During this era, many paperback anthologies still included "dark fantasy" under the rubric of horror (DAW Books was a science fiction/fantasy publisher). "Dark fantasy" means to me fantasy, of course, but with major elements of the macabre and grotesque, with a fair amount of violence, usually with a medieval or mythic atmosphere and setting. The language too is often archaic, formal, stilted even. There may be sword 'n' sorcery going on as well. A few years later, Charles L. Grant used that term "dark fantasy" to describe his own stories and novels of subtle modern unease, but I prefer "quiet horror" for his brand of fiction. I say all this to simply state I'm not a fan of this kind of dark fantasy, and feel I don't quite have the critical acumen to judge dark fantasy. I tend to skim stories in that vein.
griot's tale of a woman's unlikely secret identity; its comfortable switch-up ending evokes fables we first heard in childhood. Vance's story of Pacific islanders who know, unconsciously, that to leave their home is to encounter a strange wide world the knowledge of which may not be welcome. Again, something like a child's tale.
Schweitzer (above), well-known as a critic and editor of genre fiction, contributes a longish work never before published. Knights, horses, swords, chainmail, maidens... no thanks. But Schweitzer writes strong prose, knows his way around violence and creeping dread, so I think "Divers Hands" will appeal greatly to those whose appreciation of such works is greater than mine. Drake's "Nemesis Place" contains the phrase "trader in spices" and that pretty much was quits for me, though I read the last paragraph and it seemed pretty bloody, so cool I guess.
Anyway, on to the real horrors.
An early work from one of the 1980s greats, Dennis Etchison, "The Pitch" is a pitch-black bit of unexpected vengeance by a kitchen cutlery salesman. Ouch. Etchison is a master of the modern convenience and its impact on our lives. "The Night of the Tiger" is a very minor work from Stephen King; it appeared in neither of his classic collections Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. King's authorial voice is strong, and the circus setting is convincing, but the final twist is rote. I however enjoyed the relaxed charms of Manly Wade Wellman's tale of a lovely vampire lady, "Chastel."
Editor Gerald W. Page was involved with Year's Best Horror Stories for several years. In his intro he rightly states "You never know where a good imaginative story will take you, whether it's science fiction, fantasy or horror..." and notes that good writing is just good writing. That's true, certainly, but good writing isn't my only criteria; I find I prefer my horror to be generally modern. But that's between me and me, and I think many other readers will find Series VII a worthwhile addition to their shelves of horror fiction...