The Barnes & Noble Review
David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer launch this series with an impressive lineup of contributors -- George R. R. Martin, Charles de Lint, Gene Wolfe, and Terry Goodkind, to name a few. As expected in a collection of this nature, the stories run the gamut from the satirical "Magic, Maples, and Maryanne" by Robert Sheckley to Don Webb's terrifying "The Prophecies at Newfane Asylum," a Lovecraftian tale set in the 18th-century British colony of New Connecticut. Jeremiah Brewster used to be a trusted spy for King George, but now he's insane. His story is guaranteed to make anyone think twice about turning off the lights.
Other memorable stories included Renee Bennett's "The Fey," a very unusual retelling of the Arthurian legend, and "Everything Changes," by John Sullivan, about an ancient dragon who has more wisdom and savvy than most modern-day politicians. If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be "The Walking Sticks," by Gene Wolfe, a story described by the editors as "a darkly humorous contemporary sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Johnny and Jo receive an unusual delivery -- an antique cabinet filled with walking sticks. Little do they know that the expensive walking sticks used to belong to an infamous killer....
This anthology is a bargain at four times the price -- a great way to launch what should be a very long-lived annual collection. (Paul Goat Allen)
Read an Excerpt
Welcome to the first volume of our new paperback series, the Year's Best Fantasy. We hope that this book will give you a convenient reference to what's going on now, to who is writing some of the best fantasy fiction published, and will provide a collection of excellent stories for your reading pleasure. In this book, and this anthology series, we will use the broadest definition of fantasy (to include wonder stories, adventure fantasy, supernatural fantasy, satirical and humorous fantasy). We believe that the best-written fantasy can stand up in the long run and by any useful literary standard in comparison to fiction published out of category or genre. And furthermore, that out of respect for the genre at its best we ought to stand by genre fantasy and promote it in this book. We have been editing fantasy anthologies together since the 1980s, and each of us separately has won a World Fantasy Award for best anthology. So we feel up to the challenge of doing a Year's Best Fantasy.
What we hope for in a fantasy story is a well-told tale with a memorable image a flurry of bloodthirsty leaves, a sleeping beauty on exhibit in the British Museum. We believe that writers publishing their work specifically as fantasy are up to this task, so we set out to find these stories, and we looked for them in the genre anthologies, magazines, and small press pamphlets. Some fine fantasy writers will still be missing. A fair number of the best fantasy writers these days write only novels; or, if they do write short fiction, do so only every few years, and sometimes it is not their best work.We will find the good examples and reprint them when we can.
We found that the good fantasy short fiction this year is notably international. Although all but one of the writers in this book write in English, many of them live and work outside the United States, in Canada, Australia, the British Isles, Yugoslavia. Australia is still full of energy a year or two after the 1999 Melbourne World Science Fiction Convention. Eidolon and Aurealis are the leading magazines, and Australian fantasy novelists are continuing to break out worldwide, at least in the English language. Canadian SF is still thriving, and Canada is still introducing new world-class fantasy writers to the world stage each year. Interzone has grown into one of the three or four leading SF magazines. Realms of Fantasy and F & SF are its peers. And the best new semi-professional fiction magazine of the year, publishing both fantasy and SF, is Spectrum SF, from Scotland. The World Fantasy Convention is to be held in Montreal, Quebec, in 2001.
There were a number of good original anthologies, including especially Dark Matter, edited by Sheree R. Jeffers (the first SF and fantasy anthology specifically devoted to Black writers); Black Heart, Ivory Bones, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, the sixth and final in their distinguished series of fairy tales retold anew for our times; and Graven Images, edited by Nancy Kirkpatrick and Thomas Roche, an original anthology of fantasy tales of gods and goddesses. There are also the magazines, from Interzone and Realms of Fantasy and F & SF, which publish substantial amounts of fantasy, to Century and Eidolon and On Spec and Weird Tales and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine (now suspended), and several others. The small press has been since the 1980s a force of growing strength and importance in the field, in part due to the availability of computers within reach of the average fannish budget and in part due to the new economies of instant print, now prevalent in the USA and soon to reach everywhere. And the books from the more established small publishers, from Golden Gryphon, Ministry of Whimsy, Borderlands, and others, continue to impress. The field lost two fine magazines this year, Marion Zimmer Bradley's and Amazing (which published both fantasy and SF), but a perceptible increase in the number and quality of small press publications helped to cushion the loss, as did the announcement of several high-paying online short fiction markets.
It would be comforting to be able to say that this was an especially good year for fantasy, but it was not. Still, there were more than enough excellent stories to consider to let us fill this book and have some left over. And there are a lot of promising signs, and talented new writers in unexpected places. Now that we have finished our first annual volume, we are confident of the quality of future books.
David G. Hartwell & Kathryn E. Cramer