was also so good I had to keep coming back. Rarely does fiction--even horror fiction--have such an effect. Readers usually box stories safely away to keep the horrific out of their minds. Good luck trying to do that with BODY SHOCKS. What's notable about it is how it's a microcosm of short fiction as a whole--specifically in the variety it offers. Even when stories deal with similar themes (here, all are body horror and several stories deal with the theme of beauty), you still get stories that vastly differ. Over the next 29 days, I'll be sharing tweets for each story in this dare-you-to-read-it anthology. https://tachyonpublications.com/product/body-shocks/ 1. First up: Ray Cluley's "The Travellers Stay" opens the anthology with a wonderfully creepy premise about an unconventional family that checks into a motel. Worst. Motel stay. Ever. But a terrific Kafka-esque story that sets the tone for what's to come. 2. "Toother" by Terry Dowling is a page-turning mystery about a doctor at a mental institution and a patient who hears real-world violent acts in his head. 3. Kirstyn McDermott's "Painlessness" is a compelling and unpredictable story about a woman who is moved to do something about her abused neighbor, only to find the truth even more horrifying. 4. Nathan Ballingrud's captivating story "You Go Where It Takes You" is, by turns, a poignant profile of a single mother, a terrifying encounter with a stranger, and a heartbreaking finale. 5. The unsettling "A Positive" by Kaaron Warren is about a man's relationship with his aging father who's really fond of blood transfusions as a means of feeling young. 6. In the wonderfully scathing "La Beauté Sans Vertu" (French for "Beauty Without Virtue"), Genevieve Valentine takes a swipe at the current trends in the fashion industry and the overrated value we give to beauty. 7. If you were to smash together post-apocalyptic fiction with horror, you'd get Lucy Snyder's short-but-sharp "Subsumption," in which nature becomes the unexpected enemy of two survivors who venture away from the safety of their shelter. 8. "Spar" by Kij Johnson is about a woman and an alien stuck at close quarters in a lifeboat. Graphic human/alien sex is the only way they interact, though it serves as neither pleasure nor communication. 9. A married woman on a business trip to New Orleans gets more than she bargained for in "It Was the Heat" by Pat Cadigan, which is less notable for its fantastical elements than it is its matter-of-fact depiction of women in the business world. 10. Cody Goodfellow's "Atwater" is like some gonzo, late-night, B-Movie double feature. It's about a man who gets lost on his way to a business appointment and ends up in some bizarre fever dream. Twice. 11. "The Transfer" by Edward Bryant is a truly chilling story about a killer who meets up with a married couple and the wife's willingness to meet the threat head-on. 12. Simon Bestwick's terrific story "Welcome to Mengele’s" is imaginative despite being quite twisted. You'll never think of human experiment brothels the same way again! 13. "Black Neurology: A Love Story" by Richard Kadrey is a short story about an autopsy gone wrong, made all the more creepy because of its use of the second person. 14. "Cuckoo" by Angela Slatter is a bizarre tale about a ghost who takes control of someone's body, be they alive or otherwise, while she hunts for a murderer. 15. Beautiful prose makes the horrors of Livia Llewellyn's "Cinereous" all the more chilling. It's the first-person account of an assistant at a facility experimenting on feral children in Paris at the turn of the 19th century. 16. "The Truth That Lies Under Skin and Meat" by Cassandra Khaw is about a werewolf who tries to resist the savage urges within herself. She is not often successful. 17. Alyssa Wong's terrific story "Natural Skin" takes place in the near future, where beauty is coveted and can be had through medical procedures, usually the illicit kind. Liin jie covets that beauty, much more than the reader might expect. 18. "The Lake" by Tananarive Due, a pot-boiler of a Southern horror story, is about what happens when a woman from Boston moves to small town Florida and takes to swimming in the transformative lake behind her house. 19. Richard Christian Matheson's "I’m Always Here" is the story of a quite unique musical duo, Daddy and Baby, as seen through the eyes of the music reporter who is writing about them. 20. "The Look" by Christopher Fowler is a superb story exploring the themes of beauty and fame... and the lessons not necessarily learned by two girls, one on the catwalk, the other desperate to be there. 21. Carmen Maria Machado's fable-like "The Old Women Who Were Skinned--about a pair of elderly sisters, one whose youth is magically restored--is a short read, but nonetheless includes some long-lasting imagery. 22. Seanan McGuire's straightforward, easily-digestible prose propels her sublime story "Spores" to greatness. The ever-increasing feeling if dread is, quite simply, perfectly delivered. 23. It doesn't get much weirder than "Sweet Subtleties" by Lisa L. Hannett, in which a confectioner creates a living woman out of sugar and sweets. The emotional punch of the story is *why*. 24. "Elegy For a Suicide" by Caitlín R. Kiernan is another terrific story (like McGuire's "Spores") about a biological threat from the point of view of the victim's lover. It drives the story forward by teasing the plot in bits and pieces. 25. What makes "Skin City" by Gemma Files so elegantly creepy isn’t the girl who wears the skin of her victims, it’s the pleasure she derives from her perverse compulsion. 26. Brian Evenson’s short entry, "A True Friend," is a scene in which a supposedly-dead body is being photographed. It has to be the most effective use of sarcasm to describe friendship. 27. "What I Found in the Shed" by Tom Johnstone may be short, but the central idea, about a mysterious machine and the solace it could give to a grieving family, is interesting. 28. In "Fabulous Beasts" by Priya Sharma, we learn about the life of narrator Lola, her childhood with her single mother, her role as her cousin's protector, and her fascination with snakes. Only when her thieving uncle is released from prison do we really understand the shocking reality of her dysfunctional family. 29. Michael Blumlein's amazingly detailed "Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report" is notable not only for the author leveraging his medical background to describe the dissection and dismemberment of a living patient, but also for the controversial way it is used to punish a political figure. And there you have it! 29 spine-tingling reasons to read the excellent BODY SHOCKS anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. https://tachyonpublications.com/product/body-shocks/