Summation 2003: Fantasy
Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Welcome to the summation and celebration of the year in fantasy fiction for the seventeenth annual edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror.
That the field of fantastic fiction is alive and flourishing today is due in no small part to the work of our predecessor, Terri Windling. To those readers who will miss her editorial vision, we reply that we are also going to miss reading her version of The Year's Best Fantasy. We look forward, on the other hand, to reading more of Windling's own writing, to her ongoing work as an anthologist, and to seeing more of her paintings and art. As we read and choose stories for The Year's Best, we continue to be inspired by the work of anthologists like Windling, Datlow, Gardner Dozois, Stephen Jones, Judith Merril, Damon Knight, Robert Silverberg, Lin Carter, Arthur Saha, and Terry Carr. Especially in this transitional year, we are in no doubt that we missed some wonderful fantasy stories, collections, and novels. Recommendations are always welcome.
For readers dreading a radical departure with a set of new editors, we acknowledge that our tastes and editorial direction can't possibly match up, in all aspects, with Windling's. For that matter, Gavin's taste is different from Kelly's taste. We also acknowledge that our introduction may not be as thorough or as informed as Windling's introductions. We begin this year with a summation somewhere between a survey of the field and a commentary. We suggest that readers interested in discovering further in-depth essays, lists, and informed opinions on the year in genre fiction, that they consult Web sites like www.locusmag.com, and www.fantasticmetropolis.com, which point out notable books. There are also Web sites like www.endicott-studio.com and www.artistswithoutborders.org, on which Terri Windling and others continue to discuss and recommend and seek out stories, novels, music, performances, and other noteworthy examples of the fantastic in the arts.
We hope that readers of every category of the fantastic will find something here to delight them. As in previous volumes of The Year's Best, we have tried to include a broad spectrum of works and styles: epic fantasy, fairy tales, surrealism, dark fantasy, and all stops in between. We recognize that the fantasy field isbroader than our tastes. While each The Year's Best anthology is representative of a particular editor's preferences and biases, we have attempted in our half of this anthology to collect in one place those stories that delighted and surprised and moved us, as well as to produce a survey of the best in a field whose strength comes from its rich and varied traditions.
That there continues to be such a wealth of fantastic fiction, some of it appearing in mainstream publications, shelved in mainstream categories, while genre publishers and small-press publishers and various small-magazines of all descriptions continue to produce outstanding and notable works, seems to us a sign of the good health of the genre. The fact that much vigorous cross-pollination seems to be going on, while specialization continues to thrive, seems like a good thing for both readers and writers.
In 2003 the National Book Foundation awarded Stephen King the Distinguished Contributions to American Letters Medal; Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and J. R. R. Tolkien continued to find new readers; Peter Jackson's The Return of the King won eleven Oscars; Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon edited an issue of McSweeney's magazine devoted to pulp-style fiction; and J. K. Rowling became the U.K.'s richest woman. The borders between genre and mainstream began to seem extremely thin (even uncomfortably thin to some writers and readers).
Closer to home, while genre magazine subscriptions continue to fall (and we encourage every reader to subscribe to at least one of the major genre magazines), the field has seen growth (for better and for worse) from small press, online, 'zine, and print-on-demand publishers.
For better: The work of more writers and artists is accessible to readers. Night Shade, PS Publishing, Subterranean, Prime, Wheatland Press, and other small presses published some of our favorite books of the year: K. J. Bishop's novel, The Etched City (Prime); M. John Harrison's collection, Things That Never Happen (Night Shade); Jay Lake and Deborah Layne's anthology series Polyphony (Wheatland); Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts's The Thackeray T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases (Night Shade); Elizabeth Hand's collection Bibliomancy (PS Publishing); Steve Rasnic Tem's Book of Days (Subterranean).
For worse: In the rush to make more work and more writers available, the editing at some small-press venues seems to consist of accepting stories rather than working with authors (and designers, copy editors, and proofreaders). This seems unfortunate when there are excellent online and print resources to help nascent editors and publishers with design, distribution, and art. Much of the small-press and 'zine publishing is a labor of love rather than a career, but one might as well learn to love design and copyediting.
Mainstream publishing, of course, has its own pitfalls: The midlist continues to shrink as do midlist advances, editors have far less time for actual editing, and publishing houses continue to be bought up, or merged, or streamlined.
A happier problem is that we found there were far too many excellent novellas and longer stories, a plethora, a richness, a more-than-we-can-collectness of exceptionallong work. We could easily have filled half of this volume with a handful of stories like Greer Gilman's "A Crowd of Bone," or on the other hand, half a dozen stories by Lucius Shepard. (It seemed to be a year for long novels, as well, although there is a trend toward publishing some of these novels in two installments, since chain bookstores are leery of stocking hardcovers priced over $25.) Since there are now at least three annual Year's Best anthologies--plus Jonathan Strahan's upcoming Best Short Novels: 2004 (Science Fiction Book Club)--here should be more opportunities to find reprints of some of these longer stories.
We have noted and will continue to note reprints of special interest. Whenever possible, we attempt to cover English-language novels and collections published outside the United States. Again, we have undoubtedly missed many excellent books. In future volumes, we hope to become more thorough at locating work of interest.
Where to find good books: There seems to us to be no shortage of review outlets available online or in libraries. We suggest starting with Locus Online, which offers links to various review sites, magazines, and publishers. For those who prefer reading on paper we recommend Locus, Chronicle, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Publishers Weekly, The Women's Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and Mark Ziesing Bookseller's catalogs. And when you can't find obscure or out-of-rint books at local independent stores, we recommend www.bookfinder.com.
Looking at trends in fantasy, the New Weird (a mostly U.K. movement that includes writers M. John Harrison, China Miéville, Justina Robson, and K. J. Bishop) staked out a piece of territory that rejected Tolkien-flavored epic fantasy in favor of Mervyn Peake and quirkier fare. In the United States, 2003 saw the launch of two nonprofits whose stated missions are to support artists and writers (we are members of both groups).
Organizational genius Mary Anne Mohanranj founded the Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF), which offers memberships and a Web site (www.speculativeliterature.org) with pages of useful recommendations for readers, writers, editors, and publishers, as well as information on workshops, and magazine and book listings. By the time this anthology comes out, the SLF will have awarded the first Fountain Award for Short Fiction which comes with a $1,000 prize. The second group, the Interstitial Arts Foundation (IAF), is the ambitious project of writers and editors Terri Windling, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, Midori Snyder, Heinz Inzu Fenkl, and others interested in art of any description that crosses borders. By definition, interstitial art is hard to pin down, and this slipperiness tends to make even the definition of interstitial an interstitial act. The IAF spent the year creating a community of readers, academics, writers, and artists and setting up a long-term plan for support of artists and writers. Both groups have large Web sites with much information available for the curious.
Top Twenty (Plus)
The following books were our favorites of the year. There should be something here for every kind of reader, be he or she a fan of epic fantasy, magic realism, short stories, surrealism, young adult, interstitial/New Weird/just plain weird, or dark fantasy. In alphabetical order by author:
The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker (Tor) is the first fantasy novel from the author of the acclaimed Company novels. It's an immensely enjoyable romp reminiscent, in its style and dry sense of humor, of master storytellers Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber. Baker's novel weaves together the stories of thieves and demons, goddesses and master assassins, and its environmental theme goes down pleasantly when presented with such deadpan wit.
The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales edited by Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson (Story Line) is an embarrassment of riches. Beaumont and Carlson have collected over a hundred English-language fairy-tale poems, mostly from the latter half of the last century. Poets include Anne Sexton, Carol Ann Duffy, Neil Gaiman, Randall Jarrell, Galway Kinnell, Allen Tate, Louise Glück, and Jane Yolen. Like Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes's The Rattle Bag, this is an anthology to savor and to read aloud.
The Etched City by K. J. Bishop (Prime) is baroque, digressive, deeply strange, and compulsively readable, something like M. John Harrison's Viriconium novels, or Jeffrey Ford, or the fables of Isak Dinesen. It was not only Kelly's favorite first novel this year but also one of her favorite novels of the year. Bantam is reprinting The Etched City in 2004, but it's worth noting that Bishop herself pro- . vided the cover art for this edition.
The Truth About Celia by Kevin Brockmeier (Pantheon) took us utterly by surprise. Brockmeier, the author of the surreal collection Things That Fall from the Sky, tells a story in which, like The Lovely Bones, a young girl's disappearance profoundly affects her family. Told from the point of view of Celia's father, a best-selling novelist who finds himself unable to write the next book in his fantasy series, this book is moving, profound, and delightful, despite its subject matter.
Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold (Eos) is the immensely satisfying sequel to the immensely satisfying, traditional epic fantasy The Curse of Chalion. Bujold handles religion, political intrigue, and intelligent, strongwilled characters with great aplomb.
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (Knopf) is an outstanding, emotionally engaging thriller in which a Thai Buddhist police officer attempts to solve the murder of his friend and partner. There is a strong but submerged fantastical element involving reincarnation, and Burdett's fantastical/realistic landscape and characters, his view of the sex trade industry in Thailand, and the distinctly oddball crime (murder by snakes) should grip readers from the very first chapter.
The Berlin Years by Marcel Dzama (McSweeney's) is a collection of prints and a sketchbook by a Canadian artist whose subject matter is decidedly fantastic and frequently grotesque: tree people, small children who live in holes, women whose legs are made up of tiny biting animals, Dracula, Dracula's aunt.Dzama uses root beer to produce the watery tints (browns, greens, and yellows), and his sketchbook could provide inspiration for a hundred strange stories or dreams. Fans of The Lord of the Rings movies should note that the introductory essay is by Viggo Mortensen.
Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was by Angélica Gorodischer and translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer), is the first English-language translation of Gorodischer, a best-seller in Argentina, and the author of eighteen other books. Kalpa Imperial is politically charged epic magic realism. Le Guin's translation is deft, gorgeous, and perfectly pitched.
Things That Never Happen by M. John Harrison (Night Shade) is, strictly speaking, neither fantasy, science fiction, nor horror, but something entirely its own. There's probably no better shorthand introduction to the New Weird than these stories, which are haunting, uncanny, revelatory, and indescribably strange. Harrison, author of the dazzling Viriconium novels, and more recently the novel Light, is as much a master of the short-story form.
The Salt Road by Nalo Hopkinson (Warner) is an energetic, ambitious, tripartite story of three women whose lives are bound together by a spirit created when one of them buries the body of a stillborn child in the river. The spirit moves freely between the bodies of the three women, and Hopkinson's novel pulls together issues of race, gender, sexuality, and religion. Hopkinson's rhythms--from the sentence level to striking typography and her deliberate use of short and snappy chapters -- make this novel, which has some very dark parts, a joy to read.
Fudoki by Kij Johnson (Tor) is a thoughtful and beautifully written novel of transformation set in medieval Japan, in which an empress at the end of her very long life tells the story of a tortoiseshell cat who becomes a woman and a warrior. This should appeal to readers of historical and adventure novels. It also offers a great deal of insight into gender, community, and the impulses, both creative and destructive, that lead to writing and to fighting wars. Like Johnson's elegant and highly praised debut novel The Fox Woman, Fudoki is a book to savor and reread.
The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow) was published as a young-adult novel, but this sprawling, twisty book, full of likeably badtempered characters and complicated kinds of magic will, like most of Jones's work, also appeal to adult readers. It takes place in the same world (or series of worlds) as Jones's earlier novel Deep Secret, although it's not necessary to have read one novel to enjoy the other.
The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein (Del Rey) follows The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret. This long-awaited cross-genre sequel does what good sequels do best: It takes everything that the characters and readers learned in the previous books and turns it upside down. This should appeal to fantasy and science fiction fans of Le Guin, Bujold, and Hobb.
Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt) is an illustrated collection, a whimsical and philosophical discursion on travel, culture, and language. It hangs on the discovery that interplanal travel is possible -- but only while waiting at airports. Highly recommended to travelers -- especially if your journey involves an airport layover.
Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire (HarperCollins) reworks the Snow White fairy tale and the historical story of the Borgia family, and the resulting hybrid is beautiful, rich, and compelling. Maguire, the author of Wicked, writes extraordinarily sympathetic and three-dimensional characters, and he is a master prose stylist.
In the Forests of Serre (Ace) is the latest from World Fantasy Award-winner Patricia A. McKillip, who has a poet's grasp of love, grief, and the costly consequences of mistakes of omission. McKillip uses language to dazzle and illuminate by turn in this high-fantasy novel of witches, princes, and white hens. If the overall mood is somewhat melancholic, that's appropriate in a work that incorporates Russian fairy-tale figures like Baba Yaga and the Firebird.
Firebirds, edited by Sharyn November (Firebird), is the standout fantasy anthology of 2003. November, who launched the imprint in 2002, solicited stories from authors on the Firebird list. We reprint stories by Megan Whalen Turner and Nina Kiriki Hoffman in this anthology, and wished we could have included stories from Diana Wynne Jones and Delia Sherman, and an Emma Bull story told in comic-book format and illustrated by Charles Vess.
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins) sends a vampire, an Igor, and a girl in drag, among others, off to fight in a pointless war. It's a toss-up whether Pratchett's novels are so funny that they hurt, or whether you laugh, reading them, because otherwise his deft, insightful, always topical observations would hurt too much.
Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls by Matt Ruff (HarperCollins) is a fantastical, screwball-style story of the somewhat crowded love affair that takes place between a man and a woman, both of whom have multiple personalities. Ruff is the author of the classic fantasy novel Fool on the Hill, and the winner of this year's James Tiptree Jr. Award.
The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts (Night Shade) is as Borgesian, weird, engrossing (and frequently grotesque) anthology as might be hoped for when sixty-five writers contribute their own take on diseases that aren't. Contributors include Rikki Ducornet, Neil Gaiman, Shelley Jackson, Zoran Zivkovic, and others.
Tonguecat by Peter Verhelst (FSG), translated from the Dutch by Sherry Marx, stands out as imaginative, surreal, and utterly unlike anything else we read this year. It is perhaps Gavin's favorite novel of the year. Told in multiple perspectives, Verhelst mixes myth and social commentary, explores gender roles and the truths told in fairy tales, and juxtaposes our fears of the future with the violence underpinning the present.
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton (Tor) is an absolute delight in the way it blends social comedies (Austen, Trollope, and Heyer) with dragons taken straight from epic fantasy. As with Watership Down, the characters are perfectly believable and sympathetic, even though they aren't humans, and Walton's writing is sharp, funny, and addictive. This is one of the oddest books we read this year and it was also one of Kelly's favorites.
K. J. Bishop's The Etched City (Prime) is by far the best fantasy genre debut of the year: discursive, philosophic, populated with mercenaries, thugs, doctors, artists, and priests whose dialogue is as pointed and witty as their weapons. Bishop's fantastical urban setting should appeal to fans of China Miéville, Fritz Leiber, Tanith Lee, Jeff VanderMeer, and Angela Carter.
In the mainstream, Kevin Brockmeier's first adult novel, The Truth About Celia (Pantheon), is lovely and utterly compelling, and the metafictional device that holds the novel together (the author, we are told, is not Brockmeier, but instead the narrator of the book, a best-selling epic-fantasy novelist) allows Brockmeier to explore the ways in which real life and the fantastic intersect. Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife (MacAdam/Cage) is a lyrical and at times sentimental mainstream novel about the nature of love and time, and a most unconventional marriage.
As well as the Walton, McKillip, Baker, and Bujold listed in the Top Twenty, we recommend the following novels:
Robin Hobb is one of today's best and most reliable writers of traditional epic fantasy. Golden Fool continues the Tawny Man series. Hobb's latest is a page-turner that explores and elaborates, in highly enjoyable fashion, identity, gender, and politics. Lynn Flewelling's Hidden Warrior (Bantam), a sequel to the excellent dark fantasy The Bone Doll's Twin, is an extremely gripping read. Flewelling's characters are compelling, her politics and gender roles are intricate without in any way slowing down the action, and the mythology and magic of her world are something out of the ordinary. Steve Cockayne's The Iron Chain (Orbit, U.K.) is the second volume of the Legends of the Land trilogy and stands out for its strong writing, realistically quirky characterizations, and Cockayne's inventive fantasy setting. Greg Keyes's The Briar King (Ballantine) is the first volume in an epic-fantasy trilogy by the author of The Waterborn and Newton's Cannon. The Briar King doesn't particularly deviate from the general outlines of the standard epic-fantasy novel -- a feudal kingdom is threatened by an ancient evil -- but Keyes's writing is a notch above most, and the story compels. Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey (Tor) is the final novel of the highly acclaimed and much-loved erotic dark-fantasy trilogy. Cecelia Dart-Thornton, a writer of considerable talent, concludes her Bitterbynde trilogy with the baroque high fantasy Battle of Evernight (Aspect). The Wolves of Calla by Stephen King (Donald M. Grant/Scribner) is the fifth (of seven) in the Dark Tower series, which has always owed as much of a debt to fantasy as to horror. King not only tells a great story here, he gives his characters wonderful digressive stories to tell, and in this book he begins to weave together some rather metafictional elements that suggest connections between earlier King novels as well as hinting that King himself will be a character in his own work. The Crystal City by Orson Scott Card (Tor) is thesixth in his fantastic alternate Early American Tales of Alvin Maker series of alternate historical fantasies. This installment is a return to form after some rather draggy middle books in the series.
Fans of traditional fantasy (especially in series format) may enjoy the following books: Impossible Odds by Dave Duncan (Eos) is a dark, strong entry in his King's Blades series. Goddess of the Ice Realm by David Drake (Tor) is a new book in the Lord of the Isles saga, a well-written and intelligent epic fantasy based on Sumerian culture and religion. Lords of the Rainbow by Vera Nazarian (Betancourt/Wildside) is a baroque fantasy that may appeal to fans of Tanith Lee's Flat Earth novels. Julian May begins a new fantasy series with Conqueror's Moon (Ace). Mercedes Lackey's Joust (DAW), expanded from a novella in The Dragon Quintet (SFBC) is the tale of a serf who becomes a dragon rider. Michael Moorcock's The Skrayling Tree: The Albino in America (Warner) is a sequel to The Dreamthief's Daughter in which Oona, Elric of Melniboné's daughter, and her husband Ulrik von Bek travel back into America's precolonial past. Kaoru Kurimoto's The Guin Saga, Book One: The Leopard Mask (Vertical) is the first in a series of one hundred books, eighty-seven of which have been published in Japan, concerning the adventures of an amnesiac warrior with the mask of a leopard fixed permanently upon his head. Tad Williams offers a somewhat formulaic, character-driven stand-alone fairy novel, The War of the Flowers (DAW). Paper Mage (Roc), author Leah R. Cutter's first fantasy novel, is appealing for its strong writing, compelling female characters, and an unusual setting that uses origami and Chinese mythology to tell a story set during the Tang dynasty. The Glasswright's Test by Mindy L. Klasky (Roc) is the fourth novel in a fast-moving, entertaining series with a strong female protagonist, Rani Trader. Steven Brust continues his intricate though enjoyably Dumas-influenced Viscount of Adrilankha trilogy in The Lord of Castle Black (Tor). Jane Lindskold's The Dragon of Despair (Tor) is the third in her character-driven, imaginative fantasy of humans and wolves. Terry McGarry provided a strong and well-written, character-driven midseries volume with The Binder's Road (Tor). The same can be said for Ricardo Pinto's byzantine The Standing Dead (Tor). Storm Constantine ended her Magravandias trilogy with The Way of the Light (Tor), and in The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure (Tor) she returns to her Wraeththu series. Will Allen's lighthearted quest novel Swords for Hire (CenterPunch), written in response to The Princess Bride, is published twenty-four years later by the late author's brother. Based on the classic Indian story, "The Ramayana," Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker (Warner) is the first book of a baroque and inventive series that was very popular in the United Kingdom. Tanith Lee's Venus Preserved (Overlook) might be of interest to fantasy readers. This far-future thriller has some fantasy overtones and is the conclusion to her Secret Books of Venus series.
Ongoing popular epic fantasy series and bestsellers include Echoes of Eternity by Maggie Furey (Bantam Spectra), Devlin's Honor by Patricia Bray (Bantam Spectra), The Gates of Dawn by Robert Newcomb (Del Rey), The Grand Crusade by Michael Stackpole (Bantam Spectra), and High Druid of Shannara: Jarka Ruus by Terry Brooks (Del Rey); Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan(Tor); Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond Feist (Eos); Naked Empire by Terry Goodkind (Tor); The Elder Gods by David and Leigh Eddings (Aspect); R. A. Salvatore's The Lone Drow (WoTC). Lastly, Anne McCaffrey added a new Pern volume, Dragon's Kin (Del Rey), to her ongoing series. This is her first collaboration with her son Todd.
Contemporary and Urban Fantasy
In addition to the Brockmeier and Ruff novels and the Le Guin collection from the Top Twenty, we highly recommend two excellent contemporary vampire fantasies. The first is Dayliglht (Ballantine) by New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox. Knox's protagonist is a bomb-disposal expert and climber who encounters beautiful vampires and troubling miracles in the caves and coves off the coast of the Cinque Terre. Every bit as sensual and beautifully written as Daylight is Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which features an eponymous narrator, a baker with a mysterious and magical past who becomes entangled in the machinations of rival vampires. McKinley's writing is literally delicious, and the sections of the novel that concern baking are as thrilling as the parts with vampires. Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires (Tor) is an entertaining entry in his Newford series, although newcomers might be advised to start with an earlier Newford novel. The spirit world bleeds through to the real world via the Internet, which may make this novel a new subgenre: the cyber-urban fantasy. Also of note: From a Whisper to a Scream (Orb), a reprint of de Lint's first Newford novel, originally published in 1992 under the pseudonym Samuel M. Key. Like Mulengro, this is a somewhat darker fantasy than many of de Lint's other books. Sparkle Hayter's comic Naked Brunch (Three Rivers) is the beginning of a new mystery series set in Manhattan and featuring Annie Engel, legal secretary by day, werewolf by night. Steve Tomasula's short surrealistic love fable In & Oz (Ministry of Whimsy) is reminiscent of Alisdair Gray's Lanark in its invention but retains a sliver of optimism--that even in our over-commodified society, we can reach across borders and touch someone else. Robert Freeman Wexler's doppelganger novella In Springdale Town (PS Publishing) is small-town (rather than urban) fantasy, where two men visit Springdale and find their lives inextricably intertwined. In Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Fantasy Life (Pocket) a women has to protect her family from the fantastic creatures who still live on the Oregon coast. Michael Cisco's The Tyrant (Prime) is a dark gothic fantasy in which the borders between death and life are permeable and intertwined.
Historical, Alternate-History, and Arthurian Fantasy
2003 was a good year for readers of historical fiction. Besides the Hopkinson and Johnson titles from the Top Twenty, the following novels were among the best: World Fantasy Award-winners Gwyneth Jones and Robert Holdstock both offer Arthurian-related novels. Jones's third book in her Bold as Love series, Midnight Lamp (Gollancz), is a fantasy-tinged, mythic, alternate world science-fiction novel about rock and roll, politics, and love. The Bold as Love series, which is asinterstitial as you can get, will be published in the United States by Night Shade starting in 2005, and we highly recommend seeking them out. Holdstock begins an Arthurian series, The Merlin Codex, with Celtika (Tor) in which, long before the time of Camelot, Merlin is busily influencing history. The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells (Eos) is the energetic and entertaining first book in a trilogy set in Ile-Rein, a country that seems modeled on Great Britain in World War II. Instead of taking us to the front, Wells gives us the story of a woman finding herself awakened to the world and the difference she might make. Peter David's sequel to Knight Life, One Knight Only (Ace), is a contemporary Arthurian in which Arthur Penn, mayor of New York, brings Camelot back to Washington. The Light Ages by Ian R. MacLeod (Ace) envisions an alternate nineteenth-century England where industry and wealth are powered by aether -- magic made physical. The novel has a slow, somewhat languorous pace, and the narrator holds the reader at a distance, but MacLeod's writing and vision of the world are, as always, compelling. The Druid King by Norman Spinrad (Knopf) is a dark historical novel about Vercingetorix, a Gaul who stood up to Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. No one comes to a particularly good end, but the rich variety of (mostly male) characters, the fragmentary alliances, and a touch of the fantastic (Vercingetorix is a leader and a druid) will keep the reader engaged. Jasper Fforde's latest jurisfictional novel, Lost in a Good Book (Penguin), sends intrepid agent Thursday Next off to meet Miss Havisham and tidy up an assassination plot in Wuthering Heights. Liverpool Fantasy by musician Larry Kirwan (Thunder's Mouth) is a black comedy that asks what would have happened if the Beatles had split in 1962. Apparently the answer involves Vegas, the priesthood, unemployment, and househusbandry.
Also of note: Le Morte D'Avalon by J. Robert King (Tor), third in an Arthurian trilogy, is told from the point of view of Morgan Le Fay. Prince of Dreams: A Tale of Tristan and Essylte (Del Rey) by Nancy McKenzie is the third in her series and features Tristan, son of Meliodas, who falls in love with his uncle's wife, Essylte. Australian writer Juliet Marillier's novel Wolfskin (Tor) begins with marauding Scandinavians arriving in Orkney and shows the ways in which Christian, Norse, and Pictish societies intermingle. Harry Turtledove delivered the latest of his unusual alternate war histories with Jaws of Darkness (Tor), where magic is as powerful as conventional weapons. Steven Barnes's Zulu Heart (Warner) continues the story begun in Lion's Blood. Judith Tarr's House of War (Roc) is a historical novel of Richard the Lionheart, King of Jerusalem. Sara Douglass is apparently Australia's most successful fantasy author and she is rapidly building an audience in the United States. This year her books (all from Tor) include Beyond the Hanging Wall, Hades' Daughter, the first of a new series set in Ancient Greece, and The Troy Game. Madeleine E. Robins's Point of Honor (Forge) is a Regency intrigue set in an alternate historical London. Manda Scott's Dreaming the Eagle (Delacorte) is a novel about the rebellious Queen Boudica. Sarah A. Hoyt finishes off her Shakespearean trilogy with Any Man So Daring (Ace). Finally, Robert Silverberg's Roma Eterna (Eos) is a detailed and impressive imagination of a Roman Empire that never fell.
Besides the following titles mentioned elsewhere -- Monstrous Regiment, Terry Pratchett; Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde; One Knight Only, Peter David; Naked Brunch, Sparkle Hayter; I. Lucifer, Glen Duncan; Swords for Hire, Will Allen; Liverpool Fantasy, Larry Kirwan; and Fluke, Christopher Lamb -- we recommend Witpunk edited by Marty Halpern and Claude Lalumiere (Four Walls Eight Windows), an anthology of short fiction that is at times funny, satirical, and downright loopy.
Page for page, the funniest thing we read this year was The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson (Andrews McMeel), an eighteen-pound, 1,272-page deluxe two-volume set collecting over four thousand Far Side cartoons as well as hate mail and queries from fans and confused readers.
Finally, two Gollancz spoofs of reader-beloved fantasies hit the best-seller charts this year: Michael Gerber's Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel and Adam Roberts's The Soddit: Cashing In Again.
Fantasy in the Mainstream
We found many, many books in the mainstream this year, of which we particularly recommend the Brockmeier, Ruff, and Verholst novels from the Top Twenty. Also among the best of the year (and we have tried to be as thorough as possible, in order to point out books that genre readers might otherwise miss) are the following novels.
Perhaps the biggest breakout success was Audrey Niffenegger's extremely appealing romantic novel, The Time Traveler's Wife (MacAdam/Cage), whose premise and structure (instead of a linear life, a man stutters through time) was new to many of its mainstream readers. Fish, Blood and Bone by Leslie Forbes (FSG) is a beautifully written mystery reminiscent of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and A. S. Byatt's Possession, which follows two stories, one present-day and the other set in the nineeteenth century, both moving between London and India. Part murder mystery, part eco thriller, part historical meditation on colonialism, the opium trade, and Jack the Ripper, Forbes also introduces parallels between the two story lines that suggest a kind of literary, genetic, and supernatural reincarnation is being played out. Louise Murphy's The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Penguin) manages to use the titular fairy tale to tell a story of lost children in Poland during World War II. There is enormous weight to this story and tremendous moral complexity. Edward Carey's slim second novel Alva and Irva : The Twins Who Saved a City (Harcourt) is illustrated with photographs of Entrella, the imagined European city at the heart of the story. One sister, Irva, is agoraphobic, and her sister maps out Entrella for her. From Alva's notes, Irva builds a three-dimensional model of the city--which, given the city's earthquake-filled past, seems in some ways more permanent than the original. Carey, a precise writer whose first novel Observational Mansions is also recommended,is making up his own world as he goes along, and we recommend his work to adventurous genre readers.
Albert Goldbarth is best known for his award-winning frequently fantastical poetry and essay collections. In his first novel, Pieces of Payne (Graywolf), Goldbarth himself narrates the first section, sitting in a bar with a friend. The second section's fifty footnotes annotate the first section and many more subjects in Goldbarth's vivid and energetic style. In Glen Duncan's darkly comic I, Lucifer (Grove) a deal with the devil has Lucifer attempting to live a good life on earth to earn a place in Heaven. A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong, translated by Julia Lovell (Columbia University), is an excellent translation of a magical novel in which modern Chinese culture and Chinese folklore intermingle. Maqiao is an imaginary village in rural China to which Han, the author/narrator, and his cadre of "Educated Youth" have been sent during the Cultural Revolution. Shaogong's novel should appeal to fans of A Hundred Years of Solitude. In The Grasshopper King, Jordan Ellenberg's Young Lions Award-nominated debut (Coffee House), an obscure poet from a tiny country within the former USSR may be the key to understanding not only all of modern literature but also all politics, and especially war. Ellenberg's involving characters are spot-on and his inventive details unflagging -- especially the Gravinic language with its exactitude and multiple simultaneous meanings.
Also of interest: Tom Robbins's Villa Incognito (Bantam) is another of his trademark eccentric and fantastic novels, which brings together a young woman with a chrysanthemum seed embedded in the roof of her mouth, three American MIAs, and the Asian trickster figure Tanuki. Roberto Pazzi's Conclave, translated by Oonagh Stransky, (Steerforth Italia) is a satirical and surreal novel of a papal election. Jeane Wakatsuki Houston's The Legend of Fire Horse Woman (Kensington), by the author of the memoir Farewell to Manzanar, concerns the American Japanese internment camps, weaving together Native American, Japanese, and American history, and also the spirit world. Anne Roiphe's Secrets of the City (Shaye Areheart) is a political and religious fable first published in serial form in The Forward. Alice Hoffman's The Probable Future (Doubleday) is a novel about the descendants of a young woman, Rebecca Sparrow, drowned for witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts. Returning as Shadows (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's) by Paco Ignacio Taibo and translated by Ezra E. Fitz, is a follow-up to his 1991 novel, The Story of a Shadow. This sequel is a political secret history set in neutral Mexico in 1941, ornamented with enough touches of magic and the fantastic to recommend it to genre readers. Empire of Light by David Czuchlewski (Putnam) was not quite as well received as his debut, The Muse Asylum, but it is still of interest, especially to readers who enjoy novels that look at religions and cults. In Featherstone (Houghton Mifflin), Kirsty Gunn's second novel, a woman -- or perhaps something else -- seems to return to the small town she disappeared from some years before. Gunn's light touch builds slowly toward epiphanic moments. A mysterious woman who seems to be able to heal the sick is at the center of Keith Scribner's exploration of religious belief and faith in Miracle Girl (Riverhead). The Maze (FSG), by British writer Panos Karnezis, tells the story of a Greek army brigade retreating from war in 1922 and the inexplicableevents that surround it. Reminiscent of Catch-22, The Maze also manages to incorporate Greek myths and legend into everyday realism. Michael Scott Moore's Too Much of Nothing (Carroll & Graf) is a darker and sometimes funny tale told from the point of view of the dead. Eric, killed fifteen years before by his Clockwork Orange-obsessed friend Tom, is still trying to work through both his death and his interrupted teenage development. In Deborah Schupack's The Boy on the Bus (Free Press), a mother begins to doubt everything when she becomes convinced that the boy who returns from school one day is not her son. Maxim magazine editor Keith Blanchard delivers a light and surprisingly sentimental urban fantasy in The Deed (Simon & Schuster) in which a twenty something advertising executive is thought to be the heir to the island of Manhattan. Laurie Fox's The Lost Girls (Simon & Schuster) follows the intimate relationship of five generations of women, the descendants of Wendy Darling and Peter Pan. Rikki Ducornet's Gazelle (Knopf) is the coming-of-age story of a thirteen-year-old American girl in 1950s Cairo whose father hires a magician in order to win back his runaway wife. Michael Raleigh's The Blue Moon Circus (Sourcebooks Landmark) is the 1920s coming-of-age story of an orphan who finds a magical circus. Graham Joyce's novel The Stormwatcher has been published for the first time in the United States by Night Shade. A pair of London novels touch on the fantastic: Miles Gibson's Mr. Romance (Do-Not/Dufour) is a light and humorous love story that occasionally breaks into the fantasy mode, while Monique Roffy's August Frost (Atlantic Monthly) is an almost successful magic-realist tale in which August suffers from symbolic symptoms that reflect the condition of the outside world. Diary of a Djinn by Gini Alhadeff (Pantheon) is a first novel about a djinn who inhabits a fashion industry executive's body. David Guterson's Our Lady of the Forest, (Knopf) is a character-driven consideration of the miraculous. Ben Jones's The Rope Eater (Doubleday) concerns the poor souls caught up in a quest for an imaginary island. French surrealist Boris Vian published two novels, Heartsnatcher (Dalkey) and Foam of the Daze (Tam Tam). The late Turkish writer Bilge Karasu's The Garden of Departed Cats (New Directions) mixes fairy tales and fables into a rich and difficult postmodern stew. Taichi Yamada's Strangers (Vertical), translated by Wayne P. Lammers, is a restrained ghost story in which a man, whose parents died when he was twelve, meets them again thirty-six years later. Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina's novel Sepharad (Harcourt), translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, gracefully mixes fiction and nonfiction in tales of disasters, genocide, and the Sephardic diaspora. Ignacio Padilla's first novel to be translated into English -- by Peter Bush and Anne McLean -- Shadow Without a Name (FSG) ranges over the first half of the twentieth century and uses chess and doppelgangers, labyrinths and ambiguity to tell a complex story of logic, identity, and responsibility. Cloud 8 by Grant Bailey (Ig Publishing) is a promising debut: a surreal fable that slowly draws the reader into James Broadhurst's afterlife--like life, but with more Abe Lincolns and no advertising. In Stella Descending, Linn Ullman's fascinating character study, translated by Barbara J. Haveland (Knopf), Stella watches what happens after her own death -- or was it murder?
Of associational interest: Readers might wish to seek out the acclaimed newEdith Grossman translation of Cervantes's Don Quixote (Ecco). Jane Avrich's The Winter Without Milk (Mariner) is a sharp-edged, surreal collection in which Orpheus, Lady Macbeth, and Hester Prynne make appearances. Readers who have a taste for Angela Carter or Shirley Jackson should find much to admire here. Joey Goebel's The Anomalies (MacAdam/Cage) is recommended to Robert Coover and Donald Barthelme fans; this is a truly odd and possibly indescribable novel. Also worth seeking out is Swain Wolfe's The Parrot Trainer (St. Martin's), a good-natured mystery reminiscent of Tom Robbins, in which the spirit of a long-dead woman, trapped in an unbroken Mimbres bowl, is discovered by an eccentric former archeologist. Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude (Doubleday) is a semiautobiographical, semifantastical, intricate, absorbing read concerning comic books, pulp art, childhood, superheroes, music, race, and Brooklyn. Paul Park's Three Marys (Cosmos) is the latest novel by the author of The Gospel of Corax and the outstanding and overlooked collection If Lions Could Speak. Three Marys is a beautifully written novel that follows the lives of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Jodi Picoult's Second Glance (Atria) is a lyrical and involving novel in which a ghost hunter investigates a piece of land that was formerly an Abenaki burial ground, Susan Elderkin's The Voices (Grove) is a coming-of-age novel set near Alice Springs about a boy named Billy Saint and the aboriginal spirits who inhabit the landscape. Christopher Moore's Fluke (Morrow) is a comic speculative novel with strong environmental underpinnings, by the author of The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.
Of all genres, it seems to us that poetry is nearly always touching upon the fantastic and the sublime. For this reason, we feel quite sure that we have missed a great deal of excellent 2004 poetry. Besides Beaumont and Carlson's anthology The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales, mentioned in the Top Twenty, the best of what we saw included the following books.
Mister Goodbye Easter Island by Jon Woodward (Alice James) is original, surreal, and engaging -- perhaps even addictive. Venus Khoury-Ghata's bilingual French/English collection She Says (Graywolf), translated by Marilyn Hacker, illustrates how wonderful and rich a translation can be. It also includes an essay from Khoury-Ghata on why she writes in French rather than Arabic, her native language. Louise Erdrich's third book of poetry, Original Fire: Selected and New Poems (HarperCollins), includes older trickster prose poetry and new poems based on fairy tales. Penelopeia by Jane Rawlings and illustrated by Heather Hurst (Godine) is an inventive extended poem in which, after Odysseus returns from his journeys, Penelope takes their daughter Ailanthis on a series of adventures of her own. Manoucher Parvin's Dardedel (Permanent) is a narrative freeverse poem in which mystic Persian poets Rumi and Hafez begin a dialogue (the titular dardedel) on art, politics, love, and Persian history. They assume the shapes of two cacti, a cabbie, and a Puerto Rican boy in order to follow and influencea hapless, suicidal Iranian academic. Canadian writer and editor Sandra Kasturi gave us a particularly strong anthology of mostly original speculative verse, The Stars as Seen from this Particular Angle of Night (Bakka/Red Deer), including strong work from Patrick O'Leary, Peter Crowther, and Ian Duhig. In Edward Hirsch's Lay Back in the Darkness (Knopf) the author gives voice to Eurydice, as well as to other classical characters from Homer, Ovid, and Virgil. Deborah Keenan's Good Heart (Milkweed) contains a few fantastic-flavored poems. Reminiscent of Anne Sexton's Transformations, Waxworks by Frieda Hughes (the daughter of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath) is a collection of fifty-one poems in which historical, mythological, and biblical characters speak. Ramesh Menon's The Ramayana (FSG/Northpoint) is a new translation of the classic epic poem. Carol Anne Duffy's poetry collection Feminine Gospels (Faber and Faber) explores myth and story in women's voices throughout history.
Also of interest: Ursula K. Le Guin's translation of selections from the five collections of Chilean Nobel Prize-winner Gabriela Mistral in Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral (University of New Mexico Press); Jane Yolen's The Radiation Sonnets: For My Love in Sickness and in Health (Algonquin), written while her husband was undergoing radiation therapy; The Modern Art Cave (Writers Club) edited by Erin Donahoe, a showcase for up-and-coming poets.
More from Elsewhere
The Book of Days by Steve Rasnic Tem is another beautiful book from Subterranean Press, available in a trade or signed-and-lettered editions. This fantastic (in every sense) novel/story suite/collection is composed of fragmentary stories, each structured around a date and an historical event. This was one of Kelly's favorite books of the year. Jeff VanderMeer's Veniss Underground (Prime) is science fiction but has enough fantastic elements to make it of interest, especially to those who enjoy dark fantasy. Prime also published VanderMeer's The Day Dali Died: Poetry and Flash Fiction (Prime), which collects VanderMeer's early short fiction and poetry. Matthew Derby's Super Flat Times (Back Bay) is possibly science fiction but is included here to bring genre readers' attention to this fantastical and odd collection. A New Universal History of Infamy by Welsh writer Rhys Hughes (Ministry of Whimsy/Night Shade Press), presented as a continuation of Jorge Borges's A Universal History of Infamy, is packed with picaresques and parodies written with a very self-aware sense of fun. Amputation: Texts for an Extraordinary Spectacle (Xenos) is the translation of a surreal and violent 1964 play by Jens Bjørneboe, translated from the Norwegian by Solrun Hoaas and Esther Greenlead Miirer. In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot by Graham Roumieu (Manic D) is rude and violent and quite funny. A Taste of Serendib: A Sri Lankan Cookbook by Strange Horizons founder Mary Anne Mohanraj (Lethe) is recommended, although the fantastic is perhaps limited to what might appear if the recipes are followed correctly.
The popular Web site, The Green Man Review, published their first chapbook, Solstice by Jennifer Stevenson (a reprint from The Horns of Elfland anthology).Finally, The Greenwood by Charles Vess and Karen Schaffer is the first five chapters of a new novel, beautifully illustrated by Vess and published by their own Green Man Press.
Single-Author Story Collections
This was a strong year for short fiction. There were excellent debut collections by writers such as Anna Tambour, Tim Pratt, and Alexander C. Irvine. There were long-awaited collections of stories by Elizabeth Hand, Carter Scholz, and Avram Davidson; collections from masters of the short form Howard Waldrop, James Blavlock, Jack Cady, and Ursula K. Le Guin; landmark collections from Bradbury, Sturgeon, George R. R. Martin, Charles de Lint, and Samuel R. Delany. While traditional publishers rarely publish collections and anthologies, there are many small presses enthusiastically jumping into the niche. The Internet (and, of course, libraries) assures that very few books are out of reach of the interested reader.
One of the best collections of the year was World Fantasy Award-winner Elizabeth Hand's Bibliomancy (PS), which collects four novellas in a gorgeous limited edition. Hand is one of the best short-story writers in or out of genre, and hopefully there will be a trade edition at some point, as this one has a rather steep price tag. This was also a very good year for James Blaylock fans. In for a Penny (Subterranean) collects six deft and gentle stories including a standout new story, "The Trismegistus Club," which we would have liked to include here, had we more space. The second Blaylock title is a joint collection with Tim Powers, The Devils in the Details (Subterranean), which includes a new story by each author as well as a collaboration, illustrated by Phil Parks. ¡Limekiller! by the master fantasist Avram Davidson and edited by Grania Davis and Henry Wessells (Old Earth) collects half a dozen of Davidson's Jack Limekiller tales. Highly recommended, as is Pulitzer Prize-winning fabulist Steven Millhauser's The King in the Tree (Knopf), a collection of three novellas in which love and the fantastic intertwine. Australian writer Anna Tambour's debut collection Monterra's Deliciosa & Other Tales & (Prime) is odd and surreal, somewhat uneven in execution, sometimes whimsical, and often wonderfully strange. Master storyteller Ray Bradbury's Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Finest Tales (Morrow) is a bright red, phone-book-sized edition that makes a wonderful gift for readers of any age. With And Now the News ... : The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume IX, North Atlantic's Sturgeon series is one volume away from culmination; Aye, and Gomorrah (Vintage) collects most of Samuel R. Delany's short fiction, both sf and fantasy, published between 1965 and 1988, including four stories previously uncollected in the United States. Charles de Lint's A Handful of Coppers: Collected Early Stories, Vol. I: Heroic Fantasy (Subterranean) is the first in a handsomely produced series. Alexander C. Irvine is a frequent contributor to F&SF and the author of the Crawford-winning novel A Scattering of Jades. His first full-length collection Unintended Consequences (Subterranean) includes one new fantasy story, "A Peaceable Man," as well as the outstanding "Down in the Fog-Shrouded City." Dale Bailey's The Resurrection Man's Legacy(Golden Gryphon) is weighted toward horror, but fans of darker fantasy should also enjoy it. GRRM: A Retrospective (Subterranean), George R. R. Martin's massive collection of excellent fantasy, horror, and science fiction, should keep readers contented while they endure the wait for A Feast for Crows.
The excellent and thoughtful work of Michael Bishop is showcased in Brighten to Incandescence: 17 Stories (Golden Gryphon). Howard Waldrop fans rejoiced with the appearance of two collections: Custer's Last Jump and Other Collaborations (Golden Gryphon), mostly science fiction but with enough fantasy aspects that fantasy readers shouldn't miss it, and Dream Factories and Radio Pictures (Wheatland), a reprint of a 2001 e-book. Waldrop also published a terrific Soviet-era ghost story novella in chapbook form, A Better World's in Birth! (Golden Gryphon). The late Jack Cady's Ghosts of Yesterday (Night Shade) will be enjoyed by fans of darker fantasy. It includes some of Cady's best stories as well as his nonfiction. Louisiana Breakdown by Lucius Shepard (Golden Gryphon) is a dark fantasy about music, sexual attraction, and small-town backwater voodoo. Sara Maitland's On Becoming a Fairy Godmother from the new British press Maia is a wonderful collection that comfortably straddles mainstream and genre. Standouts include "Sailing the High Seas" and the Guinevere and Lancelot tale "Foreplay." Prolific newcomer Tim Pratt's Little Gods (Prime) is a strong debut collection and contains one new story, the excellent dark fantasy "Pale Dog." Pratt's work, which falls somewhere between fantasy and horror, has frequently appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and it's good to see it collected in one place. The Amount to Carry by Carter Scholz (Picador) collects a dozen of Scholz's often uncategorizable fictions. We highly recommend this collection to readers of Ted Chiang, Howard Waldrop, and Jonathan Lethem.
Not the End of the World (Little, Brown) by U.K. writer Kate Atkinson is full of surprising fables and sharp short stories, most of which -- for those of you who are still suffering from Buffy withdrawal -- manage to work in references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We recommend seeking it out. Michael Swanwick had an immensely productive year. Tachyon published two minicollections: Cigar-Box Faust at ninety-four pages is the larger and contains seventy short-shorts, while the fifteen-story dinosauriana Field Guide to the Mesozoic Megafauna clocked in at thirty-two pages. Henry Wessells's Another Green World (Temporary Culture) is a beautifully produced collection of meta- and critical fictions. Although expensive, Wessell's work should appeal to bibliophiles and collectors as well as to readers of antiquarian tales. Rhys Hughes's Nowhere Near Milkwood (Prime) brings together thirty-four stories and vignettes; this year's Paul Di Filippo collection is Babylon Sisters and Other Posthumans (Prime).
I Am Not Jackson Pollock by John Haskell (FSG) limns the fantastic, taking celebrities and figures from history and myth and mixing their stories into something quite new. Not a collection for everyone, but it should appeal to readers interested in surrealism and new-millennium pop culture. Prolific writer and editor Jay Lake's debut collection, Greetings From Lake Wu (Wheatland), was illustrated by Frank Wu. Like many of the most interesting collections this year, Greetings collected stories that slipped between genres. Collectors should seek out Wu's gorgeous handmade boxed, limited-run edition of Greetings. D. F.Lewis is an incredibly prolific British writer who also finds the time to publish the magazine Nemonymous. Weirdmonger (Prime) collects about sixty of the fifteen hundred mostly very short stories he published between 1987 and 1999. Weirdmonger is a strong and well-designed -- by Garry Nurrish -- introduction to a writer whose work might otherwise have disappeared among the pages of more ephemeral magazines. Australian Geoffrey Maloney's Tales from the Crypto-System (Prime) is a mixed-genre collection that is a little overlong but contains enough stories to make it a worthwhile purchase for the wide-ranging reader. Russian writer Emil Draitser occasionally dips into surrealism and fantasy in his collection of stories of immigrants and lonely hearts, The Supervisor of the Sea (Xenos). The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard (Del Rey) collects fourteen Conan stories and is the first in a series of three illustrated reprint volumes. Chico Kidd's latest chapbook, Visions and Voyages, contains two stories from her popular "Da Silva Tales" as well as two originals; Circlet Press reprinted Francesca Lia Block's erotica collection, Nymph. Mark Twain's fantasy-inflected stories have been gathered in one place in Tales of Wonder (Bison). For dragon fans there is Candy Taylor Tutt's small-press collection, Ten Dragon Tails (Libris Draconis).
Five Star published many genre books in 2003. Notable collection included Nina Kiriki Hoffman's Time Travelers, Ghosts, and Other Visitors, which has one charming original, "Entertaining Possibilities"; Pamela Sargent's nine-story collection Eyes of Flame; Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Scarborough Fair and Other Stories; Rosemary Edgehill's entertaining Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn; and Speaking with Angels by Michelle West (who has also written under the name Michelle Sagara).
Small Beer published three chapbooks: Mark Rich's Foreigners and Other Familiar Faces, Benjamin Rosenbaum's Other Cities, and Christopher Rowe's Bittersweet Creek and Other Stories.
2003 was a strong year for original anthologies coming from both within and without the field.
Besides Firebirds, the best were: Politically Inspired: Fiction for Our Time edited by Stephen Elliott (MacAdam/Cage), an anthology much more intriguing than its title might suggest, which includes strong work from Paul LaFarge, Anne Ursu, and others. The stories range from humorous to very dark, and include both genre and mainstream works. McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales was the tenth issue of McSweeney's Quarterly, promptly reissued as a Vintage paperback (as a benefit project for 826 Valencia in San Francisco, CA). Each story is accompanied by an original illustration by Howard Chaikin, and the best stories include work by Rick Moody, Jim Shepard, Glen David Gold, Carol Emshwiller, editor Michael Chabon, and Karen Joy Fowler. Mojo: Conjure Stories (Warner Aspect) edited by Nalo Hopkinson collected original stories about African and Caribbean-tinged personal magic. Contributors includeNisi Shawl, Neil Gaiman, Andy Duncan, Barth Anderson, and Sheree Renee Thomas. Wheatland Press produced two volumes in Jay Lake and Deborah Layne's excellent and ongoing slipstream series Polyphony. Highlights include work by Lisa Goldstein, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Barth Anderson, and upcoming writers like Beth Bernobich and Diana Rogers. With each issue, the publishers seem to be picking up better design skills, and they are to be commended for the range and the breadth of their choices. Breaking Windows: A Fantastic Metropolis Sampler edited by Luis Rodrigues (Prime) collects fiction and nonfiction from the boundary-pushing Web site of the same name. This is a great introduction to a site that is consistently broadening the borders and definitions of genre fiction and what a Web site can do. Fantastic Metropolis is especially to be commended for the high proportion of fiction in translation. The Dragon Quintet edited by Marvin Kaye (SFBC) is a collection of five strong novellas including one by Michael Swanwick, reprinted herein, and a wonderful Tanith Lee tale, "Love in a Time of Dragons." Stars (DAW) edited by Janis Ian and Mike Resnick is a surprisingly strong anthology of stories inspired by singer Ian's songs. Standouts include Gregory Benford's "On the Edge" (which might be fantasy, science fiction, or something else entirely), and stories bv Kage Baker, Susan Casper, and Judith Tarr. The Silver Gryphon edited by Marty Halpern and Gary Turner (Golden Gryphon) contains twenty-five stories by Golden Gryphon authors, including excellent work from Michael Bishop, Joe R. Lansdale, and Robert Reed. Some of the strongest stories (Jeffrey Ford, Kristin Kathryn Rusch) are not even necessarily genre.
Other anthologies that provided good reading include Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy (Del Rey) edited by Douglas A. Anderson, a well-thought-out collection of twenty-two stories that may have influenced J. R. R. Tolkien. This anthology of stories by Andrew Lang, David Lindsay, John Buchan, and others would make a great present for readers new to fantasy or for those looking to broaden their familiarity with the roots of the field. Live Without a Net (Roc) edited by Lou Anders is mostly science fiction but contains a wonderful fantasy by Dave Hutchinson. Strange Pleasures 2 (Prime) edited by John Grant and Dave Hutchinson purposefully collects some of those good stories that are always floating around unpublished. The good news is that the editors intend this to be a yearly cross-genre anthology. Witpunk edited by Marty Halpern and Claude Lalumière (Four Walls Eight Windows) is a collection of satirical and humorous short fiction, both originals and reprints. Karen Joy Fowler edited Mota 3: Courage (TripleTree Publishing), an anthology of original work that includes some slipstream fiction. Island Dreams: Montreal Writers of the Fantastic (Vehicule) was edited by Claude Lalumière, who runs the Lost Pages Web site, ran the Canadian bookshop Nebula for years, and edited three anthologies in 2003. There are a couple of standout stories in this cross-genre anthology, including "The Dead Park" by one of our favorite writers, Dora Knez. Rabid Transit: A Mischief of Rats edited by Barth Anderson, Christopher Barzak, Alan DeNiro, and Kristin Livdahl (Velocity Press) is the collective's second chapbook. While the original chapbook was the work of Anderson, Barzak,DeNiro, and Livdahl, in this follow-up they present five new Ratbastards for inspection.
Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain (Wesleyan) translated and edited by Andrea L. Bell and Yolanda Molina-Gavilán, gathers twenty-seven stories from ten countries and is a superb survey. Strange Horizons: Best of Year One (Lethe) edited by Mary Anne Mohanraj is a generous collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry originally published on the Strange Horizons Web site from September 2000 to August 2001. This volume offers an introduction to some of the most interesting and innovative new writers in genre fiction including Alan DeNiro, Nnedimma Okorafor, and Charles Coleman Finlay, and it's nice to have a selection of their work in a book format.
Other anthologies: Gathering the Bones (Tor), a horror anthology with some stories of interest to fantasy readers, edited by Dennis Etchison, Ramsey Campbell, and Jack Dann; a new edition of The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories (Oxford) edited by Tom Shippey; Erotic Fantastic: The Best of Circlet Press 1992-2002 edited by Cecilia Tan (Circlet), which collects erotic fantasy by Francesca Lia Block, Lawrence Schimel, and others; The Bakka Anthology (Bakka), edited by Kristin Pedersen Chew, collecting fiction by ex-employees of the long-standing Canadian bookshop that includes good fantasy stories from Fiona Patton and Chris Szego; Open Space: New Canadian Fantastic Fiction edited by Claude Lalumiere (Red Deer); A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales edited by Brian M. Thomsen (Aspect), mostly reprints by Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman, Bret Harte, and others; Imaginings: An Anthology of Visionary Literature (Frog Ltd.) edited by Stefan Rudnicki, the first of three collections that explore the influence of certain ideas on the literary and genre imagination; editor Shahrukh Husain gathers tales from Japan, India, Iran, Iceland, and more in The Virago Book of Erotic Myths and Legends (Virago).
Strange Tales, edited by the good people at Tartarus Press, is a limited-edition horror anthology with a couple of very good dark fantasy stories; Gordon Van Gelder's One Lamp: Alternate History Stories from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (Four Walls Eight Windows) is a strong selection from the pages of F&SF; Album Zutique #1, edited by Jeff VanderMeer (Ministry of Whimsy) brings together surreal and decadent fiction from James Sallis, Ursula Pflug, Jeff Ford, and other Ministry regulars; Celia Correas de Zapata's 1990 anthology Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real was reprinted by the Modern Library; Agog! Terrific Tales: New Australian Speculative Fiction (Agog!) is edited by Cat Sparks; The Sorcerer's Academy (DAW) edited by Denise Little is a shared-world Harry Potter-influenced boarding school anthology set in the United States with a standout story by Michelle West; Intracities (Unwrecked Press) is a chapbook anthology of stories about the contributing writers' hometowns, edited by Michael J. Jasper.
Kelly Link edited Trampoline (Small Beer), a purposefully cross-genre volume that includes stories by Shelley Jackson, Maureen McHugh, Christopher Barzak, and Alan DeNiro, as well as Greer Gilman's "A Crowd of Bone," set in the same world as her story "Jack Daw's Pack."
Children's / Teen / Young Adult Fantasy
Of all the genre categories, young-adult fantasy seems to be thriving. This is probably due in large part to the success of Scholastic's Harry Potter novels, but Eos, Tor, and most notably Firebird editor Sharyn November have also been putting out extremely strong fantasy books, both originals and reprints. Besides the anthology Firebirds and Diana Wynne Jones's The Merlin Conspiracy, the following are the books for younger readers that we most enjoyed.
Joan Aiken's Midwinter Nightingale (Delacorte Press) is the latest in the Wolves of Willoughby Chase sequence and marks the return of Dido Twite, the stouthearted and practical heroine of the early books. Somewhat darker and bloodier in tone, Midwinter Nightingale is a great pleasure to read, because of Aiken's pitch-perfect use of language and the delightfully extravagant plot twists. Joan Aiken, the daughter of poet Conrad Aiken, died in January 2004. She had written over one hundred books in almost every genre one can put a name to, including some rather surprising sequels to Jane Austen, the Arabel and Mortimer series (illustrated by Quentin Blake), and several highly enjoyable gothic romances. One more novel in the Wolves series, The Witch of Clattering Shaws, will be published this year. The Sterkarm Kiss by Susan Price (Scholastic) is a sequel to the excellent young-adult novel The Sterkarm Handshake. Technically, this is a time-travel novel, in which a sixteenth-century Scottish clan of reivers, murderers, and thugs is courted by an unscrupulous twenty-first century corporation. Is there a fantasy element? To the Sterkarms, the corporate employees are magic-working elves, and the novel plays with this in interesting ways. Price's world and characters are absolutely convincing, if grim, and there is a great deal to enjoy, even for fans of more conventional fantasy. The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen: A New Translation from the Danish, translated by Diana Crone Frank and Jeffrey Frank, is a modern translation of twenty-two of Andersen's stories by a novelist/linguist and her husband, a novelist/editor at The New Yorker. This is a gorgeous edition profusely illustrated by Lorenz Frolich and Vilhelm Pederson, and there is also an excellent biographical essay at the beginning. The Franks have assembled familiar stories such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Little Mermaid," as well as relatively unknown stories such as "By the Outermost Sea." Readers familiar with Andersen's stories may be somewhat surprised by these translations, which are elegant, faithful, and free of the "improvements" and tinkering that until now have been typical of English-language editions of Andersen.
Swan Sister (Simon & Schuster) edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling is an anthology of thirteen retold fairy tales for younger readers in the same style as A Wolf at the Door. Contributors include Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville, and Neil Gaiman. The standout story is Katherine Vaz's My Swan Sister.
Tears of the Salamander by Peter Dickinson (Wendy Lamb Books) is a short but beautifully written novel about a boy who discovers that by singing he can communicate with fire salamanders and angels. As always, Dickinson (author of excellent mysteries, sf&f novels, and young-adult novels such as Emma Tupper'sDiary) builds a world and characters that are utterly engaging. Cornelia Funke's Inkheart (The Chicken House/Scholastic) translated by Anthea Bell is the follow-up to her popular English-language debut, The Thief Lord. Like Jasper Fforde, Funke writes about characters who travel between the real world and the pages of various books. The adventures of the father and daughter who both love to read books should appeal to both children and parents. Shannon Hale's debut, The Goose Girl, (Bloomsbury) is a wonderful, thoughtful retelling of Grimm's fairy tale of a princess whose path to adulthood is as complicated politically as it is emotionally. Jeanne DuPrau's excellent debut The City of Ember (Random) is probably closer to science fiction than fantasy, but still worth seeking out. In an underground city where everything is running out, two twelve-year-olds must find the key to escape. DuPrau leaves plenty of room for a sequel. Chitra Banerjee Divkaruni, author of The Mistress of the Spices, has now written a young-adult novel, The Conch Bearer (Roaring Brook). Twelve-year-old Anand sets off on a quest that ranges from India across the Himalayas, and again there's room for a sequel. Lian Hearn's Grass for His Pillow (Riverhead) is the second in the author's Tales of the Otori trilogy, set in a fantastic version of medieval Japan, and follows the adventures of the orphan-assassin Takeo and the Lady Shirakawa Kaede. The pseudonymous Hearn's somewhat quiet but beautifully rendered and atmospheric novels should appeal to adults as well as younger readers. Nina Kiriki Hoffman's A Stir of Bones (Viking) is an enjoyable, comfortably creepy, stand-alone prequel to A Red Heart of Memories and Past the Size of Dreaming, in which an adolescent girl and her soon-to-be friends become fascinated by a haunted house. Margaret Mahy's Alchemy (McElderry Books) is a short but enjoyable contemporary novel by the author of the classic fantasies The Changeover and The Haunting. Here, a boy named Roland encounters a number of magicians and discovers that he himself may possess talents for magic. Garth Nix's Abhorsen (Eos) is an engrossing if sometimes dark sequel to the novels Sabriel and Lirael. Nix's second novel of 2003, Mister Monday (Scholastic), the first in the Keys to the Kingdom series, is a quick and enjoyable read and seems packaged to appeal to fans of Harry Potter.
East by Edith Pattou (Harcourt) is a strong retelling of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" in which Rose, youngest of seven daughters, is asked to leave her family and home with a great white bear. Pattou has invented a satisfyingly thorough culture and world. Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce (Random) is an energetic and engaging addition to her Tortall series. Sixteen-year-old Aly goes sailing, is kidnapped, sold into slavery, and must make a deal with a Trickster god to gain her freedom. The consequences of dealing with a trickster are, of course, complex and compelling, and Pierce's novel should appeal to adult readers of genre work. Terry Pratchett's latest young-adult Discworld spin-off, The Wee Free Men (HarperCollins), is an excellent, funny, and highly recommended tale of a young witch, Tiffany Aching, who goes to Fairyland to find her younger brother. Fans of the ongoing Discworld books will recognize some of the secondary characters, and hopefully young readers will discover the many other excellent Discworld novels. Lyra and the Birds by Philip Pullman (Knopf) is an enjoyable but very short story bound with a map of Oxford and miscellaneous ephemera fromthe world of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Philip Reeve's Predator's Gold (Scholastic), sequel to Mortal Engines, was published in 2003 in the United Kingdom, and should be available in 2004 in the United States. This steampunk fantasy series, set in a future or possibly alternative Britain, in which scavengers roam vast wastelands, is a great deal of fun.
It hardly seems necessary to say much about J. K. Rowling's fifth Harry Potter title, since the reader of this introduction will probably have already read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Scholastic). Perhaps it's worthwhile to note that the books get longer, Harry is getting older, and the effect upon the publishing seems to be that many other excellent young-adult novels are being published, or are back in print. Good news all around for writers, publishers, and readers. Varjak Paw (David Fickling/Random House) by S. F. Said and illustrated by Dave McKean is the story of a Mesopotamian Blue kitten who must learn a Middle Eastern martial art to survive alone in an unnamed city. Although this book is aimed at younger readers, it is highly recommended to fans of Dave McKean's art (or cats). English editor Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy begins with The Amulet of Samarkand (Miramax/Hyperion) in which an eleven-year-old summons a five-thousand-year-old djinn and suffers the consequences. The djinn is the pleasantly sarcastic if somewhat anachronistic narrator of the book.
Also of note: Eva Ibbotson's latest, Not Just a Witch (Dutton) is a light and hilarious story of a witch who wants to do good. Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux (Candlewick) is the gentle tale of a mouse and a princess who find themselves among rats. The Wish List by Eoin Colfer (Hyperion) is a stand-alone about a teenage girl's ghost who gets a chance to redeem herself. Emily Rodda's The Charm Bracelet (HarperCollins) is the first novel in her Fairy Realm series. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (Delacorte) is a suitably pulpy nineteenth-century boarding school gothic that sits on the shelf somewhere in between the Mallory Towers series, Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hallway, and the later Harry Potters. Kenneth Oppel's Firewing (Simon & Schuster) is a companion novel to Silverwing and Sunwing. Holly Black, author of the wonderful Tithe, and noted illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi produced two volumes in their popular, pocket-sized Spiderwick Chronicles: The Seeing Stone and Lucinda's Secret (Simon & Schuster). The Great God Pan by Donna Jo Napoli (Wendy Lamb) is a short novel that invents a love story between the god Pan and Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon. Napoli's Breath (Atheneum) is a rather dark retelling of the Pied Piper tale. Brian Jacques's latest novel in the Redwall series is Loamhedge (Philomel). Published as a young-adult novel, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman (Scholastic) is a short, gentle post-September 11th fable about loss and healing. Beth Bosworth's Tunneling (Shaye Areheart) is an odd, playful, coming-of-age novel in which an asthmatic young girl travels through time with the help of a superhero, S-Man, in order to save writers like Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde from difficulties like writer's block. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic) is a page-turner in which Gregor and his cat Boots find themselves expected to help save the inhabitants of a land far underneath New York. Hilari Bell's The Goblin Wood (Eos) uses fantasy to explore right and wrong and therights of the individual in a bold tale of goblins, fairies, and warring magics. Quadehar the Sorcerer by Eric L'Homme (Scholastic) is the first of a best-selling French trilogy. Carter Crocker's The Tale of the Swamp Rat (Philomel) is the character-driven tale of an orphaned rat. Elizabeth E. Wein's A Coalition of Lions (Viking) is the second in her Arthurian trilogy. Claire B. Dunkle's The Hollow Kingdom (Holt) is a tale of two girls and the Goblin King. Laura Williams McCaffrey's Alia Waking (Clarion) is a coming-of-age epic fantasy. In Susan Britton's quest fantasy Treekeepers (Dutton) a young girl has to find the place to plant the seed of the tree of life. Juliet Dove, Queen of Love by Bruce Coville (Harcourt) is the fifth in his charming Magic Shop series. Originally self-published, nineteen-year-old Christopher Paolini's somewhat by-the-numbers first novel Eragon received a big push from Knopf. Although the Knopf edition is lovely, the book was not particularly original or engaging. Cold Tom by Sally Prue (Scholastic) is a smart retelling of the Tam Lin story from Tom's point of view. Sword of the Rightful King: A Novel of Arthur (Harcourt) by Jane Yolen is a fast-paced novel with Gawaine, son of Morgause, the North Witch, at its heart. In Chris Wooding's Poison (Scholastic), a young girl goes in search of a younger sister who has been stolen by phaeries. However, this is a much odder and darker book than Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men, and may appeal to fans of Garth Nix or Tanith Lee. Finally, we highly recommend Joe Hayes's bilingual collection of New Mexican folk tales, The Day It Snowed Tortillas (Cinco Puntos) for middle readers.
Reprints of note: Firebird reprinted Pamela Dean's classic Secret Country trilogy: The Secret Country, The Hidden Land, and The Whim of the Dragon. Diana Wynne Jones's Wild Robert (Greenwillow) received its first U.S. edition. Tor published an edition of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, printed in green ink and profusely and wonderfully illustrated with pen-and-ink illustrations by Charles Vess. The Tor Teen reprint list includes novels by Emma Bull and Jane Yolen. Magic Carpet Books continued to reprint Diane Duane's Young Wizard series. Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede's wonderful epistolary fantasy Sorcery and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London was reissued in hardcover by Harcourt. Lastly, New York Review Books, one of our favorite presses, has begun a line of children's books. Their first reprints were Dino Buzzati's The Bear's Famous Invasion of Sicily, Esther Averill's Jenny and the Cat Club, and a collection by the fantasist Eleanor Farjeon, The Little Bookroom, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. If you've never read Eleanor Farjeon, you have a treat in store.
Picture Books for Children
The following is an extremely abbreviated list of picture books that may be of interest to genre readers.
Strange Mr. Satie by M. T. Anderson and illustrated by Petra Mathers (Viking) is a lovely little biography of the surrealist composer Erik Satie.
For fans of Lewis Carroll, there are a number of notable picture books, ineludingtwo pop-up books: J. Otto Seibold's Alice in Pop-Up Wonderland (Orchard) and Robert Sabuda's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Little Simon). And then there's Jabberwocky (Candlewick), an illustrated edition of Carroll's nonsense poem, illustrated by Joel Stewart in glorious, Gorey-esque fashion. Alice in Wonderland (Simply Read) is a coffee-table-sized edition, illustrated by Bulgarian-born artist Iassen Ghiuselev. Structured around an artistic conceit in which the interior illustrations are all, in fact, details from the original cover illustration, the drawings, much like John Tenniel's originals, are both odd and engrossing.
Charles de Lint and Charles Vess's A Circle of Cats (Viking) is beautifully illustrated and the story should charm readers both young and old. Set just outside de Lint's Newford, this is a prequel to the author and illustrator's earlier novella, Seven Wild Sisters.
Candlewick Press published a picture-book edition of Eleanor Farjeon's classic fairy tale Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep, with beautiful, watery illustrations by Charlotte Voake.
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean (HarperCollins) is a surreal and circular tale sure to please fans of Gaiman and McKean's earlier picture book, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. The illustrations are superbly unsettling, the wolves are as silly as they are threatening, the heroine is sensible and bold, and Gaiman's prose is a pleasure to read out loud.
Imagine a Night (Atheneum) is a successful artistic thought-experiment by Rob Gonsalves, whose series of paintings focuses on the time between sleeping and waking when reality is ever so slightly curved.
Bed, Bed, Bed (Simon & Schuster) is a picture book-and-CD set made up of four songs written by John Linnell and John Flansburgh, better known as They Might Be Giants. The illustrations, by Marcel Dzama, are both delirious and deadpan. Like Edward Gorey's, Dzama's illustrations are rapidly becoming ubiquitous, and yet they always startle.
Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic by Burleigh Mutén and illustrated by Rebecca Guay (Barefoot) is an A-to-Z guide to goddesses from around the world, which will be a useful sourcebook for children, and maybe adults, too.
Little Vampire Goes to School by Joann Sfar with colors by Walter and translated from the French by Mark and Alexis Siegal (Simon & Schuster) is a gently spooky picture book that will be enjoyed by fans of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams.
The Dragon Machine by Helen Ward and illustrated by Wayne Anderson (Dutton) is a pleasurable children's book where dragons are more underfoot than overhead and the George here is a savior rather than a slayer of dragons.
The Faeries of Spring Cottage (Simon & Schuster) by Terri Windling and illustrated (perhaps staged is more accurate) with photos by Wendy Froud, a noted dollmaker, is Froud and Windling's third collaboration and continues the story of the adventures of the faery Sneezle.
Jane Yolen's Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls (Harcourt /Silver Whistle) illustrated by Susan Guevara, collects stories fromAfghanistan, Ireland, China, Russia, and elsewhere. For boys, there's Yolen and Raul Colón's Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys (Harcourt).
And finally, in nonfiction we wish to point out the gorgeously and profusely illustrated picture-book biography The Tree of Life: A Book Depicting the Life of Charles Darwin, Naturalist, Geologist, and Thinker by Peter Sis (FSG/Foster). Sis's art always reminds Kelly of Borges's fiction.
Magazines and Journals
Because we love short fiction, we especially love magazines. The magazine we find ourselves recommending to people who want good fantasy stories delivered to their door month after month is The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. This year Gordon Van Gelder and crew published good work by Jim Sallis, Charles Coleman Finley, Ellen Klages, several excellent and largely unclassifiable stories by M. Rickert, and Terry Bisson's lovely "Almost Home" (reprinted here). If you subscribe to one magazine, why not subscribe to several? We recommend starting with a subscription to F&SF. Realms of Fantasy had a strong year publishing interesting stories by Tim Pratt, Tanith Lee, Richard Parks, and Theodora Goss among others, as well as: a recommended reprint of "Crossing into the Empire" by Robert Silverberg, book reviews by Gahan Wilson and Paul Witcover, folk-roots columns by Terri Windling and Heinz Inzu Fenkl, and advice on historical costumes by Emma Bull. Asimov's was weighted heavily toward science fiction this year, although some stories such as James Patrick Kelly's excellent "Bernardo's House" were underpinned by fantastic bones. While we were writing this introduction, Gardner Dozois announced that he is stepping down, and that Sheila Williams will be taking over as editor of Asimov's. Dozois will concentrate on other projects, including his own writing. While more fiction from Dozois, who published "Fairy Tale" on SCI FICTION this year, can only be welcome news, it does feel like the end of an era.
In the United Kingdom, Interzone seems to publish more science fiction than fantasy, but it did present interesting work by writers like Zoran Zivkovic, Michael Bishop, and Christina Lake. In 2003 the last monthly genre magazine, Interzone, switched to a bimonthly schedule. Again, as we were writing this introduction, David Pringle stepped down as editor. Andy Cox, editor of the other slick U.K. magazine The Third Alternative, will take over from Pringle as editor of Interzone. The Third Alternative, which Cox will continue to helm, is an attractively designed magazine that publishes fantasy, horror, science fiction, and a great deal of slipstream work, including stories by writers like David Ira Cleary, Lucius Shepard, and Alexander Glass. TTA Press also publishes The Fix, a well-written and opinionated magazine of short-fiction reviews, and Crimewave, which occasionally publishes stories of interest to fantasy readers.
Elsewhere, On Spec noted that the Canadian government may cut magazine funding, a decision that will have an impact upon their production. In the meantime, they produce a very good-looking and high-quality magazine and we can only hope that it will continue.
There were two thick issues of Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature,whose purview is specifically heroic and traditional fantasy. Both issues contained good fiction as well as reviews of books, comics, games, and so on. Tales of the Unanticipated produced its impressive annual issue with eighteen stories and fourteen poems (which makes it as large as two or three issues of many small magazines). Particularly noteworthy were poems by Eleanor Amason and Laurel Winter, and stories by Patricia S. Bowne and Patricia Russo. Although Brigham Young University-produced magazine The Leading Edge's Web site announced a new issue, we never saw it.
Online, SCI FICTION remains the premier genre Web site, while Strange Horizons continues to offer excellent and ambitious work as well as quirkier, riskier fare by up-and coming writers like M. Thomas, Douglas Lain, Karinna Sumner-Smith, and Jae Brim. Each site is updated weekly. Strange Horizons publishes poetry, reviews, and art as well as short fiction. SCI FICTION published excellent work by Lucius Shepard, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Maureen McHugh, and Kij Johnson as well as weekly classic reprints. Both sites provided many stories we considered for inclusion in this volume. Since all stories are archived online, we encourage you to remember the Honorable Mentions list at the back of this anthology when you next go surfing. The Infinite Matrix, helmed by Eileen Gunn, published interesting work by Benjamin Rosenbaum and Douglas Lain and concluded an epic series of stories by Michael Swanwick, "The Sleep of Reason," based on Los Caprichos, a series of eighty etchings by Francisco Goya. ChiZine publishes mostly horror but we found strong fantasy stories by Hannah Bowen, Hugh Thomas, and others. Singularity came and went--although editor and agent provocateur Gabe Chouinard claims it will rise again. The most interesting story published there was E. T. Ellison's "Night Funnels." Other online 'zines to watch include Fantastic Metropolis, Surgery of Modern Warfare, Fortean Bureau, Ideomancer, Would That It Were, and Abyss and Apex.
Among general-interest magazines, The New Yorker continued to publish fantastic stories at the rate of almost one per month, and we recommend checking their Web site where they post new fiction weekly. We enjoyed work by A. S. Byatt, George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, Louise Erdrich, and especially David Schickler's luminous contemporary fairy tale, "Wes Amerigo's Giant Fear" from the March 17 issue, and Kevin Brockmeier's "Brief History of the Dead," reprinted here. We did not find as many stories of interest to genre readers in The Atlantic or Harper's this year. Conjunctions continued to be a strong venue for fantastic fiction with Robert Coover's rich and amazing novella "Stepmother" (another story too long for this book that we recommend seeking out) and an unpublished interview with the late Angela Carter. The Paris Review--whose eccentric and fabulous founder George Plimpton died in 2003--always publishes some fiction and poetry worth seeking out. This year there was a wonderful poem by Richard Shelton, "The Golden Jubilee," as well as stories by Brian Evenson and Shelley Jackson. Descant 122 was an all-genre issue with a few fantasy stories, including strong work by Bruce Holland Rogers and Christopher Barzak. McSweeney's was, as usual, a bastion of good and odd fiction. The paperback publication of their tenth issue, The Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, brought at least the idea of pulp fiction to thousands, while this year's twoissues had their share of genre stories. We read Alison Smith's wonderful and strange story "The Specialist" too late to include it here. Like McSweeney's, Tin House is a beautiful but pricey literary magazine whose fiction sometimes wanders into genre. One Story is a relatively new magazine that brings one story to subscribers every three weeks in a neat chapbook form. This year we especially enjoyed stories by Patrick Somerville, Alan DeNiro, and Matthew Purdy.
Other journals that included some fiction or poetry of genre interest were The Land Grant College Reviews, Other Voices, Grain, The Antigonish Review, The Georgia Review, The Denver Review, The Massachusetts Review, Black Warrior Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Neotrope, 3rd Bed, and Columbia Journal.
There were three new magazines we found exciting. Steve Pasechnick launched Alchemy, which promises to be a magazine of fantasy similar in design and quality to Crank! and Century. The first issue included work by Carol Emshwiller, Sarah Monette, and Theodora Goss's "Lily, With Clouds," reprinted here. We look forward to future issues. Argosy is back under the aegis of editor Lou Anders and publisher James A. Owen. The first issue (January/February 2004) presented memorable fantasy stories from Jeffrey Ford and Benjamin Rosenbaum and an excellent, nongenre story by Barry Baldwin. Accompanied by a separately bound novella by Michael Moorcock, there was also a lengthy interview with Samuel R. Delany and cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon. We saw three issues of Paradox, which is an interesting mix of historical and speculative fiction. This year only, in addition to three print issues, there was a PDF-only issue.
The small-press magazines are burgeoning, especially, it seems, in Australia. There were two issues of Borderlands, a new title, which were a high quality mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. We look forward to seeing more. There was one issue of Aurealis, which is a handy sf&f resource for those in the North wanting to know more about their Antipodean counterparts. Fables and Reflections produced two issues with fiction by K. J. Bishop and critical essays. The fourth Australian magazine we saw was Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine: an interesting venture run as a co-op with editorial and other duties rotating among members. This seems to help ensure the magazine keeps to its schedule, as they produced six issues packed with mostly light or humorous fantasy and science fiction.
Talebones produced their usual two quality issues featuring reader favorites such as Mark Rich and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. We saw one issue of the U.K. magazine Nemonymous and especially enjoyed a couple of the stories ("The Small Miracle" and "Digging for Adults") but, of course, due to the anonymous nature of the project, we don't know who the authors were! There was also one issue of Space & Time, with two promised for 2004.
Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond (Fortress of Words) produced two issues of question-themed 'zine Says ... : the first, Say ... what time is it?, contained more fantasy, while the second, Say ... aren't you dead?, tended more toward science fiction than horror, despite the subject matter. In addition to fiction by Scott Westerfeld, Kelly Link, Richard Butner, and Mark Rich, Say ... included poems selected by poetry editor Alan DeNiro, comics, interviews, and reviews.Editor John Klima published two issues of the 'zine Electric Velocipede, including stories by Beth Adele Long and Rudi Dornemann. Small Beer Press produced the usual two issues of the 'zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, with stories by David Schwartz, Tim Pratt, and Leslie What. "The Fishie" by Philip Raines and Harvey Welles is reprinted here.
Three lively new half-legal-sized genre 'zines debuted in 2003: Trunk Stories edited by William Smith shows a good eye for design and included quirky, pulpy work from writers like Mark Bothum and Brett Alexander Savory. Problem Child edited by Lori Selke is a sassy new multigenre 'zine subtitled "A Group Home for Well-Loved but Unruly Literature," which featured good stories by Richard Butner and Karen Z. Perry, as well as some excellent poetry. Flytrap is the work of writer-editors Tim Pratt and Heather Shaw (Tropism Press). The first issue included fiction by Barth Anderson, Jay Lake, Greg van Eekhout, as well as poetry by Alan DeNiro and Sonya Taaffe.
Zahir: Unforgettable Tales is a well-made perfect-bound magazine that includes illustrated original and reprint fiction. Here and Now, published in the United Kingdom, offered fantasy and science fiction. Dark Horizons edited by Debbie Bennett is the biannual publication of the British Fantasy Society (BFS). The two issues we saw tended more toward darker fantasy and horror. The BFS also publishes Prism, a review 'zine that includes an interview with Graham Joyce. Harpur Palate is a newish, purposefully multigenre literary journal from Binghamton University that includes interesting stories by Judy Klass and Leslie Birdwell, among others. New Genre is a literary-influenced horror-and science fiction magazine, but we enjoyed the fantasy story by Thomas Dunford. Fantastie-themed poetry 'zines include: Star*Line, the bimonthly all-genre magazine of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, which also nominates awards and publishes an annual anthology of Rhysling Award winners; The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, had two issues this year (one of which was a religious-themed issue) and is perhaps the best bet for lovers of genre poetry; and Mythic Delirium, which publishes as much horror as fantasy.
The two major nonfiction magazines reporting on the sf&f field are Locus, which we tend to find more useful, and Chronicle. Locus also has a separate frequently updated, and very handy Web site, www.locusmag.com. There are many, many on-line nonfiction 'zines, blogs, and journals, including Ansible, The Alien Online, Revolution SF, and Speculations.
If you were to buy only one genre art book per year, we recommend Spectrum 10: The Best in Contemporary Fantasy Art edited by Cathy Fenner and Arnie Fenner (Underwood). Spectrum is a yearly survey of genre illustrations, covers, comics, and even some three-dimensional sculptures. This edition celebrates ten years of collecting the best in contemporary fantastic art. Besides Marcel Dzama's The Berlin Years and the expensive but essential The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson (Andrews McMeel), we also recommend the following books.
Amano: The Complete Prints of Yoshitaka Amano (Harper Design International) is the first English-language edition of this gorgeous full-color collection. A little bit like Kay Nielsen, a little like Aubrey Beardsley, Amano is a contemporary Japanese artist and illustrator who has worked in anime, book illustration, and fine-art prints. Gian Carlo Calza's Hokusai (Phaidon) is an impressively heavy-coffee table monograph that collects much of Katsushika Hokusai's work, including illustrations and prints inspired by Japanese ghost stories, fables, and heroic tales.
Drawn and Quarterly Showcase 1 spotlights two comic artists, Kevin Huizenga and Nicolas Robel. Both stories are fantasy-flavored, and Huizenga's contemporary suburban update of the Italian fairy tale "The Ogre's Feather" was one of our favorite stories of the year.
What is truly astonishing about Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (ABC) is that it is only one of half a dozen ongoing titles from Moore, all of which have been consistently entertaining, innovative, excellent stories. We also recommend Promethea, and Alan Moore and Zander Cannon's epic fantasy quest Top-Ten spin-off Smax, which was probably Kelly's favorite comic of the year. Andi Watson began a new series, Love Fights (Oni), which puts an interesting spin on superheroes and urban love life. Bill Willingham's fairy-tale series Fables (Vertigo) became much more interesting and complicated.
The latest in the Love and Rockets reprints is a well-priced hardcover edition of Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics). Patrick Atangan's The Yellow Jar (NBM) is the gorgeous first volume in a series of adaptations of traditional Asian stories; Tony Millionaire's The House at Maakies Corner (Fantagraphics) collects the latest of Millionaire's dark comics about a wicked monkey, drunk crows, and so on. Editor Bill Blackbeard continues to reprint all of George Herriman's seminal strip Krazy Kat (Fantagraphics). Mutts: The Comic Art of Patrick O'Donnell (Abrams) is an excellent survey of an extremely enjoyable, gentle, and occasionally fantastic daily comic strip.
Also of note: The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art edited by John Grant, Elizabeth Humphrey, and Pamela D. Scoville (Artists and Photographers) is a worthy and recommended retrospective of winners of the last twenty years. Olbinski and the Opera (Hudson Hills) is a beautiful collection of forty of Rafal Olbinski's surrealist opera posters. Progressions: The Art of Jon Foster (Steve Jackson Games) is the first collection of Jon Foster's illustrations from comics and games. In The Runes of Elfland, illustrated by Brian Froud, (Abrams) Ari Berk interprets runes in twenty-four paintings by Froud. Readers of The New Yorker and Realms of Fantasy will no doubt be joining all the other Gahan Wilson enthusiasts in picking up Wilson's collection Monster Party (iBooks). Fantasy Workshop: A Practical Guide by Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell (Thunder's Mouth) provides an insight into the working habits and art of Vallejo and Bell. International Studio (Coppervale Studio) is publisher James A. Owen's relaunch of the classic magazine of illustration. The debut issue is a full-size, perfect-bound magazine that showcased the work of contemporary illustratorsJohn Picacio and James Christensen. John Grant and artist Bob Eggleton offer Dragonhenge (Paper Tiger), an illustrated collection of dragon stories. The Art of Faerie by David Riche (Paper Tiger) collects faerie paintings from Ryu Takeuchi, Paulina Stuckey, Linda Ravenscroft, and others. The Lord of the Rings: The Art of The Two Towers by Gary Russell (Houghton Mifflin) looks at the art Alan Lee produced for Peter Jackson's adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy and provides insight into the behind-the-scenes collaboration and process. More Fantasy Art Masters edited by Dick Jude (Watson-Guptill) collects the work of ten artists in the field. Great Fantasy Art Themes from the Frank Collection by Jane Frank and Howard Frank (Paper Tiger) is the second volume of selections from the Franks' wide collection of fantastic art.
This year there were a great many nonfiction books about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Among them, the following may be of interest: Tolkien in the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-Earth by John Garth (Houghton Mifflin) looks at how Tolkien's war experience influenced his later writings. Brian Bates's The Real Middle Earth (Palgrave) explores the roots of Middle Earth in Dark Ages Europe. Del Rey reprinted Paul H. Kocher's study of Tolkien, Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien, which is recommended for those who want a book that takes a closer look at the life of Tolkien, J. E. A. Tyler's guide to Middle Earth, The Complete Tolkien Companion (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's), has also been updated.
John Clute's third collection of reviews, Scores: Reviews 1993-2003 (Beccon), is highly recommended. Clute is one of genre fiction's preeminent critics. His reviews are witty, insightful, and display not only a love of books, but a love of words. Snake's Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley (Wildside) edited by Alice K. Turner and Michael Andre-Driussi is a collection of essays on the work of master fantasist Crowley. Genre at the Crossroads: The Challenge of Fantasy edited by George Slusser and Jean-Pierre Barricelli (Xenos) includes essays from Gary Westfahl, John Grant, Brian Aldiss, and over a dozen other nonfiction writers, all male. It begins (as Slusser notes) with polemics and ends with more balanced essays exploring the fantastic in literature and art. Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks (Del Rey) is the best-selling author's autobiographical attempt to pass on some hard-earned lessons, which should be useful and enjoyable even for those who are not fans of the Shannara novels. Take Joy: A Book for Writers by Jane Yolen (Writer Books) collects a series of essays on taking joy in the difficult craft of writing. In Boys and Girls Forever: Children's Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter (Penguin), Alison Lurie discusses writers and readers of children's literature.
Finally, Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez translated by Edith Grossman (Knopf) is the first of three projected volumes and is as captivating as any of his fiction--and Marquez admits that some of this autobiography may be fiction.
Myth, Folklore, and Fairy Tales
As well as the new Hans Christian Andersen translation mentioned earlier, we recommend taking a look at the following books. Kim Antieau's Coyote Cowgirl (Forge) mixes Southwestern cooking and magic into a road-trip novel. Barry Unsworth's The Songs of the Kings (Nan A. Talese) is a timely and topical retelling of Greek myths using contemporary language. Cuban writer Arnaldo Correa's second mystery Cold Havana Ground translated by Marjorie Moore (Akashic) draws on folklore, Santería, Palo Monte, and the Abakua Secret Society religions. Tanith Lee's second novel of the year, Mortal Suns (Overlook), is set in the imaginary kingdom of Akhemony, which is based on ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. The illustrated anthology Little Book of Latin American Folktales (Groundwood), edited by Carmen Diana Dearden and translated by Susana Wald and Beatriz Zeller, takes ten European folktales and humorously recasts them in an exuberant Latin American setting. Kim Echlin's Inanna (Groudwood) is a translation of one of the earliest poetic works from Sumeria, the story of Gilgamesh's sister, the goddess Inanna. Illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber, we recommend it to readers with an interest in mythology, early storytelling, and poetry. Sia Figiel's They Who Do Not Grieve (Kaya), set in contemporary Samoa, is a novel reminiscent of Keri Hulme's The Bone People. Figiel tells the story of three generations of women as well as the myth of the samu, the tattoo worn by women. Randy Lee Eickhoff's sixth book of the Ulster Cycle, The Red Branch Tales (Tor) continues his new translations of Irish myths and legends. Dan Simmons published the first half of his massive new novel, Ilium (Eos), a retelling of the Homeric tales in a strange future. Priya Hemenway's Hindu Gods: The Spirit of the Divine (Chronicle) pairs written portraits of thirty Hindu gods with gorgeous miniatures. Rena Krasno and Yeng-Fong Chiang's Cloud Weavers: Ancient Chinese Legends (Pacific View) retells twenty-three Chinese stories illustrated with 1920s and 1930s advertising posters that Western businesses gave to the Chinese in promotional campaigns.
The 29th World Fantasy Convention was held in Washington, D.C. Brian Lumley, Jack Williamson, W. Paul Ganley, and Allen K. Koszowski were the guests of honor. The following awards were given out: Life Achievement: Donald M. Grant and Lloyd Alexander; Novel: The Facts of Life, Graham Joyce (Gollancz) and Ombria in Shadow, Patricia A. McKillip (Ace); Novella: "The Library," Zoran Zivkovic (Leviathan 3); Short Story: "Creation," Jeffrey Ford (F&SF May 2002); Anthology: The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. (Viking) and Leviathan 3, Jeff VanderMeer and Forrest Aguirre, eds. (Ministry of Whimsy); Collection: The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, Jeffrey Ford (Golden Gryphon); Artist: Tom Kidd; Special Award, Professional: Gordon Van Gelder (for The Magazine of Fantasy & ScienceFiction); Special Award, Nonprofessional: Jason Williams, Jeremy Lassen, and Benjamin Cossel (for Night Shade).
The James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award for genre fiction that expands or explores our understanding of gender was shared by M. John Harrison for Light, (Gollancz, U.K.) and John Kessel, "Stories for Men," (Asimov's, November/December 2002). The award was presented to Harrison at Seacon '03 (The 54th U.K. National Easter Science Fiction Convention) in Hinckley, U.K., and to Kessel at Wiscon 27 in Madison, Wisconsin. The judges also provided an additional shortlist of books that they found interesting, relevant to the award, and worthy of note: "Knapsack Poems," Eleanor Arnason (Asimov's, May 2002); "Liking What You See: A Documentary," Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others (Tor); Appleseed, John Clute (Tor); "What I Didn't See," Karen Joy Fowler (SCI FICTION); "Madonna of the Maquiladora," Gregory Frost (Asimov's, May 2002); The Melancholy of Anatomy, Shelley Jackson (Anchor); Salt Fish Girl, Larissa Lai (Thomas Allen & Son); and Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists edited by Peter Straub. WisCon 27's guests of honor were Carol Emshwiller and China Miéville.
The International Association for the Fantastic (IAFA) William L. Crawford Fantasy Award went to Alexander C. Irvine for A Scattering of Jades (Tor) and the IAFA Distinguished Scholarship Award went to S. T. Joshi.
The Mythopoeic Award winners were announced during Mythcon 34, July 25-28 in Nashville, Tennessee--Adult Literature: Ombria in Shadow, Patricia A. McKillip (Ace); Children's Literature: Summerland, Michael Chabon (Miramax); Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies: Beowulf and the Critics by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Michael D. C. Drout (Arizona Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies); Scholarship Award in General Myth and Fantasy Studies: Fairytale in the Ancient World, Graham Anderson (Routledge).
So that was the year in fantasy. On to the stories: we quickly found that 125,000 words did not allow us to reprint all of the stories we loved. The list of Honorable Mentions reflects not only our deep enjoyment of an extremely varied genre, but also the immense richness available to those willing to go looking for it. Consider the following list as a sort of treasure map to help the reader seek out excellent stories that we were unable, for reasons of length, to reprint.
• Barth Anderson, "The Mystery of Our Baraboo Lands," Polyphony 3
• Isobel Carmody, "The Dove Game," Gathering the Bones
• Robert Coover, "Stepmother," Conjunctions 40
• Carol Emshwiller, "Boys," SCI FICTION, January 28.
• Kevin Huizenga, "28th Street," Drawn and Quarterly Showcase 1
• Pat Murphy, "Dragon's Gate," F&SF, August
• Tim Pratt, "Fable from a Cage," Realms of Fantasy, February
• M. Rickert, "The Chambered Fruit," F&SF, August
• David Schickler, "Wes Amerigo's Giant Fear," The New Yorker, March 17
• Nisi Shawl, "The Tawny Bitch," Mojo: Conjure Stories
Copyright © 2004 by James Frenkel and Associates. All rights reserved. No part of this book my be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.