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New Writings in the Fantastic
edited by John Grant
Pendragon Press, 373 pages

New Writings in the Fantastic
John Grant
John Grant (real name Paul Barnett) is the author of about 70 books. His The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters, currently in its third edition, is regarded as the standard work in its field. As co-editor with John Clute of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy he received the Hugo, the World Fantasy Award and several other international awards. As managing editor of the Clute/Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction he shared a rare British Science Fiction Association Special Award, the first to be given in 17 years. He received a second Hugo in 2004 for The Chesley Awards: A Retrospective (done with Elizabeth Humphrey and Pamela D. Scoville).

Under his own name he was until 2003 Commissioning Editor of Paper Tiger. He received the 2002 Chesley Award for his work with Paper Tiger. He was until recently the US Reviews Editor of Infinity Plus and is a Consultant Editor to AAPPL (Artists' & Photographers' Press Ltd).

John Grant aka Paul Barnett Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Take No Prisoners

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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With the massive anthology New Writings in the Fantastic the excellent UK-based imprint Pendragon Press attempts perhaps its most ambitious achievement. As stated by editor John Grant in his Introduction, the book tries to show "the full scope of what the literature of the fantastic can do" by assembling an impressive amount of brand new short stories (forty-one, to be precise) by both well known authors and newcomers. According to Grant, the reader is bound to fall in love at first sight with some stories and to hate other pieces because they are "uncomfortable, edgy, even outright offensive." Indeed. The editor also feels that we should publicly burn a copy of the book as a sign that its content "shakes off the yoke of cosy domestication." I don't know about that. My copy is still on my desk and I'm going to save it on my shelves. Reading this anthology has certainly been an interesting experience providing an exhaustive overview of what fantastic literature in a broad sense (fantasy, horror and SF) can offer today in the English language.

Some of the stories did leave me uneasy, some were simply able to irritate me, while others just left me uninterested (now, that's a real failure!).

What I'd like to share with SF Site readers is what I think is the best in this hefty volume.

First of all I'd like to mention Andrew Hook's "Wake Jake," a masterful, original piece featuring two cops facing the truths of Greek philosophy during a stakeout and Paul Pinn's "Borderline Charm," a delightful example of great storytelling bending crime and supernatural with a grain of humour.

"A Simple Gesture" by Stuart Jaffe is a delicate, odd tale with a SF core (an old man playing chess with an alien on a bench in the park) but an extremely human veneer.

Vincent Scarsella contributes "Vice Cop," a very enjoyable story depicting a society where sex is regulated while free love is considered illegal, thus requiring surveillance by a special squad of cops, and Harry R. Campion provides "The Wishbone," an allusive tale of witchcraft and teenage frailty.

"Killing Mr Softly" by the talented Scott Emerson Bull is a humorous, delectable piece reporting the unusual events taking place in a retirement community.

The gentle fantasy story "The Catherine Wheel" by Geoffrey Maloney features a strange girl whose true nature remains unfathomable and demonstrates how powerful the mind is in creating shades of reality, while the deeply entertaining "The Career of Edward Northam" by Naomi Alderman revisits, in the context of an artistic phenomenon, the classic theme of the genie granting three wishes.

Vera Nazarian's "The Ballad of Universal Jack" is a fascinating albeit obscure SF piece shaped like a futuristic fairy tale.

Other reviewers may make different choices and pick up other stories. Never mind. The material crammed in the book is so various and the amount of fiction so huge that everyone will find something suiting his/her taste. And that's exactly what a good anthology is supposed to provide.

Copyright © 2007 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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