Editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have delivered yet another exciting anthology of fantasy and horror stories in this annual round up of the year's best magical fiction: ranging from the brightest of crystalline fairy tales to the darkest of terrors and nightmares. In this, their twelfth annual collection, we see evidence of the exhaustive research they perform each year in order to discover and present such diversity of material.
The stories and poems presented here are an incredibly eclectic mix, many of them from writers new to this reviewer. They come not only from genre magazines and anthologies but also from such far-flung sources as The New Yorker, Ms., numerous literary quarterlies, and foreign works in translation. It takes a sharp editorial eye to find such gems among the rubble, but Datlow and Windling have succeeded once again.
Known for "pushing the edges of the envelope," this team aims to defy and redefine the very notion of what is "genre" and what is "mainstream." This is demonstrated in the choice of stories and poems reprinted in this anthology, and it is unlikely that you will find such a genre-bending mix in other collections of popular writing. Here is writing that will stun you with its freshness, its unusualness: sometimes by writers unfamiliar to the average fantasy reader. This is one of the most valuable services The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series offers: the chance to discover new writers and the diverse ways fantastic imagery is used in modern literature.
I won't give you a blow by blow description of all the stories, there are too many, and I don't want to ruin the surprises. But lovers of folk tales, fairy tales and myths should not miss the following tales:
"Travels with the Snow Queen" by Kelly Link, a Tiptree Award-winning deconstruction of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale;
"Mrs Mabb" by Susanna Clarke, an arch English fairy tale in the Sylvia Townsend Warner tradition;
"Great Sedna" by Lawrence Osgood, a dark, lucent retelling of an Eskimo folk tale;
"Hoopa, the White Deer Dance,"a subtle but powerful look at Native American myth and ritual by Cherokee writer Ralph Salisbury;
"The Faerie Cony-catcher" by Delia Sherman, a sparkling, erotic Elizabethan tale;
"Become a Warrior" by Jane Yolen, set in an imaginary landscape but deftly evoking the wonder of medieval Romance;
"Hershel" by the new young writer Judy Budnitz, a charming fable with an eastern European flavor;
"The House of the Black Cat" by Kurahashi Yumiko, a bizarre, dreamlike updating of Japanese cat bride tales;
"Carp Man" by Nick DiChario, a modern rendition of animal bridegroom stories (or, in this case, a fish bridegroom!);
"Blimunda" by Ilan Stavans, a Hispanic ghost tale;
"The Fantasma of Q___ " by Lisa Goldstein, an erudite romp through Greek myth via the 19th century.
And my personal favorites:
"Twa Corbies" by Charles de Lint, a magical realist story suffused with Old and New World myths; and "Cold, " a luminous modern fairy tale by A.S. Byatt.
Add to this magical stories by Jorge Luis Borges, Stephen King, Karen Joy Fowler, Neil Gaiman, Ellen Kushner and others and horror by the likes of Peter Straub, Terry Lamsley and Michael Marshall Smith. A treasure trove of stories to transport you to worlds far away and worlds within our own, and even worlds that could never exist.
We get all this packed into a huge, 500-page tome, and there are still more than 100 pages worth of 1998 summations. Windling gives an extensive breakdown of the best (and sometimes the worst) fantasy of the year, including categories such as First Novels, Imaginary Worlds, Contemporary and Urban Fantasy, Children's and Young Adult Novels, and even the whimsical "Raining Cats and Dogs". Starting with her Top Twenty picks for the year, working through Art and Music, and ending with Literary Conferences and Conventions.
Datlow does the same for us with her categories in Horror, also discussing in detail the state of publications for the year, ranging from large and small presses to online magazines. Other 1998 summations are given by Edward Bryant (Media), Seth Johnson (Comics and Graphic Art), and James Frenkel (Obituaries). In closing, Datlow and Windling give us a comprehensive listing of runners-up stories, listed by author, in their Honorable Mentions section.
I can't give enough praise to this collection of stories and poems, summations and listings. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series has won three World Fantasy Awards to date and this, the latest volume, will be a prized addition to all readers' libraries.
We have reviews of the entire Fairy Tales anthology series that Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling edited: Black Swan, White Raven, Black Thorn, White Rose, Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, Silver Birch, Blood Moon, and Snow White, Blood Red. Terri Windling is also the editor of The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors and the author of the novel The Wood Wife.