Today, Hartford Books Examiner offers a ghoulish greeting to Paula Guran.
The senior editor at Prime Books, Guran has just overseen the publication of an anthology, Halloween, which celebrates the thrills and chills of the season. Prior to this position, she edited the Juno fantasy line for six years. She is the winner of two Bram Stoker Awards and two International Horror Guild Awards, and was also twice nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Guran has edited an expansive list of anthologies as well as contributing reviews, interviews and articles to numerous professional publications. She is the mother of four and makes her home In Akron, Ohio.
Halloween (Prime Books, $14.95) features thirty entries from authors both classic and contemporary and holds the distinction of being the first collection to contain both Ray Bradbury’s “The October Game” and F. Paul Wilson’s “The November Game.” (You can view the complete list of contributions here.) Macabre Republic noted that the anthology “contains more than enough treats to keep readers sated all month long.” Further, they praised, “Guran herself contributes a fine introductory essay tracing the origins and cultural history of Halloween. Her editorial expertise also manifests in the (context-sketching, stage-setting) headnotes she provides for the individual pieces.”
From the publisher:
Shivers and spirits…the mystical and macabre…our darkest fears and sweetest fantasies…the fun and frivolity of tricks, treats, festivities, and masquerades. Halloween is a holiday filled with both delight and dread, beloved by youngsters and adults alike. Celebrate the most magical season of the year with this sensational treasury of seasonal tales—spooky, suspenseful, terrifying, or teasing—harvested from a multitude of master storytellers.
Now, the spooktacular Paula Guran takes us between the lines of Halloween…
1) What inspired HALLOWEEN and how did you go about choosing which works to include?
First, there simply had not been a trade Halloween anthology since OCTOBER DREAMS edited by Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish. It was originally published as a limited edition by Cemetery Dance, but then went on to be published by Roc. OCTOBER DREAMS was original fiction and original nonfiction. It is out-of-print now. I was privileged to write an essay for it.
I also had compiled, for promotional purposes, a free e-book mini-anthology — which in those days meant a PDF you could download — for Stealth Press, a short-lived publisher I worked for in 2001: ALL HALLOWS-E: HALLOWEEN TALES FROM SEVEN MASTERS OF HORROR. The writers were all authors we were publishing: Ray Bradbury, William F. Nolan, Al Sarrantonio, John Shirley, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.
So, I simply felt it was time for a great bunch of Halloween stories — stories that that involved the holiday — to be gathered in one volume, and already had a starting point. And there were a lot of other treasures to discover or rediscover.
Outside of my little e-anthology, I next used Stefan Dziemianowicz’s essay about Halloween literature from OCTOBER DREAMS as a starting point for ideas. Stefan and I worked together for a number of years with the International Horror Guild Awards, and when it comes to knowledge about horror — he’s the man. And then I gathered copies of every Halloween anthology I could find, searched through other non-Halloween-themed anthologies for stories that were appropriate, and researched online. In a few cases with authors I knew who had done a lot of Halloween stories, I just asked them which they thought were their best or to send me several to chose from.
I’d love to do an all-original fiction Halloween-themed anthology some day.
2) The stories contained within the anthology depict both delight and dread–real & imagined, human & supernatural. What was your intent in choosing such a broad-based presentation of the holiday?
Yay! Thanks for noticing. I didn’t want this to be a “horror anthology” with nothing but scary stories. Halloween means more than just being scary. For most people it is mostly about having fun, stepping outside the everyday, and even celebrating the weird. It is also a time when the “real” and the “imagined” cross boundaries. I hope the stories reflect that. As for the supernatural, well, for me, real life is a lot scarier than any monster.
Also, what purpose(s) do you believe such stories serve the people reading them?
Some are just for fun, some for scares, some involve deeper meaning. I think different people will be served in different ways by different stories, but individuals will also find different meanings within the same story.
3) In your introduction, you note that many different ideologies/religions/ traditions (etc.) have been melded in the “Halloween cauldron” throughout time. Can you expand on this idea and how it has come to influence our perception of Halloween as we now know it?
I can’t really be more expansive than that essay. But to sum it up:
Festivals celebrating the dead and death and harvest festivals have always been with us. Halloween as we know it is basically an American holiday and its meanings and ways of celebration come from the same sort of wonderful mix that made this country — people from different beliefs and cultures borrowing and combining into one.
At the same time, Halloween means different things to different people, even at different points in our lives.
Halloween is also always changing and adapting to the times.
4) Of Halloween, you write: “It is, perhaps, more alive and more meaningful now than ever before.” What is it about our current time & place that makes this statement true?
On one level we all need some fantasy in our lives, we all need a chance to be able to be something than ourselves once in awhile.
Halloween allows that — it is socially acceptable to not be socially acceptable. Or it is okay to show a side of you that is not seen the rest of the year. On a deeper level, but not to get too deep,
Halloween is about dealing our most basic fears and there’s a lot to fear these days. Our primal fear is death or, perhaps, that which is simply unknowable — here’s a holiday that confronts, accepts, challenges, celebrates, even mocks what we fear. Halloween is a ritual and rituals empower us in various ways.
5) Can you tell us a little bit about Prime Books and how you all are celebrating the season?
Prime Books is an award-winning independent press that publishes a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and cross-genre fiction. We like to mix high quality commercial projects and those that may not be as commercial but have literary merit. The best way to learn about us is to visit our website (www.prime-books.com) and take a look at our catalog and check out our products. We’re a trade publisher with national distribution, so that means you’ll find our books at most bookstores (unless they don’t carry genre) and, of course, online retailers. We are small, but growing.
As for celebrating, I’ll be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego (as will Prime Books) over Halloween weekend. Now that my children are adults and I’m not busy with making sure they are the center of the holiday, WFC is a great place to be for Halloween because I’m among my extended “family” — the folks who create fantasy enjoyed by so many. WFC, for me, is like a reunion every year. It’s work, but is a lot of fun too.
With special thanks to Paula Guran for generously sharing time and thought.
Be sure to rejoin HBE in the days to come for more exclusive interviews with authors who help to put the “Boo” in books…