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Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 11th Annual Collection
edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
St. Martin's Press, 502 pages

Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 11th Annual Collection
Ellen Datlow
Ellen Datlow was the fiction editor of OMNI from 1981 until it folded earlier in 1998. She now works as the fiction editor of SCIFI.COM. Her well-deserved reputation as an editor for both this series and for the Fairy Tale Anthologies series (both with Terri Windling) has garnered her numerous awards.

ISFDB Bibliography

Terri Windling
Terri Windling is a five-time World Fantasy Award winner, a consulting fantasy editor at Tor, the author of The Wood Wife (winner of the Mythopoeic Award) and other fiction, and writes a popular folklore column for Realms of Fantasy magazine.

Terri Windling Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

As Terri Windling points out in her summation of 1997, although only one fantasy story in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Eleventh Annual Collection comes from the traditional genre magazines (and only one horror story comes from those same magazines), it should be noted that the table of contents does contain a large number of names associated with those same magazines: Jane Yolen, John Kessel, Ray Bradbury, Charles de Lint, etc.  Obviously, the traditional fantasy genre is still doing well and seems to have spread to cover a wider audience, beyond those who read the genre magazines.

As always, Datlow and Windling have done an exceptional job combing through both the traditional sources (F&SF, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov's), but also have looked for fantasy and horror in the non-traditional sources (The Paris Review, Bridges, The New Yorker). Their desire and ability to look so far afield continues to make this series one of the most beneficial and fresh anthologies in the speculative fiction field. It brings the reader's attention to several stories the reader might otherwise have missed because the works were published in regional magazines or publications which the typical fan may have overlooked. At the same time, the anthology does not read like a best of the SF magazines, many stories of which already are in the collections of the SF fan.

Windling's introduction paints the fantasy field as a strong and spreading concern, infiltrating the mainstream section of your local bookstore. Datlow is not as enthusiastic about the horror field, seeing the cutbacks at White Wolf and lack of horror at most major SF publishers as a severe limitation on the market. Although she doesn't point it out, an application of Sturgeon's Law reveals that with fewer pieces of horror being published, 90% still remains junk and the quality work being published includes fewer pieces. Both editors have elected to use headings to divide their introductions into segments: magazines, anthologies, novels, etc., which is a nice touch and makes skimming the introductions for information much easier.

In addition to the main editors' introductions, horror author and Locus reviewer Edward Bryant offers a look at the media in 1997. Bryant does not seem to feel the need to limit his comments to the fantasy and horror field, but looks across the spectrum of what Hollywood released. To be fair, it is frequently difficult to point to a movie and say whether it was SF anymore. Since so much of SF films is special effects, why not include special effects bonanzas Titanic or Con Air in his summation? Seth Johnson's comics summation is exceedingly brief, almost giving the impression that comics are dying. The final summation is always the saddest. James Frenkel's obituary column notes those who have left us, ranging from beat authors William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg to SF author/editor Judith Merril. Although the majority of those listed in Frenkel's obituary are only tangential to the SF field, losing such legends as Jimmy Stewart still hurts.

The overlap between this collection and the Dozois or Hartwell best-of-year collections is less than in many years, although this is to be expected since those anthologies focus on science fiction and this focuses on fantasy and horror. However, frequently the genres overlap. The only story chosen by Windling to appear in one of those collections (Dozois) is John Kessel's short "Gulliver at Home," a clever piece which tells of Lemuel Gulliver's homelife after his return from his fourth voyage and the Land of the Houyhnhnms. Kessel did a good enough job with this story that it may be read even by those who have not yet read Gulliver's Travels.

Some of science fiction and fantasy's big names have stories appearing here. Paul McAuley and Kim Newman's "Residuals" is an examination of the long range consequences of being one of the humans to make first contact. This strong story looks at Andy Warhol's concept of fifteen-minutes of fame and is made more poignant by being written as a series of flashbacks. From the pages of another Datlow and Windling anthology, Black Swan White Raven, "The Black Fairy's Curse" by Karen Joy Fowler continues that author's examination of self and identity in a short, but powerful, dream-like story.

Many names which are not familiar to genre readers are also included in the anthology. Emma Donoghue's Irish fairy tale, "The Tale of the Skin," opens the anthology with a genre which has been proven near and dear to the editors' hearts. Donoghue's rendition of the fairy tale in the first person by one of the principals is an interesting treatment, not least of all because it treats the events seriously, as opposed to many first person retellings which satire the traditional form. Steve Stern's satirical "The Sin of Elijah" envisions the prophet using his supernatural powers to spy on mortals' intimate moments.

Of course, the contents vary widely, and what one reader enjoys, another reader will wonder why it was included. For instance, I could do without the poetry Terri Windling continues to intersperse between the stories, but this is a personal preference and the eight poems in this edition may have ousted a single short story, so no great harm is done. Similarly, I'm not a fan of Thomas Canty and wouldn't mind seeing the covers done by several different fantasy artists. However, the Canty covers do help provide the works with an exterior identity that other best-of-year anthologies lack.

As in previous years, epic fantasy, which forms such a large part of the novel market, and sword-and-sorcery fantasy are missing from the anthology. It isn't clear whether this is due to a lack of quality traditional (in the genre-sense) fantasy being published or whether it merely represents a matter of the taste of the specific editors. However, the breadth of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror still makes it the leader in the "Year's Best" category. Given the range of sources Datlow and Windling examine, much of the material will be new, even to the most avid reader. Similarly, the stories Datlow and Windling select seem less likely to be widely reprinted, despite their quality.

Table of Contents
Emma Donoghue The Tale of the Skin
Jaimes Alsop Beauty and the Beast (poem)
John Kessel Gulliver at Home
Nancy Pickard It Had to Be You
Leslie Dick The Skull of Charlotte Corday
Douglas Clegg I Am Infinite; I Contain Multitudes
Christopher Jones Coffee Jerk at the Gates of Hell (poem)
Charles Grant Riding the Black
Christopher Harmon In the Fields
Nicholas Royle Mbo
Jeffrey Shaffer Winner Take All
Gary A. Braunbeck Safe
Howard Waldrop El Castillo de la Perseverancia
Brennen Wysong The Sin-Eater's Tale
Steven Millhauser A Visit
Sonia Gernes A Globe of Glass
Ellen Kushner & Delia ShermanThe Fall of the Kings
Bill Lewis Coyote and the White Folks (poem)
Bill Lewis Sheela Na Gig (poem)
Michael Cadnum The Flounder's Kiss
Paul J. McAuley & Kim Newman Residuals
Molly Brown The Psychomantium
Michael Chabon In the Black Mill
P.D. Cacek Dust Motes
Pat Mora La Muerte (poem)
Christopher Fowler Spanky's Back in Town
Denise Duhamel Marriage (poem)
Nicholas Royle Kingyo no fun
Norman Partridge Bucket of Blood
A. Alvarez Mermaid (poem)
Caitlín R. Kiernan Estate
Steve Stern The Sin of Elijah
Ray Bradbury Driving Blind
Joyce Carol Oates The Sky-Blue Ball
Karen Joy Fowler The Black Fairy's Curse
Peter S. Beagle The Last Song of Sirit Byar
Mayra Santos-Febres Marina's Fragrance
Emily Warn Setting Celestial Signs on Terrestrial Beings (poem)
Jane Yolen Rabbit Hole
Charles de Lint Wild Horses
Matthew Sweeney Princess
Jack Womack Audience
Robert Clinton Merlin
Stephen Laws The Crawl
Katherine Vaz The Remains of Kaiulani's Garden
Vitram Chandra Dharma

Copyright © 1998 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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