The Monstrous

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Pub Date 31 Oct 2015 | Archive Date 04 Apr 2016


The horror genre’s most acclaimed editor reveals twenty modern stories of evil more terrifying than monsters: The Monstrous.

Collected here are unnerving creations from the masters of fear, including Peter Straub’s vengeful kindergarten teacher, Kim Newman’s exhausted witch hunters, and Caitlín R. Kiernan’s obsessive devotee of swans. Creatures of darkness struggle to adapt to modern living and ordinary people are horrifyingly transformed in these inexplicable, deadly reflections of our day-to-day lives. From one seemingly harmless elderly man to a family reunion bent on unspeakable evil, the monstrous are far closer than they appear.

If possible, please hold blog and media reviews until after the publication date. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are welcome before publication.

The horror genre’s most acclaimed editor reveals twenty modern stories of evil more terrifying than monsters: The Monstrous.

Collected here are unnerving creations from the masters of fear, including...

A Note From the Publisher

Ten-time World Fantasy Award winner Ellen Datlow’s bestselling anthologies include the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series; Snow White, Blood Red; Lovecraft's Monsters; Naked City, and Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror. Datlow was the fiction editor of OMNI for nearly 20 years and edited the magazines Event Horizon and Sci Fiction. She has won multiple Hugo, Locus, Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards and has received several lifetime achievement honors. Datlow lives in New York City.

Ten-time World Fantasy Award winner Ellen Datlow’s bestselling anthologies include the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series; Snow White, Blood Red; Lovecraft's Monsters; Naked City, and Darkness:...

Advance Praise

Praise for The Monstrous On "Best of" Lists

-Shotgun Logic Favorite Reads of 2015
-LitReactor Top Ten Short Stories of 2015: "The Last Clean, Bright Summer" by Livia Llewellyn
-Locus 2015 Recommended Reading List: Best Novelette, "Corpsemouth" by John Langan

{STAR] "Datlow, horror anthologist extraordinaire, brings together all things monstrous in this excellent reprint anthology of 20 horror stories that explore the ever-widening definition of what makes a monster, with nary a misstep. The varied sources of monstrosity include a very troubled kindergarten teacher, a catering company that puts humans on the menu, and spirit-devouring creatures out of Japanese mythology, all creating distinctive microcosms where monsters reign in many forms. In Gemma Files’s “A Wish from a Bone,” an archeological reality show filming in Sudan uncovers evidence of the Terrible Seven, ancient beings who are bent on destruction and domination. Adam-Troy Castro’s “The Totals” skewers bureaucracy and the daily grind by populating a drinking hole with monsters, who create mayhem, commit murder, and kvetch with their deadly coworkers with the same sense of ennui felt by any office drone. Other standouts by Sofia Samatar, Dale Bailey, and Christopher Fowler round out this atmospheric and frequently terrifying collection. (Oct.)—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The only direction editor Datlow gave her contributors when compiling this collection was that she didn’t want any human monsters. While some of the twenty stories here skirt that rule, there are a nice variety of inhuman beasties as well. A moody Japanese tale from Jeffrey Ford, “A Natural History of Autumn,” opens the collection, followed by Peter Straub’s school-set riff on Cinderella, “Ashputtle.” Other standouts include Adam-Troy Castro’s “The Totals,” which gives us a competitive monster office and “Down Among the Dead Men” from Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois about a vampire imprisoned in a World War II concentration camp. The anthology also finishes strong with John Langan’s Scottish-set “Corpsemouth,” the single story original to this collection. VERDICT The list of contributors, including Gemma Files, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Adam L.G. Nevill, and Kim Newman, will be enough to get horror fans excited. The assortment of styles means that there is a monster here for everyone’s taste.—MM”
Library Journal

“[T]he writers whose yarns appear in this collection are definitely responsible for
eliciting some genuinely unsettling responses to their tales. Unsettling is a desired response for those who write and read horror fiction, and The Monstrous fulfills the desire. . . .The twenty high caliber tales in Tachyon Publications’ The Monstrous delve into egregious behavior with intelligent observations. Eerie and artfully executed, the narratives are highly imaginative and chilling.”

“If horror is your thing, you will most definitely find a lot to love here.”
Killer Nashville

“Vivid imagery and compelling narratives”
Portland Book Review

“Datlow has more backed-up expertise and accumulated assets than almost any other horror/dark/weird editor in the business. It certainly shows in this collection. It’s one of the most monstrous compilations around, and you may find yourself dreaming of its various manifestations for weeks or months afterwards (just not tentacled ones).”

“Hon­estly, every story in this anthol­ogy is excel­lent. It’s really a tes­ta­ment to Datlow’s wealth of expe­ri­ence in the genre, and her mas­ter­ful touch in edit­ing and com­pil­ing the best sto­ries around.”
The Warbler

The Monstrous is one of the best collections of stories I’ve read in recent years.”
The Book Lover’s Boudoir

“There is something here for everyone and just about every monster.”
Fantasy Literature

“Ellen Datlow presents us with yet another utterly compelling cornucopia of horrors.”
Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing

The Monstrous is one of the most impressive themed anthologies of the year, varied in terms of theme and style, but not in quality.”
This Is Horror

“A must-have for every fan of horror. Highly recommended.”
Reclusive Reads

The Monstrous will chill and darken your day in a terrifyingly sweet way. When you begin to read it, you'll most likely have problems putting it down, because all of the stories are intriguing and they may cause a few moments of unease and distress to readers. Highly recommended!”

“This anthology is thrilling and readable, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to read about unusual monsters.”
Paper Blog

“I highly recommend it. The twenty tales in this tome will leave you sleepless for many nights to come, and yet begging for more.”
Shattered Ravings

“[There are] excellent stories in here by such authors as Peter Straub, Brian Hodge, Dale Bailey, and Kim Newman. Each story is horrific, touching, dark–it’s easy to get drawn in.”
Errant Dreams

“This collection has something disturbing for everyone.”
Washington Independent

“If you like horror, monster stories, or are looking for something to dip in and out of on chilly fall nights, this is a great selection. I can't rave enough about Datlow and the authors included here.”
—Book Hooked Blog

On Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror

“This diverse 25-story anthology is a superb sampling of some of the most significant short horror works published between 1985 and 2005.... This is an anthology to be cherished and an invaluable reference for horror aficionados.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Eclectic . . . a complete overview of some of the best horror stories published in the last twenty years.”
SF Weekly

On Hauntings

“Apt to entertain and disquiet the horror fans.”
SF Site, Featured Review

“Datlow once again proves herself as a master editor.... Readers who wish to be haunted themselves should not miss this one. Highly recommended.”
Arkham Digest

“I have a short list of editors that I will buy an anthology of, regardless of whether or not I have even heard of the writers it contains, and Ellen Datlow is at the top of that list. She has this crazy knack of consistently putting together stellar anthologies and Hauntings is no different.”
Horror Talk

On Lovecraft's Monsters

“[An] amazing and diverse treasure trove of stories. As an avid fan of Lovecraft’s monstrous creations, THIS is the anthology I’ve been waiting for.”
Shattered Ravings

“Editor Ellen Datlow has put together an anthology that will rock your liquid fantasies. Tachyon Publications has produced an excellent themed anthology.”

“This collection has something disturbing for everyone.”
Washington Independent

Praise for The Monstrous On "Best of" Lists

-Shotgun Logic Favorite Reads of 2015
-LitReactor Top Ten Short Stories of 2015: "The Last Clean, Bright Summer" by Livia Llewellyn
-Locus 2015...

Marketing Plan

· Consumer and trade advertising / Co-op available
· Promotion at major trade and genre conventions, including the World Horror, Science Fiction, and World Fantasy conventions; ALA; the Nebula Awards; and Readercon
· Promotion targeting reviews and interviews in horror-themed print and online media
· Launch party at the KGB Fantastic Fiction Reading series in NYC
· Planned book giveaways on Goodreads, SF Signal, and other online outlets
· Promotion on editor's website ( and extensive social media (; @EllenDatlow)

· Consumer and trade advertising / Co-op available
· Promotion at major trade and genre conventions, including the World Horror, Science Fiction, and World Fantasy conventions; ALA; the Nebula...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9781616962067
PRICE $16.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 45 members

Featured Reviews

This has some of the most beautiful dark fantasy stories I've encountered in a long time. Fantasy isn't my thing, so much anymore, but I wanted to keep reading. Each story has a clear author's voice, a different style, and a very distinct format. Highly recommended.

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I rarely rate anthologies above a three–maybe a four at most. The thing is, it’s in the nature of anthologies to have some stories you’ll enjoy and some you won’t (the specific good and bad stories depend upon the individual reader of course). So it’s next to impossible to have a truly great anthology. Editor Ellen Datlow’s The Monstrous is one of the very few exceptions to this rule. There were a few high-concept pieces that confused me a bit (another reader-dependent issue), but by and large I loved these stories and the range of definitions of what comprises a ‘monster’. There are some good stories in which man proves to be the greatest monster of all–but there are plenty of other, more literal monsters to keep them company. There’s a long list of stories in this, so I’ll include a few words on some of the ones that made an impression on me rather than trying to sum up all of them. Gemma Files’s A Wish from a Bone appealed to me; I’m fond of archaeology-related horror tales and stories of the Old Gods–dark and unfathomable creatures with alien agendas. In this tale, a group stumbles across an ancient temple with evil forces locked within, and watching how characters reacted fascinated me. The Last, Clean, Bright Summer, by Livia Llewellyn, horrified me–something that doesn’t happen often any more. The material gets quite dark as a young woman’s family travels to a family reunion. This tale is grotesque with some fairly dark sexual material, so it won’t be for everyone. The gradually-revealed setup is imaginative and horrific. Adam-Troy Castro’s The Totals gives us a monster and killer called Clutch and then dares us to empathize with him. I love the twisty nature of this one, and the very unusual cluster of characters. Terry Dowling’s Jenny Come to Play involves an unusual relationship between sisters, and the grotesque manner in which it devolves. There are many other excellent stories in here by such authors as Peter Straub, Brian Hodge, Dale Bailey, and Kim Newman. Each story is horrific, touching, dark–it’s easy to get drawn in. There were no stories in here that put me off, although I’ll admit to not quite figuring out what some of them were getting at (high-concept, semi-abstract stories are always a shot in the dark, since you never know whether the majority of your readers will get it or not–but when they work, they can be utterly fantastic). Whether you’re looking for old-fashioned or new-fashioned horror stories, I think you’ll enjoy The Monstrous. Some monsters are more literal than others; some monsters are very, very human. And sometimes, the monster isn’t quite who you think it is.

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Had this book been titled Ellen Datlow’s Big Book of Monsters, there is little chance I would have picked it up. Not that I don’t love monsters. I am, in fact, a monster kid. When I was five years old, previews for I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, The Blob, Attack of the Killer Shrews and their ilk flowed through the boxy, black-and-white television sets in dens and family rooms across the United States. Each of these creations looked potentially more marvelous that the one promoted the week before; and, once my parents made it clear that under no circumstances would I be allowed to attend these films, my fate was sealed. To this day, I will program the DVR to record almost any unfamiliar offering from the SyFy Channel or Chiller Network and watch it just long enough to see whatever ridiculous creature will be wreaking unconvincing CGI’d mayhem for the remainder of the two-hour time slot. Because really what I care about is that moment when the monster is revealed. I want to see the experiment gone wrong that’s kept chained in the cellar; the alien that emerges from the wrecked spacecraft; or, Godzilla’s latest sparring partner. After that first reveal, I have slowly learned over the decades to expect things to go downhill. But my enthusiasm for that first look has never waned. My monster addiction is a visual thing. I have never cared much for monster stories. Verbal descriptions of the hideous tend to be anti-climactic and take too long. By the time I was twelve I quit expecting any of this stuff to be scary, but I want either an impressive crudeness or elegance to the creature, and I want to take it in at a glance. (And I will forestall some criticism here by saying that Clive Barker writes excellent monsters, China Mielville creates admirably alien aliens, and The Babadook recently scared the bejezzus out of me.) By titling her new anthology The Monstrous, Ellen Datlow drew me in. She seemed to be promising “essence of the monster” rather than just the doings of the things themselves. And after editing what, something like 800 anthologies, I know that she knows her stuff. These are twenty-one stories that, while they will not duplicate the thrill of witnessing Ray Harryhausen’s Kraken lift its third arm out of the sea, can still satisfy the monster kid in all of us – and I know you are out there. In her introduction, Datlow says she was looking for unusual monster stories, but she has not avoided such familiar creatures as vampires, serial killers, and ancient evils haunting tombs best left unopened. For the most part, her authors don’t depict creatures that depend on detailed description of their hideousness for effect. Adam-Troy Castro’s “The Totals,” features the widest array of nightmarish creatures, each tailor-made to terrify and inflict painful death on innocent victims. But his story is played for laughs. We meet them in an all-night diner where they gather to collect their weekly bonus pay. The comedy here stands out in three hundred pages of grimmer, sadder, bleaker stuff. Datlow frontloads the anthology with literary firepower. Jeffrey Ford’s “A Natural History of Autumn” incorporates Japanese folklore into the high-stakes, globalized corporate world. Peter Straub offers a brilliant retelling of “Ashputtle,” the Grimm’s brothers version of the Cinderella story with the prince, the ball, and the happy ending replaced with a contemporary tale of life-long revenge carried out by an obese, homicidal kindergarten teacher. Caitlín Kiernan’s “The Beginning of the Year Without Summer” is a beautifully written, evocative tale, but – and I have had this experience before with Caitlín Kiernan – I am not quite sure what it’s about. In any group of monster stories, curses will abound. In Gemma Files’ “A Wish from a Bone,” a group of archeologists who are also interested in careers on reality TV, open an ancient tomb to spectacularly dire results. One of the first of the crew to be possessed sprouts wings and spends the rest of the story flapping about overhead with her lungs dangling from her shattered chest cavity. Now that’s a cinematic image worthy of Eli Roth. The philosophical but ruthless vampire in Jack Dann’s and Gordner Dozios’ “Down Among the Dead Men” can be killed but his infection cannot. Stephen Graham Jones turns in a typically visceral tale set on a western-bound wagon train with a creature so foul that even his bleached bones pass on his monstrosity. I have a couple of favorites: Sofia Samatar’s “How I Met the Ghoul” and John Langan’s “Corpsemouth.” In Samatar five-age vignette an understandably nervous reporter interviews an ancient, dangerous creature in an airport coffee shop. Both the reporter and the monster are in their way engaging characters. Langan’s first person narrative takes a leisurely, novelistic approach and describes a family trip to visit the Scottish relatives of a young man’s recently deceased father. (Anyone who watches movies on the Chiller channel would know this is not a good idea.) The visit is a pleasant round of aunts, uncles, and cousins from several generations, all of whom offer dinners, single malt scotch, and sightseeing. One elderly great-uncle also tells the story of Corpsemouth, a creature from the days of King Arthur. It’s an ancient tale that will prove to have contemporary implications that tie the narrator to familial duties he has never imagined. This is a kind of curse, but on another level it a monster kid’s dream come true. This review is based on a ebook provided by Net Galley. It also appears as a blog posting on Worlds Without End

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The Monstrous is one of the best collections of stories I’ve read in recent years. Every story in this collection shines. On each page I encountered a host of monsters, some human, some non-human and plenty somewhere in between. I’ve not enjoyed a collection of stories this much in years. The authors have taken the idea of monsters and created twenty-five original, striking and wide-ranging tales. Every anthology of stories usually has one or two clunkers. This isn’t the case for this collection. Every story in The Monstrous is excellent. I have a few favourites. I’ve read Asputtle by Peter Straub in his collection, Magic Terror. There is something unsettling and chilling in this story, in what’s not openly stated. The Beginning of the Year without summer by Livia Llewelyn is brilliant one of the most unsettling stories I’ve ever read. Catching Flies by Carole Johnstone gave me icy chills right down my spine. Jenny Come to Play by Terry Dowling blew my mind. The Last, Clean, Bright Summer by Livia Llewelyn is both brilliant and terrible. The Monstrous is highly recommended.

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Another home run anthology on my “read it, loved it” list. This collection of Dark fantasy/Thriller/Horror short stories was as enticing to read as the title of collection. Some of these stories lingered in the back of my mind, even days after I was done with the book. Most of them made me question my own perception of monstrous. All of them were good, well-written pieces of dark literature published within the last twenty years.

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The Monstrous, edited by Ellen Datlow, is a diverse and fascinating collection of horror short fiction. The stories cover a wide range of themes --- from humorous to Lovecroftian to human monster and all the variations within and outside. An extensive and entertaining group of stories, all with some type of monster theme. I really enjoyed reading this anthology. The diversity of the stories is a real plus. Vampires, werewolves and zombies can becoming boring after a while and this collection provides a much needed change from those particular horror tropes. The reader has the opportunity to see the different points of view about what is monstrous, which is a nice way of engaging the thinking process and learning something from fiction. To quote Ms. Datlow, "Never forget that monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder." A very enjoyable and entertaining anthology.

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I reviewed this excellent anthology on Adventures in Scifi Publishing.

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It’s always difficult for me to review short story collections, which is why there are so very few such reviews on this blog. I don’t like to write bad reviews so short stories are a hard sell for me. With most anthologies, it seems inevitable that you’ll find 20 – 30% of the stories are good or even great stories and the rest are mediocre at best and shallow filler at worst. Then there are those few, extremely rare editors who seem incapable of curating a bad story. Ellen Datlow is such an editor. THE MONSTROUS is a newly reprinted addition to a resume that could fill a novel length manuscript. It’s also another home run for Datlow. Pardon me while I wax star-struck for a moment here. Over the course of the last three decades–plus a little, maybe–It’s quite likely that I’ve read every anthology Ellen Datlow has produced. I’ve watched her grow and I’ve seen her change directions as either opportunity or desire presented itself. But what I’ve never seen her do is curate a bad story. Ellen is a rock star editor with an eye for the best stories and the best talent in the business. That quality has been consistent across everything she’s published and it remains so with THE MONSTROUS. When she put out the call for THE MONSTROUS, Ellen Datlow said she was “…looking for unusual monster stories. Not your usual monster kills/destroys everything.” The authors who responded to the call did so admirably. The result is a collection of monster stories completely unlike any you’ve read before, written by such authors as Peter Straub, Gemma Files, Stephen Graham Jones, and many others. And the anthology is as diverse and well written as it is star-studded. The stories gathered here range from the visceral to the psychological, making pit stops at all points in between and never falling into the “normal”, somewhat tired tropes of vampires, werewolves, zombies and such. That’s not saying there aren’t one or two traditional type monsters, and even some human ones in here. I’m just saying that where they exist, they’re written with an unusual, unique flare or twist. There are no bad stories, no filler in THE MONSTROUS. Every story is written with mastery and the kind of originality and attention to detail that gets you into a Datlow anthology in the first place. If I had to name a favorite, I would be hard pressed to do so and I’m not going to attempt that here. Suffice it to say, THE MONSTROUS was one of the best two themed anthologies of 2015 in my opinion and another example of why it’s always safe to take a chance on Ellen Datlow.

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I love Ellen Datlow anthologies because in them you can always find new voices mixed with well-known writers. The Monstrous has very different kind of stories but I think is an amazing collection. I rreally recommend it.

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