Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy

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by Ellen Datlow

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"Gaslamp Fantasy," or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by

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"Gaslamp Fantasy," or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Meredith to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and William Morris. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature inspired by this period.

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves these works of neo-Victorian fiction, and wishes to explore the wide variety of ways that modern fantasists are using nineteenth-century settings, characters, and themes. These approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen-and-Trollope inspired works that some critics call Fantasy of Manners, all of which fit under the larger umbrella of Gaslamp Fantasy. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, mainstream, and young adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents such as Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, and Catherynne M. Valente, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century invested (or cursed!) with magic.
A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Datlow and Windling (After) collect 18 stories of elegant beauty and gothic murk in this anthology of “gaslamp fantasy,” an umbrella term for speculative works set in or inspired by the Victorian era. In the title story by Delia Sherman, a young researcher uncovers a shocking secret hidden in the diary entries of Queen Victoria’s spell book. A vindictive governess manipulates those around her with a magical scrapbook in Maureen McHugh’s “The Memory Book.” Gregory Maguire suggests that Scrooge bestowed magical gifts upon Tiny Tim in “A Few Twigs He Left Behind.” Veronica Schanoes’s “Phosphorus” relates the grim conditions that drove Victorian factory workers to strike, and the grim witchcraft that one worker, dying of phosphorus poisoning, uses to extend her life so she can see the strike to its end. Fans of steampunk and Austen-inspired fantasies of manners will be completely enraptured by these stories, which show us how Victorians saw themselves and offer an assortment of ways for modern readers to consider the bright lights and gloomy shadows of the past. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This 18-story anthology profiles a subgenre of historical fantasy with a Victorian setting and elements of steampunk. In particular, gaslamp fantasy is the lighter side of the genre, with the tell-tale signs of steampunk (steam-powered machinery) almost nowhere in sight until the end. From well-known authors and newbies, these tales range from horror and fantasy to the re-imagining of lives of favorite literary characters such as Estella and Pip (from Great Expectations) and authors like the Brontë sisters. Queen Victoria finds her place in several stories: as a child learning magic, a young woman in an alternate universe who writes the world into existence, or as the subject of PM Benjamin Disraeli's attempts at kabbalah. The stories are neatly ordered: we start in our own time examining Queen Victoria's reimagined past and then we are plunged directly into the Victorian world. VERDICT This anthology is great for readers new to steampunk fantasy and for those well-versed in the genre. More often than not, readers will recognize characters, plots, and themes. Fans of Gregory Maguire, a contributing author to this anthology, and fans of Victorian historical fantasy will enjoy this volume. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]—Michelle Martinez, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Eighteen tales of Gaslamp Fantasy, that is, historical fantasy set in an alternate 19th century where magic worked or supernatural events occurred, together with an extensive and informative introduction from editor Windling tracing historical roots and adding context. A majority of the tales here use historical events or biography as their foundation. Delia Sherman, then, portrays Queen Victoria as a highly effective wizard. Genevieve Valentine probes a highly unsavory aspect of London's 1851 Great Exhibition. Elizabeth Wein spins a tale of writer-designer William Morris and artist Edward Burne-Jones. Kaaron Warren writes movingly of a house where unwanted women are confined and how they gain revenge. Dale Bailey takes an actual case of spiritualism and fakery and demonstrates how it is not always clear which is which. Veronica Schanoes strikes sparks both real and figurative in her account of the unionization of the all-female workforce at a lucifer-match factory. And Jane Yolen reimagines the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and Queen Victoria. Other tales take their inspiration from Victorian literature. Catherynne M. Valente, for instance, revisits the fantasies of the Brontë children. Tanith Lee offers a steampunk variant on the Frankenstein's Monster theme. In Gregory Maguire's continuation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge marries and has children, and Tiny Tim's life takes an unexpected turn. And Theodora Goss offers up an existential literary-games scenario à la Jasper Fforde. Elsewhere (via Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer, Maureen McHugh, Kathe Koja, Elizabeth Bear, James P. Blaylock and Leanna Renee Hieber), the fiction is purer, the surprises no less welcome. Splendid tales that illuminate a bygone era's darker corners.

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Table of Contents

Preface                                                           Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling                   000
Introduction: Fantasy, Magic, and
Fairyland in Nineteenth-Century England       Terri Windling                                              000
“Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells”                  Delia Sherman                                              000
“The Fairy Enterprise”                                    Jeffrey Ford                                                  000
“From the Catalogue of the Pavilion
of the Uncanny and Marvelous,
Scheduled for Premiere at the
Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)”                  Genevieve Valentine                                     000
“The Memory Book”                                       Maureen McHugh                                          000
“La Reine d’Enfer”                                           Kathe Koja                                                    000
“For the Briar Rose”                                       Elizabeth Wein                                              000
“The Governess”                                            Elizabeth Bear                                               000
“Smithfield”                                                    James P. Blaylock                                          000
“The Unwanted Women of Surrey”                 Kaaron Warren                                             000
“Charged”                                                       Leanna Renee Hieber                                    000
“Mr. Splitfoot”                                                Dale Bailey                                                    000
“Phosphorus”                                                 Veronica Schanoes                                       000
“We Without Us Were Shadows”                     Catherynne M. Valente                                  000
“The Vital Importance of the Superficial”       Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer         000
“The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown”         Jane Yolen                                                    000
“A Few Twigs He Left Behind”                        Gregory Maguire                                           000
“Their Monstrous Minds”                               Tanith Lee                                                     000
“Estella Saves the Village”                              Theodora Goss                                             000
About the Authors                                                                                                              000
Recommended Reading                                                                                                       000

Copyright © 2013 by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

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