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The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008: Twenty-First Annual Collection
edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin J. Grant
St. Martin's Press, 576 pages

Ellen Datlow
Ellen Datlow was the fiction editor of OMNI from 1981 until it folded in 1998. She later worked as the fiction editor of SCIFI.COM. Her well-deserved reputation as an editor for both The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series and for the Fairy Tale Anthologies series has garnered her numerous awards.

Ellen Datlow Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection
SF Site Review: The Green Man
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 14th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 13th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Black Heart, Ivory Bones
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 12th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Silver Birch, Blood Moon
SF Site Review: Black Swan, White Raven
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 11th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: 10th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Fairy Tale Anthologies

Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Kelly Link's work includes appearances in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, the 'zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and the collection A Wolf at the Door (edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling). She won the World Fantasy Award for her story "The Specialist's Hat" and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for "Travels with the Snow Queen."

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Pretty Monsters
SF Site Review: The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Trampoline
SF Site Review: 4 Stories
Jelly Ink

Gavin J. Grant is the publisher of Small Beer Press and, since 1996, editor and publisher of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, a twice-yearly small press zine. Originally from Scotland, Gavin moved to the USA in 1991. He worked in bookshops in Los Angeles and Boston, and while in Brooklyn, worked for BookSense.com, a Web site for independent bookshops. He lives in Northampton, MA.

ISFDB Bibliography
Small Beer Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008: Twenty-First Annual Collection Most of The SF Site readers should already know, by now, that the twenty-first volume of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror represents the swan song of this fortunate, long lasting series that the publisher has decided to discontinue. No doubt a great loss for fantasy and horror lovers who will miss a yearly volume providing an exhaustive overview of what happened in the two genres during the previous year, in terms of fiction, poetry, movies, comics, etc. Indeed, it is an invaluable source of information and often (but not always) a good reprint anthology, supposedly offering the best short fiction recently appeared in books and magazines.

Alas, the last volume in the series is a kind of low-key assemblage of stories of which only a few are up to the expected quality level. If this is the year's best, then 2007 must have been a very poor year, which, at least as horror is concerned, is not true, especially if we compare the table of contents of this book with the one of its usual counterpart from the other side of the ocean, Stephen Jones' The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 19.

So, it's probably just a matter of taste and choice, ever the source of possible disagreement between editors, reviewers and readers.

In this scenario of general mediocrity, two aspects are worth mentioning: the first one is that the boundaries between horror and fantasy are becoming more and more blurred, hence the stories selected by Ellen Datlow for the last volumes are not so different, in themes and atmospheres, from those chosen by her current fantasy co-editors (Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant), compared with what happened in the past with her co-editor Terri Windling. The second aspect is that the stories included in this volume, when they are good, are extremely good, regardless of the subgenre to which they allegedly belong.

So, I'd like to recommend the splendid "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" by Daniel Abraham, a delightful fairy tale graced by an exquisite narrative style and great characterization, dealing with the unusual subject of economy (that is, weighing the value of human life and soul!) and "The Tenth Muse" by William Browning Spencer, another example of excellent storytelling, unearthing the secrets in the lives of two neighbour writers living in the same small town.

"Mr Poo Poo" is superb piece penned by the talented Reggie Oliver, skilfully exploring religious fanaticism and its devastating effects on people's lives.

Religious horror is also the topic developed in "A Thing Forbidden," a bizarre but captivating tale by Donald Mead.

Don Tumasonis' "The Swing" is an excellent, insightful tale providing a nostalgic journey into a long gone childhood full of mysteries hard to solve even many years later.

Other remarkable selections are "The Gray Boy's Work" by M.T. Anderson, a dark, slightly obscure and subtly disquieting fairy tale and "Up the Fire Road" by Eileen Gunn, an offbeat fantasy piece reporting the adventures of a man and a woman meeting a sexually ambiguous creature living in a cave.

Tanith Lee provides the outstanding, creepy "The Hill," telling in a solid, fascinating narrative style how the house of a missing scientist becomes the venue of a series of sinister events.

Terry Dowling's quite enjoyable "Toother" is a terrifying, quite original crime/horror story featuring a serial killer obsessed with dental fixtures.

Finally, for those who are already missing the annual anthology by Datlow and Co., there is good news. She has signed a contract with Night Shade Books for editing, at least for the next two years, a new "Year's Best" in horror fiction. Cheers.

Copyright © 2009 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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