Christopher Conlon, editor,
Poe's Lighthouse
(Cemetery Dance, 2006)

Anthologies are not unusual. But, an anthology of stories written in collaboration with a dead author -- now that is different.

And, we're not talking about just any dead author. Christopher Conlon had the unique idea of having 23 modern writers pen their versions of a story fragment written by Edgar Allan Poe. The four-page fragment, believed to have been begun in 1849, may have been the last story Poe attempted.

The fragment, a mere four pages, begins with journal entries of a man who has just signed on as a lighthouse keeper -- hence the title. Since the story is not complete, no one knows what Poe intended. Conlon, who penned one of the stories, allowed the team free rein on their imagination and the results provide a variety of stories utilizing the central theme.

Poe's story as written establishes a man, possibly of noble blood, beginning solitary duty at a lonely lighthouse. The man, quite obviously a nervous fellow, specifically desired solitude, for an unknown purpose. It mentions a few other characters by name, including a large dog, Neptune, and describes the lighthouse to some extent.

The instructions, according to Conlon, were simple: finish the story using Poe's language, images and ideas. His exact words need not be included.

Accordingly, some of the writers hewed closely to Poe's style while others have gone off to fantastic realm that may have amazed or even shocked the master. Most of the writers will be familiar to readers in the horror and science fiction genre. The stories run the gamut from gothic to horror, science fiction to fantasy and there's even a bit of erotica thrown in for good measure.

My personal favorites include Scott Nicholson's "Last Writes," Richard A. Lupoff's "Fourth Avenue Interlude," Earl Hamner's "A Passion for Solitude" and John Shirley's "Blind Eye."

Naturally, personal taste will dictate which stories one prefers. But, be assured, there's something for everyone here, and I think Poe would have found the experiment to his liking.

by John R. Lindermuth
24 February 2007

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