Borderlands, edited by Thomas F. Monteleone, was one of the most influential horror anthologies ever compiled. Instead of filling pages with the same kinds of genre stories fans had been used to, Monteleone challenged writers to push the envelope, rework the tropes, and give readers something chilling they would remember. It worked. Borderlands was a collection of tales that set the horror literature world on its ear.
Originally published over 20 years ago, Borderlands still holds up as a fantastic anthology of short horror stories. Some authors in that book were already known in horror circles, like Karl Edward Wagner and Bentley Little. At least one contributor, Joe Lansdale, is practically a household name now. The late Charles L. Grant makes an appearance, as does respected contemporary T.E.D. Klein. Whether you are familiar with the authors in Borderlands or not, each story has its own tremendous qualities and unique viewpoints on fear.
Take a look at “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood,” by Poppy Z. Brite. Grandly written and fascinatingly erudite, the story takes Gothic decoration and death ideation to a horrific extreme. John Shirley skillfully dissects the family unit in “Delia and the Dinner Party.” Nancy Holder’s “Glass Eyes,” is a stream of consciousness nightmare, where a prognosis of blindness leads the protagonist into a surreal bloodbath. “The Good Book,” by G. Wayne Miller is a standout, beginning with an implausible situation that gets weirder as the tale unfolds.
Your mileage will vary with any anthology, of course. Some stories will work for you and some won’t. I read Borderlands critically, but I could not find a weak story in the bunch. Each contribution attacks the reader from a different angle, like pins in a voodoo doll, until one is left slightly light-headed from what they have just experienced.
It may not be industry standard to talk about a book originally released in 1999, but there has been recent movement on the Borderlands front. All of the Borderlands books are being republished and released by Riverdale Avenue Books. This marks the first time that the books will be available in ebook and audio formats. If that weren’t cool enough, the all-new seventh volume will be released in time for Halloween 2019, with Monteleone returning as editor.
There’s no better place to start your journey into the Borderlands than at the beginning. The state of horror in the 21st century was set by Borderlands. Both mumblegore and bizarro have seeds in this anthology. More than an old book of stories, Borderlands is as vibrant and terrifying as it was the day it was first published.