On the one hand, Masterton came up with a really terrific idea -- dedicate the proceeds of a scary book to helping abused children. And he makes a good point, too, what we might read in horror stories is literally NOTHING compared to the real horrors abused children face every day.
On the other hand, I wonder if some of the stories in his collection might be better suited to other, less nobly designated forums
Perhaps it's just me, but I've always assumed that any event or object dedicated to the funding of children's causes would be more or less tailored so that children could actually participate in or enjoy it to some degree as well. It would seem odd, after all, if something dedicated to children is something children shouldn't touch.
The story selection in Scare Care is uneven. A few are truly great, such as the one by Harlan Ellison in which a man goes off in search of a truly original father. I could read them over and over again. Others are terrible, both in quality and in content, and I have to wonder what Masterton might have been thinking by including them in what could have been an otherwise stellar collection.
There are at least four incredibly gruesome stories included here, all prefaced by Masterton's declaration that although he had misgivings at first, he decided to override himself and put them in, since they did not REALLY contain very much in the way of gory themes. I'd like to make a point here: If, in a story, someone wanders around hacking and stabbing a family to pieces with various sharp objects, one by one by one, and if that someone happens to be a little child, it is VERY gory (and hugely inappropriate to a book dedicated to Helping Children). If, in a story, an evil character takes apart people's bodies to build a doomsday machine, it is VERY gory. And if, in a story collection, the editor makes identical excuses for every other story, readers have to wonder just exactly how serious that editor's standards were.
At any rate, I assume an editor of a horror collection would be responsible enough to know the difference between a good fright story and something that is merely a gorefest. Or perhaps I'm being too strict. After all, Hollywood can't seem to tell the difference, either, and if they can't do it, why should anybody else?
Two other things stick in the mind about this book -- the longest and the shortest stories in the collection. "The Changeling" is written by Masterton himself. The story is laden with repetetive moralistic musings on What a Hard Time Beautiful Women Have Being Beautiful and What Amoral Slobs All Men Are, and unnecessary descriptions of nudity (meaning, the descriptions are long and detailed and do nothing to forward the story; again a hugely inappropriate detail to include in such a book). I can't help thinking that it was included mostly because the guy who wrote it was also the guy in charge of selection. The other story is a two-page horror-puzzler written by his ten year-old son. Masterton, Jr.'s story is pretty good, but again I have to wonder if it would ever have gotten published anywhere if his father hadn't happened to be the editor of the book.
I'm doling out some pretty harsh criticism here, and I make no apologies. I feel that as an editor a person has a certain responsibility to his audience, and an editor of a for-charity book has an even bigger responsibility to make sure that book is the best it could possibly be, for the sake of the people he's doing it for.
Personal taste is always going to be a factor in any editor's selection of stories for publication; that much is a given. Jane Yolen and Isaac Asimov, for example, both frequently include(d) their own work in anthologies they themselves have worked on. However, an editor's personal interests should not be allowed to overwhelm or distract from the overall quality of the thing he's working on.
That Masterton used Scare Care even in part as an opportunity to get his and his son's work published, and took very little real care in the rest of the collection's selections cheapens the book, and the cause he was ostensibly working for.