Book Review: 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg & Martin H. Greenberg
This was my Halloween season read this year, an anthology commissioned for the Barnes & Noble stores in 1995. There are indeed one hundred stories in this hefty tome, averaging about six pages. They are not all about wicked witches, however–some witches are good, some are just mischievous and others are hard to pin down on a moral spectrum.
The volume opens with “Gramma Grunt” by Donald L. Burleson, about a man returning to the streets of his youth and regretting joining in the taunting of an old woman; and ends with “Wall of Darkness” by Basil Wells, about a piece of architecture that should be left strictly alone. The oldest story (1933) is “The Mandrakes” by Clark Ashton Smith, one of his Averoigne stories, in which a murdered woman gets revenge through the title plants (though her murderer really should have known better.) Most of the stories, however, are exclusive to this book.
As might be expected, most of these short tales depend heavily on a twist ending, but a few play it straight with an ending foreshadowed throughout. Sometimes good people win the day, other times evil triumphs, at least for now. There are many variations in kinds of witches as well, the most bizarre of which is “Fish Witch” by Lois H. Gresh, with a witchlike species of marine life; it’s got a garbled ending.
Some standouts include:
- “The Only Way to Fly” by Nancy Holder: An aging witch who’s lost most of her magic through disuse is on a plane to her retirement home. Does she have one last spark in her?
- “There’ll be Witches” by Joe Meno: Danny is haunted by witches that make him wet the bed. Too bad the grownups never see them!
- “Beware of That for Which You Wish” by Linda J. Dunn: A woman who wants a son consults a wiser woman; the wheel turns.
- “The Devil’s Men” by Brian Stableford and “The Caress of Ash and Cinder” by Cindie Geddes, a nicely matched pair of stories about witch hunts seen from the victim’s point of view, yet with mirrored perspectives.
- “The Mudang” by Will Murray: A skull collector discovers a two for one bargain in Korea.
There’s a few duds as well, but they’re short and over quickly.
Scattered among the stories are a few with scenes of rape, abuse, suicide and other triggery subjects. There’s also a few iffy ethnic portrayals and those of you who are witches may not like some of the more negative portrayals.
You can probably find this for a modest price from Barnes & Noble; I see it’s been reprinted several times. Or try the library if you just want to read the bits by your favored authors.