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Don't Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy Fiction of Donald Wandrei

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Don't Dream gathers forty short stories, novelettes, prose poems, unpublished sketches and essays by Donald Wandrei into a single omnibus edition. Classic horror stories such as "The Painted Mirror", previously uncollected stories, and unpublished material amply demonstrate Wandrei's talents and versatility in the field of fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural horror. Don't Dream gathers forty short stories, novelettes, prose poems, unpublished sketches and essays by Donald Wandrei into a single omnibus edition. Classic horror stories such as "The Painted Mirror", previously uncollected stories, and unpublished material amply demonstrate Wandrei's talents and versatility in the field of fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural horror.


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Don't Dream gathers forty short stories, novelettes, prose poems, unpublished sketches and essays by Donald Wandrei into a single omnibus edition. Classic horror stories such as "The Painted Mirror", previously uncollected stories, and unpublished material amply demonstrate Wandrei's talents and versatility in the field of fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural horror. Don't Dream gathers forty short stories, novelettes, prose poems, unpublished sketches and essays by Donald Wandrei into a single omnibus edition. Classic horror stories such as "The Painted Mirror", previously uncollected stories, and unpublished material amply demonstrate Wandrei's talents and versatility in the field of fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural horror.

45 review for Don't Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy Fiction of Donald Wandrei

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    Reading through the "W" section of my "too read" list of Horror/Supernatural short fiction and I reached 22 Donald Wandrei short stories. 5 were contained in Colossus: The collected science fiction of Donald Wandrei (see that book for reviews of those) and the rest were in this collection. Wandrei is an odd figure - part of the Lovecraft circle and co-founder (with August Derleth) of Arkham House publishing, he helped to keep Lovecraft's work before the public eye. And yet, while he's often menti Reading through the "W" section of my "too read" list of Horror/Supernatural short fiction and I reached 22 Donald Wandrei short stories. 5 were contained in Colossus: The collected science fiction of Donald Wandrei (see that book for reviews of those) and the rest were in this collection. Wandrei is an odd figure - part of the Lovecraft circle and co-founder (with August Derleth) of Arkham House publishing, he helped to keep Lovecraft's work before the public eye. And yet, while he's often mentioned in the histories, his own stories are not as widely read or reprinted. Partly this may be due to his late in life legal wrangling with Derleth's heirs (as well as his reputation for ranting paranoia) but there's also probably something to the fact that his rights were held on a lot of his publications (or, at least, everything except the early stuff), and that he split his output between weird fiction and pulp sf. And, of course, given that unintended obscurity, there are those that will make a claim for his "forgotten greatness". I wouldn't go that far (though I haven't read the entirety of this book yet, and will finish it off at some point in the future) but I can say that, from my sampling, Donald Wandrei has both the flourishes and failings of pulp writers of his age, with a few interesting quirks. His early influence seems to have been Clark Ashton Smith, from whom he got a taste for vast, sweeping, awe-inspiring vistas of cosmic wastes and spans of unthinkable time (as well as a taste, at least in his early work, for a ripe and sometimes over-dramatic verbosity). He also seems to have been inspired/intrigued by the "mystery" of the Easter Island statues, references to which crop up with some regularity (his one novel was The Web of Easter Island, natch), as well as the world-changing revelations of Einstein's General Relativity, and Lovecraft's oeuvre of forgotten gods and inter-dimensional demons. Surprisingly (for me at least) was that a number of his stories seem like "alternate takes" of ideas or scenes from stories by other writers, and that he had a recurrent propensity for "body horror" imagery. My general take is that while about half of what I read was weak and negligible, the other half was fairly solid, although nothing blew me away, with a few pieces that should be better known and deserve to be reprinted. Thus, I'd consider Wandrei's best material as worth checking out, just temper your expectations somewhat. What follows then are reviews of 17 pieces, in order from weakest to strongest. On the extremely weak end of this are: "The Pursuers" - one of Wandrei's "prose poems" of imagery (and thus not really a "story" - he had a clutch of these in his career) this is a semi-sequel to "The Messengers" (see below) in that the path of the traveling caravan is then followed by a horde of gibbering star monsters. Pretty thin. Meanwhile "The Witch-Makers" starts with a familiar pulp set-up (a man fleeing through the African jungle with a stolen idol) but then the character stumbles into the camp of two amoral scientists who are doing research in personality transference technology. They transfer his mind from his dying body to the body of a black panther (and, later, an eagle) - both of which he uses to cause damage to local Imperialist forces. But the scientists have a final form for him... Pee-yuw! This is the kind of crappy pulp story that gave pulps a bad name - bad science, bad writing, bad characters (characters aren't really Wandrei's strong point anyway), bad plotting (the story doesn't so much end as stop). Despite the author's assurance, you will NOT believe a panther can successfully aim and fire a rifle! Slightly better but still not solidly good were the following: A man with a sword travels through nightmare terrain in "A Fragment Of A Dream", searching for Loma, his lady love. Dark forests, vast monster-haunted swamps, mountains of corruption, all are braved, only for more terrors to imperil his hopeless quest. This is dark fantasy/decadence in Clark Ashton Smith mode. Perfectly fine for what it is but not really my thing. Similar is "The Messengers," a prose poem about a mysterious caravan moving across an alien landscape, laden with foreign and interstellar treasures. Again, decadence applied to dark fantasy/CAS. In "The Green Flame" an old man has a collection of emeralds, which his grandson plans to murder him for. But the old man's recent acquisition from India, the storied "Green Flame", proves too much for them both... Eh, a "just desserts" plot tinged with weird-fantasy. A man projects his mind backwards (working from the theory of a Universal Mind) in "The Man Who Never Lived" recounting (in a trance state, for his friend) all he sees as time runs in reverse and all of history, and prehistory, and "creation" are undone until he reaches the beginning of everything... This is similar to "The Lives Of Alfred Kramer" (see later), even more condensed and with a similar (but cleaner) ending. Seems to be Wandrei wanting to illustrate current scientific theories about cosmology, the origins of life and the formation of the planets, interspersed with "radical" concepts of the time, now mostly disproven. Eh. "The Chuckler" has a man investigating a possible grave-robbing, and observing an awful sight. This seems almost like an epilogue or cut ending scene to "The Green Flame" (and thus is a scene as opposed to a story). The creepy graveyard atmospherics are worked here more than in Wandrei's SF. Thin stuff. In one of his prose poems, "The Woman At The Window", is sketched the scene of an eternal tower and a mysterious women who gazes out on the red sunset over the eldritch landscape. Eh. Finally in "Strange Harvest" plant life rebels against the farmers planning their harvest. This has some nice imagery (an orchard has wandered off to the watering hole) and some goofy bits (attack by watermelon, potatoes burrowing into the earth to avoid being dug up, corn rotating away from the picking hand) leading to a "Weird Science" explanation. Seems to be mining, at least somewhat, the eerie imagery of Lovecraft (in the "trees moving with no wind" sense), with scenes of murmuring and shifting vegetation - but the prosaic sf explanation and a lack of lyrical skills in Wandrei's writing arsenal quash that overall effect. But there were some good stories here: "The Lives Of Alfred Kramer" has a traveler meets a singularly disturbing man on the train, who relates his recurrent dream of ritual sacrifice which has plagued him his whole life, and which he thinks is an inherited memory. The man invented a scientific process whereby he could access & replay inherited memories (eventually finding the source of his problematic memory) but then finds himself addicted to looking further and further back, through the fall of Atlantis, and prehistory of man, and even further - but there is a physical cost to his body as well.. This was pretty good. It seems familiar as a concept (perhaps Smith's "Ubbo-Sathla," maybe?) and the ending is eventually obvious (a recapitulation of the ending of Poe's "Facts In The Case of M. Valdemar" and Lovecraft's "Cool Air"), but a good, weird pulp yarn nonetheless. "It Will Grow On You" has a doctor visited by a mysterious man with a strange leg ailment. This is a variant of the infamous "Lukundoo" by Edward Lucas White, here told with an almost 1970s Steven King intensity and ghoulish level of body horror. Not bad. In "Spawn of The Sea" an antique bottle reveals an old parchment containing the narrative of a shipwreck, and the two men left on the foundering ship with ample provisions but no idea where they were. And the mixture of items stored in the hold (chemicals, seeds, etc.) has fermented with the seawater and hot sun into a living, stinking ameobic monster! This is a solid, fun monster yarn, a variant of William Hope Hodgson's "The Derelict" (a similar tale of an abandoned ship and a sea-blob). "The Eye And The Finger", meanwhile, is very different again, as an average work-a-day drudge returns home to his apartment to find a human eye and a floating, pointing hand waiting for him. Symbolic psychological horror and a solid creep out. "The Nerveless Man" has a doctor invent a powerful new anesthetic, the ultimate pain remover - but it proves to be too perfect, as its effects last forever after the initial injection. He discovers this after impulsively using it on an emergency accident victim to save his life, but the "nerveless man" later nearly dies of appendicitis, as he was unable to feel the warning pain (while also suffering from the psychological delusion that he CAN feel pain). This is a surprisingly gruesome and effective piece of body horror, with only an over the top action bit at the end (turns out, both the doctor and his patient are expert fencers!) to hold against it. Nice bit where the doctor dreams of the implications of the anesthetic's use on soldiers - hordes of men dying on their feet yet fighting on until physical incapacitation, because they cannot feel all the damage they have incurred. Someone should revive this in a collection. In the similar "A Scientist Divides" said scientist creates "homoplasm", a reduction of basic human biology to a mono-cellular lifeform - and then due to an accident, comes in contact with it. And so a blob-like, endlessly replicating humanoid form is nearly loosed on the world. This is also good fun - that same level of body horror as "The Nerveless Man" but here applied to an ameobic horror that reverts to the humanoid form of its origin, before breaking down and multiplying again. Nice ending as well, nearly presaging Clive Barker's "In The Hills, The Cities." Finally, one of Wandrei's prose poems pays off in spades in "The Crater", featuring exploration of of a stone tower in a deep crater surrounded by a blasted, sunset landscape. A stone tower's internal staircase that we must climb, despite the myriad oddities we see and hear along the way, until we reach the room at the top. This has an almost "proto-Thomas Ligotti" feel (along the lines of "The Red Tower") and is buoyed by its brevity and concision.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Stephen King recommended author. In 1981's Danse Macabre, King dedicated his book as follows: "It's easy enough - perhaps too easy - to memorialize the dead. This book is for the six great writers of the macabre who are still alive." The six listed were Robert Bloch, Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury, Frank Belnap Long, Donald Wandrei, Manly Wade Wellman. Stephen King recommended author. In 1981's Danse Macabre, King dedicated his book as follows: "It's easy enough - perhaps too easy - to memorialize the dead. This book is for the six great writers of the macabre who are still alive." The six listed were Robert Bloch, Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury, Frank Belnap Long, Donald Wandrei, Manly Wade Wellman.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Signor Mambrino

    On one hand, I think it's super cool that this collection is so complete. On the other hand, some of these stories suck, and I would have enjoyed a Best of Collection more. If you are a fan of Wandrei, this will give you wet dreams. On one hand, I think it's super cool that this collection is so complete. On the other hand, some of these stories suck, and I would have enjoyed a Best of Collection more. If you are a fan of Wandrei, this will give you wet dreams.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Harris

    Don’t Dream is a collection of weird tales and prose poems written between the 1920s and the 1960s by fantasy and horror author Donald Wandrei, interesting mainly in his role as a correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft and, with August Derleth, founder of the publishing house that preserved much of Lovecraft’s work. Of course, with Wandrei a long time citizen of St. Paul, living in a home not far from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Summit Hill neighborhood, a few blocks from where I currently live, there is the Don’t Dream is a collection of weird tales and prose poems written between the 1920s and the 1960s by fantasy and horror author Donald Wandrei, interesting mainly in his role as a correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft and, with August Derleth, founder of the publishing house that preserved much of Lovecraft’s work. Of course, with Wandrei a long time citizen of St. Paul, living in a home not far from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Summit Hill neighborhood, a few blocks from where I currently live, there is the local interest for me as well. The Twin Cities and greater Minnesota are even featured in a few stories, specifically the 1935 horror tale “The Destroying Hoard,” in which a giant amoeba is accidentally freed from the University of Minnesota’s biology building to wreak havoc on campus, and the droll “Strange Harvest,” in which plant life mysteriously gains sentience to menace the agricultural workers of a rural farming community. Both of these were a bit more of interest to me with their use of local color. But Wandrei is most remembered as being a cofounder of the publisher Arkham House. After corresponding with and meeting H.P. Lovecraft, he partnered with the Wisconsinite August Derleth to publish and promote Lovecraft’s work after his death in 1937. However, unlike Derleth’s repetitive and boring “Cthulhu Mythos” pastiches, Wandrei’s work is rather more original and idiosyncratic. His stories actually share little with Lovecraft’s writing stylistically and he definitely does not, in contrast to Derleth, attempt to imitate his style. On the other hand, for the modern reader anyway, that is not say that any of the stories are very interesting. The collection does get stronger as is goes on, arranged by date written, but the stories generally have a very vintage, familiar old school pulp sci-fi feeling, leaving the reader the feeling they’ve seen it before somewhere, like maybe on the Twilight Zone. A few, particularly his prose poems and dream stories, dwell on rather interminable surreal impressions, and don’t really go anywhere. There are some definite motifs that Wandrei has a liking for and returns to often, including alien beings composed of pure energy, people regressing into past times, self-dividing blob monsters, and exotic locations bringing about strange body horrors. The latter, of course, are no better in terms of its depiction of non-American cultures than one can expect from early twentieth century pulp, so not great, although not as bad as Lovecraft. In fact, there is a definite strain of misanthropy that runs through many of the tales, but one that feels less cosmic or impactful. All in all, few of the stories are really all that inspiring, if you are not as automatically drawn in by Minnesota settings as I am. In the end, I wouldn’t really recommend going out of your way to track down any of these old pieces. Finally, the most interesting part of the collection is the introduction by Wandrei’s neighbor, and the later biographical sketches of Wandrei, discussing his connections to various Twin Cities institutions, his contentious relationship with Arkham House, and his eccentric and prickly personality. These are much more intriguing to me, in getting a better picture of an interesting local character who helped to shape today’s science fiction, fantasy, and horror literary landscape.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jay Rothermel

    Tales of the marvellous and the ridiculous: Review of Don't Dream - The Collected Horror and Fantasy of Donald Wandrei http://jayrothermel.blogspot.com/2017... Tales of the marvellous and the ridiculous: Review of Don't Dream - The Collected Horror and Fantasy of Donald Wandrei http://jayrothermel.blogspot.com/2017...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Albert

    I like the characters, I love the plot and everything about this book. Good job writer! If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on NovelStar, just submit your story to [email protected] or [email protected]

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andy Bennison

  8. 4 out of 5

    Varun

  9. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sirensongs

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shan

  13. 5 out of 5

    William Oarlock

  14. 4 out of 5

    Santiago Eximeno

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steven Harbin

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence Stadulis

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dean

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tiemo Norman

  22. 4 out of 5

    Philip Challinor

  23. 5 out of 5

    Moudry

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jon Ring

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mirumir

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jordan West

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

  29. 4 out of 5

    Slawek Wielhorski

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  31. 5 out of 5

    Steven Danielewicz

  32. 5 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)

  33. 4 out of 5

    B. Barron

  34. 5 out of 5

    Mary Putnam

  35. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  36. 4 out of 5

    MB Taylor

  37. 5 out of 5

    Michael Larson

  38. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  39. 4 out of 5

    Chas

  40. 5 out of 5

    Chris.s

  41. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  42. 5 out of 5

    Edward-john

  43. 4 out of 5

    Yoguul

  44. 5 out of 5

    Ashok Banker

  45. 4 out of 5

    Alex Scales

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