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Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

St. Martin's Press


496pp/$17.95/July 1999

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Cover by Tom Canty

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The twelfth edition of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror continues to be the most literary and wide ranging of the year's best anthologies.  Rather than limit themselves to the stories published in the traditional genre magazines and anthologies, Datlow and Windling throw their net to include such mainstream periodicals as The Tampa Tribune Fiction Quarterly and The New Yorker to small press publications Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and The Red Wardrobe to one story which appeared in Datlow's internet venture, Event Horizon.

Both editors are careful to explain in their introductions what their definitions of fantasy and horror are.  This is important partly because they tend to be as inclusive as possible, but also because they fail to include any stories in the epic fantasy tradition which forms the bulk of the fantasy book market.  They also both include a systematic survey of some of the novels published in their respective fields with notes which will allow readers to search out worthwhile books which they may otherwise have missed.

Fantasy and horror come across as being at different points of the spectrum within the same genre.  Horror is simply fantasy with a dark twist, although each subgenre still contains a lot of range.  The horror stories represented in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror range from Rick Kennett's Australian ghost story, "Due West" to Terry Dowling's disturbing story of conjoined twins, "Jenny Come to Play."  The fantasy tales spread from Nicholas DiChario's retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid," "Carp Man" to the H.P. Lovecraft pastiche "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar," by Neil Gaiman.

Other notable stories include Judy Budnitz's humorous look at Eastern European life and the reason baby-making is no longer an occupation in "Hershel" and Lisa Goldstein's Victorian exploration tale "The Fantasma of Q_______."  Karen Joy Fowler revisits the world of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels in "The Travails," a series of letters written by Gulliver's wife and concluding with her opinions of the human race.  Michael Blumlein's "Revenge" tells the story of a man who seeks vengeance and how his obsession adversely effects his own life.

As always, Windling has chosen to include several poems throughout the anthology, many of them written using mythical and legendary figures, beginning with Marisa de los Santos's "Wiglaf," about one of the warriors from the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf to "Mrs Dumpty," a poem by Chana Bloch which is only really disturbing when the reader knows the information Windling provides in her introduction to the piece.

The table of contents reveals a mixture of well known authors such as Charles de Lint, Patricia McKillip, A.S. Byatt and Stephen King and lesser known authors.  This may indicate the emergence of a Renaissance within the field of fantasy and horror as newer authors begin to bring innovations to their writing, although at this point it is a little too early to tell.

In the end, I have to say that I'm not sure why there is a need to read Horror fiction when the newspapers are filled with stories like the Colorado and Georgia school shootings and the attrocities committed in Kosovo (by both Serbs and Albanians).  While some of the stories Datlow has chosen to include, "Jenny Com to Play" for instance, manage to approximate the horrors of those real life events, it is diluted by the knowledge that it is fictitious.

Author Story
Kelly Link Travels with the Snow Queen
Steve Duffy Running Dogs
Marisa de los Santos Wiglaf (poem)
Susanna Clarke Mrs. Mabb
Rick Kennett Due West
Catharine Savage Brosman Kokopelli (poem)
Bruce Glassco Taking Loup
Sara Douglass The Evil Within
Larry Fontenot Wile E. Coyote's Lament (poem)
Mary Rosenblum The Rainmaker
Michael Marshall Smith A Place to Stay
Lisa Goldstein The Fantasma of Q________
Ralph Salisbury Hoopa, The White Deer Dance
Stephen King That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French
Karen Joy Fowler The Travails
Terry Lamsley Suburban Blight
Dennis Etchison Inside the Cackle Factory
Kurahashi Yumiko The House of the Black Cat
John Kessel Every Angel is Terrifying
Neil Gaiman Shoggoth's Old Peculiar
Lawrence Osgood Great Sedna
Sylvia Browning The Bird Chick
Mark W. Tiedemann Psyché
Carol Ann Duffy Mrs. Beast (poem)
Jane Yolen Becoming a Warrior
Norman Partridge Blackbirds
Nicholas DiChario CarpMan
Delia Sherman The Faerie Cony-catcher
Zan Ross At the River of Crocodiles (poem)
Steven Millhauser Clair de Lune
Jorge Luis Borges The Rose of Paracelsus
Peter Straub Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff
Michael Blumlein Revenge
Holly Prado The Tall, Upheaving One (poem)
Patricia A. McKillip Oak Hill
Christopher Harman Jackdaw Jack
Sarah Corbett Dark Moon (poem)
Ellen Kushner The Death of the Duke
Judy Budnitz Hershel
Ray Vukcevich By the Time We Get to Uranus
Kelly Link The Specialist's Hat
Charles de Lint Twa Corbies
Terry Dowling Jenny Come to Play
Ilan Stavans Blimunda
Chana Bloch Mrs. Dumpty (poem)
A.S. Byatt Cold

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