The Barnes & Noble Review
Out of the thousands of fantasy short stories published every year, editor extraordinaire David G. Hartwell has once again compiled his annual "best of" anthology for 2002. Longtime fans of Hartwell's Year's Best fantasy and science fiction collections will undoubtedly rank his newest collection as one of strongest fantasy anthologies they've ever read.
Hartwell begins the introduction with what I consider an understatement: "It was an especially good year for fantasy short fiction in 2002, and we wish this book could have been twice as long so we could have fit in a bunch of longer stories that are just as good as the ones collected here." Included in the meaty 29-story collection are literary gems by some of the biggest names in the genre -- Ursula K. Le Guin, Charles de Lint, Tanith Lee, Gene Wolfe, Neil Gaiman, Michael Swanwick, and Nalo Hopkinson, just to name a few.
From the first story, Kage Baker's dark WWII fairy tale "Her Father's Eyes," to the very last, R. Garcia y Robertson's "Death in Love," a story about the Demi-Goddess of Death falling in love with the captain of an invading armada, this collection is indeed the best of the best. Simply stated, Year's Best Fantasy 3 is a celebration of fantastic storytelling by some of the masters of the genre. 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