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The annual excellence that has garnered this series two consecutive World Fantasy Awards and a windfall of critical acclaim continues in an impressive new anthology. Comprehensive in its coverage of the year in horror and fantasy, this collection features works by Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan, Jane Yolen, and dozens of others.
"The most extensive and reliable guide to the field available."-Realms of Fantasy
"The quality and the variety of the work in these annuals are guaranteed by the astonishing assiduousness of the editors."-Necrofile
"A collection not to be missed by anyone seriously interested in fantasy or horror."-Kirkus Reviews
"The two editors cast their nets as widely as humanly possible, and a set of these books on the shelf constitutes a uniquely authoritative guide to the progress of fantasy and horror fiction during the last decade and a bit."-The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Twelfth Annual Collection
Summation 1998: Fantasy
Readers familiar with the field of fantasy literature, and with these Year's Best Fantasy and Horror volumes, need no introduction to the series—you may want to skip right down to the lists of recommendations that follow. But for readers new to either, an explanation is in order.
The mandate for this annual anthology is to gather together the very best fantasy and horror short fiction published in the previous year. The term "fantasy" is a confusing one, however. Once upon a time fantasy literature was not considered an oxymoron. Shakespeare, Spenser, Goethe, Pope, Rossetti, Morris, Wilde, Yeats, Tolstoy, Chesterton, Thurber and many others penned works with magical elements drawn from folklore, myths, and national epics (Arthurian legends, the Ring of the Nibelungs, etc.). In the 1970s, after the enormous success of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, fantasy became a publishing category (commonly paired with science fiction) and the term today generally evokes images of Tolkien clones: 900-page volumes and their endless sequels, filled with dragons, wizards, swordsmen, and a singing elf or two.
Yet as the modern fantasy genre grew, despite the commercial popularity of Tolkienesque sagas, the genre also became a home for a group of fine modern writers inspired by the older, pre-Tolkien tradition of fantastic literature. As a result, the fantasy genre today is a lively, topical, extremely diverse area of publishing—ranging from the sword-and-dragon books at one end of the field (which make no claim to literary greatness, and yet can be quite entertaining) to serious works of mythic and magic realist fiction at the other. Readers in the 1990s seem to hunger for both kinds of work, judging by the healthy sales fantasy books enjoy (at least compared to other genres). In addition, there's a great deal of fantasy to be found outside the genre as well, over on the mainstream shelves. Here we rarely find "imaginary world" type fantasy (Michael Ende's The Neverending Story is one of the few exceptions), but mythic fiction (contemporary tales infused with myths, folklore and fairy tales) and magic realism (popularized by Latin-American writers) can be found in abundance in the works of such authors as Angela Carter, A. S. Byatt, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Robert Coover, Steven Millhauser, Sara Maitland, Marina Warner, Alice Hoffman,and a host of others. It is no accident that so many of the aforementioned writers are women—which is also true in the fantasy genre. The roots of fantastic literature run deep into the oral folk tradition, which has been an important venue for women's stories since the dawn of time. In ages past, such stories were dismissed as "just old wives' tales"—today they can be dismissed as "just fantasy." But as many talented writers (both male and female) working nowadays have discovered, a mix of realist and nonrealist imagery makes for powerful fiction, echoing ancient themes yet relevent to our modern lives.
In this anthology, we like to look at the broader field of fantastic literature, which includes, but is not limited to, the modern fantasy genre. Horror fiction is a sister genre with roots in the same soil of oral narrative—so we've chosen to bring these works together into one volume: stories both dark and bright, as well as all the shades that lie between. The fiction in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is reprinted from genre anthologies and magazines, and also from mainstream collections, literary journals, and foreign works in translation. If you prefer fantasy to horror fiction, look for my initials on the story introduction; if you prefer the opposite, look for Ellen Datlow's. (Stories that fall between the two carry both our initials, with the acquiring editor listed first.) Yet we encourage you to try both forms whatever your usual preference might be, for we strongly believe the two fields enrich each other when viewed side by side.
I am also a great believer in the idea that genre fantasy and mainstream fantasy can easily be read together and have much to offer each other. Genre readers (and writers) who never venture outside the field are creating a ghetto cut off from participation in the evolution of English language literature, with all its riches. Mainstream writers who disdain genre fiction are losing out as well—for genre writers (including SF and mystery writers) have much to teach the mainstream about the building blocks of good storytelling: pacing, plotting, and narrative drive. One thing I've noticed while reviewing books for this year's annual is that we are seeing a whole crop of young writers whose books are gorgeously descriptive, yet never go anywhere. It's not such a problem in short fiction, since the brief form of a short story nicely accommodates the "slice of life" approach, a snapshot moment illuminated by the flash of the writer's attention. But a novel moves; it's more like a journey in which the author is our guide—and too many young mainstream writers are turning out books that simply stand still. It's one thing when a master storyteller chooses to subvert the traditional narrative process (as in Robert Coover's brilliant Briar Rose) ... but in too many lesser books, one is left with the impression that young writers are avoiding plotting and pacing because they simply don't know how to do it. (The equivalent in art is all those art students who gravitate to abstract expressionism because they don't know how to draw—unlike Jackson Pollack, who did.) Genre fantasists, on the other hand, excel in the mechanics of storytelling, which is no surprise since we are the "old wives" (men and women alike) of our modern age.
If I could make a wish, I'd like to see genre suspicion of mainstream books, and mainstream disdain for genre books, swept away like the useless chaff it is. I'd like to see all these books sit side by side on a shelf marked "Fiction." The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror will continue to provide a forum for both, exploring the myriad ways modern writers use the tools of surrealism, myth, and magic.
Moving on to the fiction itself, the books listed below are ones that made 1998 another good year for lovers of the fantastic. Trends? Well, there is some great Native American fiction out there this year, making beautiful use of mythic and magical elements. Two of the books in the Top Twenty list are by Native authors, and a third draws upon Native folklore. For readers interested in American fantasy, as opposed to the quasi-Celtic, quasi-medieval sort, you can't get more American than this. Another trend is that Imaginary World fantasy is an area that has come back to life, attracting some of the best authors in the genre—which is a real turnaround from just a few years ago. There were fewer end-of-the-millenium books than you'd expect. Maybe they're all in the science fiction field. And there are more gentle books with a turn-of-the-century flavor (the last century, that is), works inspired by the likes of Lord Dunsany and Hope Mirrlees, which is a welcome trend indeed.
My tireless assistant editors, Richard and Mardelle Kunz, collected more than five hundred books for review last year. Here's the best of what came across my desk in 1998:
Here are the "Must Read" novels of 1998 (in alphabetical order by author). An extended reading list of novels, short stories, art books and nonfiction follows.
Flanders by Patricia Anthony (Berkley): Anthony's new novel is a visceral work of historical fantasy about the life of an American soldier in a British unit during World War I. Set in 1916, the story is told through letters between Travis Lee, a sharpshooter, and his brother back home in Texas. Nothing in Anthony's previous work—strong though it is—prepared me for this astonishing book. The author vividly re-creates nerve-wracking days in the muddy trenches, haunted nights in no-man's-land, and one man's struggle to retain his soul as he walks through hell on earth. Compelling, almost hypnotic, this one belongs on the shelves beside Sebastian Faulks and Pat Barker, which is high praise indeed.
I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block (HarperCollins): Block is one of the pioneers of "urban fantasy" fiction, bringing myth and magic to modern city streets peopled with sharply contemporary characters—in this case, a troubled Valley Girl and a fiesty little fairy named Mab. Block's books are published for teenagers (among whom they have a cult following), but her work is hard-hitting, with a sharp, dark edge to satisfy adult readers. This one takes on the L.A. modeling world, stage mothers, and pedophiles—as well as love in all of its manifestations, both dark and bright.
Heartfire by Orson Scott Card (Tor): At a time when so many magical sagas use medieval epics or Celtic myths for inspiration, Card has created a truly American fantasy drawn from our own landscape, steeped in the myths and folkways of early settlers, slaves, and native peoples. In volume five of his "Alvin Maker" series, Alvin's wife Margaret (who can read the future in the "heartfires" of others) becomes involved with the redundant abolition movement in the southern states. As always, Card tells his tale with clean, clear prose, rigorous scholarship, and a bone-deep knowledge of American history, folklore, and human nature.
Lambs of God by Marele Day (Putnam): This oddly captivating book was oneof my favorite finds of the year. The novel was a bestseller in Australia—and you gotta love that country, since how often do books about nuns, selkies, and sheep hit our bestseller lists? The story takes place in a crumbling abbey on an island that has been forgotten by time. Three rather earthy nuns live there, spinning fairy tales and the wool from their flock, until a young priest stumbles into their garden of Eden from the World Outside. He's come to the island with development schemes to turn it into a wealthy resort. What happens next is too strange to reveal. You must read it for yourself.
This Body by Laurel Marian Doud (Little, Brown): Doud's first novel begins with the death of its protagonist, Katherine Ashly, a middle-aged housewife and mother of two. She wakes up a year later in the body of a rich, thin younger woman in L.A.—not the worst of fates perhaps, but there's a catch. Thisby, whose body and identity she has assumed, is a drug-addicted mess. And Katherine's own family up north seem to be doing just fine without her. This isn't a perfect book—the plot relies on too much coincidence, and the ease with which Katherine enters the L.A. art world requires even more credulity than the body-switching premise. It's not even an original idea—Trader and other novels have used it before. So why am I listing it in the Top Twenty? Because, despite its flaws, Doud's novel is highly entertaining, saved by the author's gift for creating fresh, compelling characters—particularly Katherine's Shakespeare-spouting, completely dysfunctional new family.
Someplace to Be Flying by Charles de Lint (Tor): This is the first of three excellent novels making use of Native American myth. It's the latest book in de Lint's "Newford" series, and easily the best one to date. Set in Newford, a contemporary city somewhere in North America, it is the story of the First People (the animal people), legendary figures who appear in the tales and creation myths of numerous indigenous tribal groups. In de Lint's story, these ancient First People still hold the fate of our world in their hands—but now Coyote, Raven, Fox, and others (including the delightfully punky Crow Girls) have taken on modern coloration. They walk among us, recognized by only a few for what they really are. Those few include artists, dreamers, and outcasts: typical de Lint characters, brought vividly to life. This Canadian author is considered one of the very best storytellers in the field of mythic fiction, and his unusual, deeply magical new novel demonstrates why.
The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich (HarperFlamingo): When I finished this book, I had tears in my eyes—not because the ending is sad, but because it's a novel so beautifully crafted, so rich in color and character, that it moved me to the core with its sheer power of language and story. Set in modern Minneapolis, it's a tale of "urban Indians," family, and the many faces of love: from selfless and redemptive passions to soul-destroying obsessions. Myths, legends, and history are all mixed into the contemporary story, stitched into patterns as bright and intricate as Indian beadwork (a recurrent image in the text). Erdrich (a mixed-blood Chippewa) has always been a gifted author, creating interesting tales in collaboration with the late writer Michael Dorris; but with this tour de force of mythic fiction she has come into her own. The slight chill in her previous work is entirely absent here. The Antelope Wife is a warm-blooded, passionate book, and as fine as they come.
Stardust by Neil Gaiman (Avon Books): British writer Neil Gaiman has alreadyproven amply that he's one of the most talented and versatile writers working in the modern fantasy field, so it should come as no surprise that when he strays into the realm of Faerie he conjures pure enchantment there—despite the fact that this magical landscape lies rather far afield from the edgy dark fantasy and horror tales that are Gaiman's trademark. The story is set in mid-Victorian England, in the woodland town of Wall, named for the rock barrier that skirts its eastern edge. The realm of Faerie lies on the other side, and the wall may not be breached—except for a few days every nine years, when human and faerie folk mingle in a vast, exotic outdoor market. Gaiman draws upon British folk tales, as well as classic fantasy literature by George MacDonald, Christina Rossetti, William Morris, William Hope Hodgeson, Lord Dunsany, and others, to create a sparkling new story with all the magic of the old ones. Stardust began as a graphic novel created in collaboration with artist Charles Vess, and thus is also available in illustrated form. Whichever way you choose to enter Faerie, through the novel or the collaborative version, you'll find a land of wonders there, and a story for readers of all ages destined to be a classic in its own right.
Strandloper by Alan Garner (Harvill Press): Garner is the author of Elidor, The Owl Service, The Weirdstone of Bringamen and other British fantasy novels, now considered classics, that have strongly influenced our field. Despite a subtle and sophisticated sensibility, these works were published as children's fiction. Now he has published an unusual novel specifically for adult readers—a deeply mythic tale unlike anything else you will have read before. Set in the 18th century, it was inspired by the true story of an Englishman named Will Buckley who was arrested for performing an ancient fertility rite in a rural village. Charged with "lewdness and popery," he's transported to a prison camp in Australia—at which point history loses sight of him, while Garner's novel continues. In Garner's story, Buckley escapes and is taken in by Aboriginals, where he undergoes an extraordinary transformation among the rites and tales of the Dreamtime. The novel is told in lyric prose, steeped in the folklore of two lands that are worlds apart ... yet not so different in spirit. This challenging work of mythic fiction won't be to every reader's taste, but it's a brilliant book, at the cutting edge of the field, filled with genuine magic.
Power by Linda Hogan (W. W. Norton): In a year in which we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tales based on Native-American myths, the latest novel by this Chickasaw writer is a real treasure nonetheless. Set in the swamps of Florida, it's the story of a Native girl whose aunt has ritually hunted and killed an endangered species of panther. The novel is partly a mystery (why would her aunt kill a beautiful creature with whom she has a strong mystical connection?), partly a courtroom drama (pitting Native rights activists and environmental activists against each other), and partly the coming-of-age story of a teenager discovering her own identity, history, and power. The writing absolutely shimmers and Hogan's plot is highly suspenseful, making for another fine work of mythic fiction that I can't recommend too highly.
Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay (HarperPrism): Kay's new novel (the first half of a two-volume work) would be historical fiction if it weren't for the fact that his tale unfolds in a landscape that doesn't exist. Sarantium is a city of multilayered complexity, a place where "everything on earth was to be found, from death to the heart's desire." The main protagonist is a mosaic artist, whosejourney to Sarantium leads him into the dark woods both physically and metaphorically. Again, to quote the author: "To say of a man that he was sailing to Sarantium was to say that his life was on the cusp of change: poised for emergent greatness, brilliance, fortune—or else at the very precipice of a final and absolute fall ... ." Indeed, here we have the theme of Kay's powerful story in a nutshell. Kay is a literate, fiercely intelligent writer, and he brings all his considerable imaginative powers to the creation of a fully realized world, a brilliantly nuanced set of characters, and a Byzantine plot that draws you in and leaves you wanting more.
The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): Sometimes you stumble across a book that you immediately have to give to all your friends—and for me, this astonishing novel (by a writer better known in New Zealand) was one of them. Set in rural France at the very beginning of the nineteenth century, it's the story of Sobran Jodeau, the scion of a wine-making family, and his relationship with a beautiful male angel named Xas. The novel follows Sobran from youth to manhood, from marriage to old age and death, shadowed by a creature who has been marked by both God and Lucifer. Initially meeting just once each year, the angel slowly moves into Sobran's life, his heart, and eventually his bed. It's an amazing story about friendship, family, faith, rural village life, sensual pleasures, and fine French wine. It will leave you breathless.
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (Bantam): We listed Martin's last novel, The Game of Thrones, as one of the Top Twenty books of 1996; now Martin has given us a sequel to that volume, and it's a winner too. If all those dreary, derivitive sagas that crowd the bookstore shelves these days made you swear off traditional fantasy (and multi-book epics in particular), here's one that will change your mind. Like Guy Gavriel Kay, Martin is a skillful, intelligent writer breathing new life into the tropes of the genre. It's the story of a land ravaged by politics, war, and wizardry—but Martin subverts these potential clichés to create a taut, ingenious tale, filled with real people, not cartoons. Give this one a try. Your faith in fantasy will be restored.
The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb (Dutton): This is the fifth book in McCrumb's best-selling "Ballad" series, contemporary murder mysteries imbued with the folk tales, music, and magic of American-Appalachian culture. Her latest follows two plot lines: the true 19th-century story of the first woman in North Carolina to be executed for murder, and a contemporary tale of a young sheriff whose testimony sent a man to death row. McCrumb weaves these tales together, along with glittering nuggets of mountain country history and lore. If you haven't yet discovered McCrumb's fine "Ballad" series, then I think it's only fair to warn you that you're likely to be hooked.
Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip (Ace): Booklist calls McKillip "one of the least-publicized American masters of fantasy," and I agree. This writer should be winning awards right and left and appearing on the bestsellers lists; instead, she quietly turns out one exquisite book after another—without fanfare, yet avidly snatched up by discerning readers. Here's yet another McKillip gem: the story of musicians in a wind-swept land and a walled city with a Renaissance feel. The protagonists are an enigmatic poet/harpist and his headstrong grownup son, searching for memories and identity in the ashes of the past. The narrative is poetic and elegant, yet there's real human warmth here, too, andcharacters who win your heart. On one level, it's a traditional quest story—on another, the book and its wise author have deeper issues to explore about the relationship between making history, community, and music.
The Innamorati by Midori Snyder (Tor): If you had to pick only one Imaginary World fantasy novel to read this year, this would be the one. Like Patricia Anthony, Snyder's previous work does not prepare you for the power and scope of her ambitious new novel, which has been garnering acclaim from both genre and mainstream reviewers here and in Italy. The world of The Innamorati resembles that of the Italian Renaissance, but one in which myths, mazes, masks, and magic are brought to life. Borrowing from early Roman myth, Boccacio, Dante, Italian folk tales, and the Commedia dell'Arte, Snyder's story involves a vast cast of characters on pilgrimage to Labirinto, a city with a mysterious labyrinth at its heart where curses may be lifted. The bawdy exuberance of Snyder's language and plot are arrested only by moments of breathtaking enchantment: a Siren who sings a city into coral; masks that take on a life of their own; Bacchian revelers, monsters, centaurs, and ghosts touched by the madness of the gods. Snyder spent a year in Italy preparing to write this magnificent book, and her love for the land, its history, art, and myths, shines in every line.
Mockingbird by Sean Stewart (Ace): Antoinette Beauchamp, corporate actuary, has no interest in the magic that ruled her mother's life, alternately gifting and tormenting her. So on the day of her mother's funeral, she is dismayed to discover that it is she (not her clairvoyant sister) who has inherited her mother's gifts—specifically, the Riders, a set of six eerie handmade dolls kept in a wooden chifforobe, each with a powerful character capable of riding or possessing their keeper. Once the Riders enter Toni's life, it promptly falls apart—and the novel is the story of how she rebuilds it. The magic here, a wholly original blend of New Orleans-style voodoo and the Mexican supernatural, colors a loving portrait of contemporary Houston, with its lush gardens, gleaming skyscrapers, cutthroat commodities traders, trailer parks, ghosts, and "spirit cars" (lowriders capable of driving into alternate realities). It's a simpler story than Stewart's last novel, Nightwatch, yet even more memorable—a story about families, their secrets and betrayals, and the love that heals the wounds of the past.
The High House by James Stoddard (Warner): Many of the readers and writers who came into the fantasy field from the mid-1970s onward did so because of the "Sign of the Unicorn" series (edited by Lin Carter), which published classic fantasy works by past masters like William Morris, E. R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell, et al. Stoddard's marvelous novel is a loving homage to these classic tales, and evokes a particular sense of wonder I haven't experienced in years. It's the story of a magical house so vast it has its own weather system, and of a man summoned to be Steward of the house after his father's death. There's peril, of course, and magical characters, creatures, and objects with a life of their own. It's a glittering tale, with a few small faults (the narrative is somewhat episodic), but then it's a first novel, and as such pretty darn confidently told. The High House is a book to remind us of what attracted most of us to this field, a literary magic too often obscured by all the Tolkien-redux books. Thank you, Mr. Stoddard.
The Compass of the Soul by Sean Russell (DAW): This is the second half of a two-volume story beginning with Beneath the Vaulted Hills. I recommend readingthem together. Set in an imaginary land where magic is on the wane, this is a traditional quest fantasy of the very best sort: where the quests are spiritual and personal in nature as well as heroic. The focus of this volume is a young woman in training to be a mage—much to the displeasure of the last true mage, who has visions of an apocalypse to come if the practice of magic does not cease. Russell's characters (and moral outlook) are mature, multilayered, and fluid; there are no clear-cut heroes and villains here, but real people making history the way real people do: groping in the dark, doing the best they can, guided by conflicting systems of belief. The story transports you into a fully-realized secondary world, beautifully rendered, filled with a cast of characters so real it seems that you must say goodbye to friends when the tale is done. Book by book, Russell is emerging as one of the best fantasists of his generation.
The One-Armed Queen by Jane Yolen (Tor): While many fantasy writers seem to need an endless number of 900-page tomes to create a convincing secondary world, master storyteller Jane Yolen brings an entire culture to life—along with its folklore, folk ballads, and ancient history—in just a trio of slender volumes, of which this is the third. The story is set in the Dales, an enchanted land ruled by a magical queen, a warrior with a mystical second self: her "dark sister." The story concerns the queen of the Dales, her adopted daughter and heir, and a foreign king determined to sow dissent among her sons. Yolen, a folklore scholar, is celebrated for a narrative voice that makes her fiction read like stories that have been passed down through the generations. This one is a beauty.
Those of us who put together annual "best of the year" reading lists are always afraid we'll miss something great—and last year most of us did. Jeffrey Ford's The Physiognomy (Avon) snuck past me, and then won the World Fantasy Award. Mea culpa! If you also missed Ford's impressive first novel, it's now available in a paperback edition. The protagonist is a sardonic, drug-addicted practitioner of physiognomy (a "science" popularized in the 19th century in which character is determined through the study of head and body shapes), investigating the theft of a fruit that may confer immortality. It's a strange and marvelous work of interstitial fiction, falling somewhere in the shadowland between fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and allegory.
While 1998 didn't produce the bumper crop of debut novels of the previous year, there are still some excellent additions to the fantasy field worth noting. The best first novels published in genre are James Stoddard's The High House (described previously) and the highly iconoclastic King Rat by China Miéville (Pan, UK). Miéville's interstitial novel winds through the streets of London council estates, raves, and jungle music clubs to reveal a clever twist on the old Pied Piper of Hamelin folk tale. The plot involves a standard young hero who does not know he is heir to a kingdom, but nothing else about this dark, atmospheric book is standard in the least.
I'm also intrigued by Mark Anthony's debut novel Beyond the Pale (Bantam),which is fantasy of the Stephen Donaldson sort about a Colorado drifter and an ER doctor who fall into a secondary world. The story is suspenseful, confidently told, and entertaining. Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Roc) is more horrific than magical, but is likely to appeal to fans of urban fantasy. It's a dark tale of fallen angels, rock musicians, street people, and kids with attitude, from a writer who has already made a name for herself in the short fiction field. Other notable genre debuts: The Witches of Eileanan, a sprightly quest fantasy by Kate Forsyth (Roc); Daughter of the Blood, a sensual and dark novel by Anne Bishop (Roc); Wit'ch Fire by James Clemens (Del Rey), a well-crafted quest fantasy despite all the annoying apostrophes; and The Blood Jaguar by Michael H. Payne (Tor), a surprisingly captivating animal saga set in North America and The Last Dragonlord by Joanne Batin (Tor), a sparkling tale that is both magical and romantic.
In mainstream fiction, there are strong debuts by Laurel Marian Doud (listed previously), and by Mia Yun with a gentle coming-of-age story titled House of the Winds (Interlink). Yun's novel is a lyrical re-creation of her childhood in South Korea, in a house filled with weeping ghosts, ancestral spirits, stories, and folklore. Reminiscent of Heinz Insu Fenkl's Memories of My Ghost Brother (although not as polished as that beautiful volume), this realist novel with magic at its core is worth seeking out. I also recommend The Priest Fainted by Catherine Temma Davidson (Henry Holt), another autobiographical novel—this one about a Greek-American woman who returns to the land of her ancestors. It suffers from mainstream art-novel-itis (a weak plot structure and lack of narrative drive), yet Davidson does a fine job weaving strands of myth into contemporary life. Her feminist recasting of Greek mythology is occasionally heavy-handed, but at her best (particularly in the first half of the book), Davidson's ideas and prose are equally luminous.
Contemporary and Urban Fantasy
This category consists of contemporary tales in real-world settings infused with magic—sometimes differing from mainstream "magic realism" only by the fantasy label on the cover. Francesca Lia Block, Charles de Lint, and Sean Stewart all produced strong novels of this sort this year (listed previously); in addition I particularly recommend new offerings by Pamela Dean and Marina Fitch: Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary by Pamela Dean (Tor) is a sparkling novel about three sisters and the mysterious young man in the house next door, a spellbinding tale steeped in English folk ballads and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Dean's plot sneaks up on you, and the book is darker than it first appears. The Border by Marina Fitch (Ace) is the touching story of a family split by the Mexican-American border: one sister raised in the U.S. by her father, the other in Mexico by her mother. Although it stumbles in a few places, overall this is a lovely little book involving spirits, saints, chupacabras, and the cruel realities of immigrant life.
Also of note: The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce (Tor) is a tour de force of dark fantasy about three boys growing up in the British midlands—a harrowing modern fairy tale that is definitely not for children. We listed this as a Top Twenty book in the year of its original publication in England; now this British Fantasy Award winner is available in an American edition. Irrational Fears by William Browning Spencer (Borealis/White Wolf) is a sharply comic novel involving timetravel, New Age lunatics, and Alcoholics Anonymous. Spencer is a writer whose skill is apparent even though I have a blind spot for his brand of humor, so I'll quote reviewer Elizabeth Hand instead: "Think of an H. P. Lovecraft tale adapted by Philip K. Dick, filmed by David Lynch and produced by Brian Wilson." Changer by Jane Lindskold (Avon Books) gathers a variety of figures from world mythology and plunks them down in modern New Mexico. Loki, Lilith, Merlin, and Elvis share the stage with assorted selkies, yeti, tengu, and tricksters in a droll tale of family dysfunction among the immortals. Iron Shadows by Steven Barnes (Tor) is a magical mystery about two detectives infiltrating a mystic New Age cult. Suspenseful, fascinating, this is the best one yet from this versatile author. Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block (HarperCollins) is a omnibus volume of her "Weetzie Bat" books—urban fantasy set in a magical, hip-hop version of L.A. This edition comes packaged with a fabulous photographic cover by Suza Scalora.
Imaginary World Novels
Just when we were beginning to think that Imaginary World fantasy (a.k.a. "Tolkienesque," "Traditional," or "High" fantasy) was running out of steam, a remarkable number of fresh, new novels blew into the field like an invigorating wind. The best of them this year are the Gaiman, Kay, Martin, McKillip, Stoddard, Snyder, Russell, and Yolen works listed previously. In addition, three writers in particular have published new works you should take a look at: Elizabeth Lynn, C. J. Cherryh, and Robin Hobb. Dragon's Winter by Elizabeth Lynn (Berkley) is a welcome return to the fantasy field by a writer who has been silent for too long. Lynn, a martial arts expert, excels in creating stories that are muscular and adventurous, yet also transgressive and thought provoking. Using the same tropes as countless lesser tales (warriors, dragons, magical amulets), Lynn creates a gender-bending, character-driven story, inspired by a vigorous mix of Eastern and Western mythology. Fortress of Eagles by C. J. Cherryh (HarperPrism), the sequel to Fortress in the Eye of Time, is another novel about politics and warfare in a stark, enchanted land. Like Lynn, Cherryh is an intelligent writer who fills an action-adventure plot with morally complex characters, mature themes, and passages of lyric beauty. Anything by Cherryh is worth taking a look at, and this is one of her best. Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb (Bantam), is the first book in a lively new series of magical aventures set aboard sentient ships made of "wi-zardwood" —the fantasy equivalent of Patrick O'Brian sagas. If you know someone who is hooked on bad bestseller fantasy, give them this to read instead. It's fat, action-packed and entertaining, yet skillfully written and original. Megan Lindholm writing under the Hobb pseudonym just goes from strength to strength.
In addition, I recommend: Dragon by Steven Brust (Tor) is an acerbic swashbuckling fantasy in the Roger Zelazny tradition, following the further adventures of a charismatic assassin-for-hire. Brust is doing interesting, even subversive things with character development, so don't mistake his "Vlad Taltos" series as generic fantasy adventure. The King and Queen of Swords by Tom Arden (Gollancz), on the other hand, doesn't stray far from the traditional fantasy formula, yet is seeded with engagingly quirky touches. Arden is a writer to keep an eyeon. The Shadow Eater by Adam Lee (Avon Books), sequel to The Dark Shore, is by A. A. Attanasio writing under a pseudonym. As Adam Lee, he reins in his imagination and sticks to generic fantasy tropes: dragons, witches, trolls, magical assassins, etc., but he's too fine a writer not to bring fresh inventiveness to this material. Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (Avon Books), the sequel to The Element of Fire, is an intricately plotted tale of opium-addicted sorcerers, thieves, theater people, and other ne'er-do-wells in a magical cityscape. It's unusual, with a nice dark edge. The Book of Knights by Yves Meynard (Tor) is the first English-language publication by a popular French Canadian author. Meynard's story about a young foundling in a medieval land has a fairy-tale quality without being overly light or fey, and can be enjoyed equally by young and adult readers.
If you're in the market for page-turners that won't insult your intelligence, try: The Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan (Avon Books), Icefalcon's Quest by Barbara Hambly (Del Rey), Otherland: River of Blue Fire (sequel to City of Golden Shadow) by Tad Williams (DAW), The Painter Knight (sequel to The Stone Prince) by Fiona Patton (DAW), Prince of Dogs by Kate Elliot (DAW), Fire Angels (sequel to Mage Heart) by Jane Routley (Avon Books), A Cavern of Black Ice by J. V. Jones (Warner Aspect), and The Tower of the King's Daughter by Chaz Brenchley (Orbit, U.K). Also of note: Ballantine has published a handsome 25th anniversary edition of William Goldman's The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, with a new introduction by Goldman and the first chapter of the "long lost sequel," Buttercup's Baby. If you've seen the movie but haven't read the book, you don't know what you're missing.
Historical fantasy novels published in 1998 range from India to America to the front lines of World War I. The very best of them is Flanders by Patricia Anthony (listed previously), but I also particularly recommend new novels by J. Gregory Keyes, Kara Dalkey, and Parke Godwin. Newton's Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes (Del Rey) is an unusual alternate-history novel, set in the 17th century, drawing Louis XIV, Ben Franklin, and Sir Isaac Newton into an erudite plot about revolutionary politics, mathematics, and alchemy. With three strong novels under his belt, Keyes has emerged as a major talent. Bhagavati by Kara Dalkey (Tor) is the third book in a series set in 16th-century India. Like its predecessors, this one is impeccably researched, sensual, and exotic. Lord of Sunset by Parke Godwin (Avon Books) is based on the life of England's King Harold. There are no fantastical elements here, but the novel is a "prequel" of sorts to Godwin's wonderful Robin Hood tales: Sherwood and Robin the King. This 11th-century story is romantic, tragic, and absorbing.
Other notable works: Apacheria by Jake Page (Del Rey) proposes an alternate version of American history in which the Apache nation successfully forms an independent country. Page is also a scholar of Native-American history and legend, so it's no surprise that this thought-provoking tale rests on sound historical conjecture. American Woman by R. Garcia y Robertson (Forge) is a historical novel with a mystical edge, envisioning the Battle of Little Big Horn from the point of view of a former missionary married to a Cheyenne warrior. Jericho Moon by Matthew Woodring Stover (Roc) is the sequel to Iron Dawn, a dark, muscularstory set in the years after the Trojan War. The Lady in the Loch by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Ace) is a light but charming "whodunit" set in nineteenth-century Scotland, casting the writer/folklorist Walter Scott as the sheriff of Edinburgh in a plot peppered with Scottish legends and gypsy lore. Darker Angels by S. P. Somtow (Tor) could be called either dark fantasy or horror. The tale is set in an alternate version of 19th-century America, mixing Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, and Lord Byron with werewolves, shamans, and zombies ... in other words, it's pure Somtow.
On the mainstream shelves, I recommend Andrea Barrett's brilliant epic The Voyage of the Narwhal (W. W. Norton). This is gripping, old-fashioned adventure set in 1855, about a crew of men in the Arctic looking for traces of Lord Franklin's expedition. (The mythic elements arise in the sections of the book concerned with the Arctic's native people.) Barrett delves deeply into Victorian attitudes toward science, exploration, and conquest while also telling a rousing good story. If you love Victorian fiction, as well as fiction about the period, this one is a must. Selene of the Spirits by Melissa Pritchard (Ontario Review) is another memorable tale set in the nineteenth century. Inspired by the true history of a vastly popular young psychic, the novel re-creates the heated world of spiritualism in Victorian England. The Son of Light, The Eternal Temple, The Battle of Kadesh, The Lady of Abu Simbel, and Under the Western Acacia are all part of the "Ramses" series by Christian Jacq, translated from the French by Mary Feeney (Warner)—an epic of ancient Egypt that has been enormously popular in France and is now available here. Stone Tables by Orson Scott Card (Deseret Books) is a biblical/historical novel, but will be of interest to Card's many readers in the fantasy field. The novel paints a dramatic portrait of the brothers Moses and Aaron.
For fans of Arthurian fiction, there are a number of good volumes to chose from this year. My own favorite is the most unusual: The Royal Changeling by John Whitbourn (Earthlight, U.K.). This wily novel mixes Arthurian themes into a story about the British Reformation, throwing in Dr. Johnson, Pepys, elves, and the kitchen sink for good measure. In lesser hands it would be a mess, but Whitbourn is a clever writer who knows exactly what he's doing. I also highly recommend The Wolf and the Crown by A. A. Attanasio (HarperPrism), the third volume in this author's iconoclastic retelling of Arthurian myth. Beautifully written, completely fresh, the book is full of surprises.
Also of note: The Saxon Shore by Jack Whyte (Forge) is the fourth volume in a series that has become an international bestseller. Here, young Arthur is adopted by his cousin Caius Merlyn Britannicus, and groomed to be the leader who will unify Britain against Saxon invasion. Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell (St. Martin's Press) is the third and final volume in a Dark Age version of the Arthurian mythos—a page-turner from an author better known for his best-selling "Sharpe" series. The Enchantress by Vera Chapman (Gollancz, U.K.) is a limpid novel about Arthur's "three half sisters": Morgan, Morgause, and Vivien. The manuscript was unfinished at the time of Chapman's death and has been completedby Mike Ashley. Guinevere Evermore by Sharan Newman (Tor) is the final book of a pleasantly romantic trilogy, following Guinevere and The Chessboard Queen. Into the Path of Gods by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (Bardsong Press) is an odd romantic saga by a Celtic historian, imagining the life of a Welsh spy master in the period leading up to Arthur's reign.
Three of the best Arthurian novels of the year were published in the Young Adult field but are recommended to adult readers. The Fires of Merlin by T. A. Barron (Philomel) is the third book in Barron's "Merlin" series (now projected to run to five volumes). Drenched in myth and magic, permeated with a subtle spirituality, this one will leave you spellbound. I am Mordred by Nancy Springer (Philomel) is a thoroughly engrossing story from the point of view of Arthur's bastard son (born to his half sister Morgause). It's a moving tale of a tragic young man who can't escape destiny. Parzival: The Quest of the Grail Knight is a gorgeous retelling of the Wolfram von Eschenbach original by Katherine Paterson (Lodestar). The author gears her tale to young readers, but her translucent text has an ageless quality. The edition concludes with Paterson's informative notes on the original story.
Other Arthurian publications to look for: The Mammoth Book of Arthurian Legends edited by Mike Ashley (Carroll & Graf) collects forty short stories inspired by the legends of Camelot, ranging from works by John Steinbeck and P. G. Wodehouse to those of Tanith Lee, Brian Stableford and Jane Yolen. Editor Mike Ashley has done an outstanding job, as usual. Camelot Fantastic edited by Lawrence Schimel and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW) is less ambitious in scope, but it's worth picking up for good new tales by Brian Stableford and Rosemary Edghill. Isaac Asimov's Camelot edited by Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams (Ace) is a reprint volume collecting stories first published in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. This is a very strong collection with fine stories from an A-list of authors: Tanith Lee, Megan Lindholm, Jane Yolen, Michael Swanwick, Esther Friesner, Roger Zelazny, and many more.
Other Mythic Fiction
1998 was another good year for fiction inspired by myths, ancient epics, fairy tales, folklore and folk ballads. The best novels in this field are the Day, de Lint, Erdrich, Garner, Hogan, McCrumb, and Snyder books listed above, as well as the folkloric first novels by Yun and Davidson. In addition, I highly recommend Ka by Roberto Calasso, translated from the Italian by Tim Parks (Knopf). It's hard to describe what exactly Ka is: part fiction, part philosophical memoir, and part mythic exploration of the Joseph Campbell sort. You may remember Calasso as the author of the brilliant Cadmus and Harmony, a meditation on Greco-Roman myths; now he's let his imagination loose on Indian mythology and stories from the Indian spiritual tradition. It's a book that stretches your mind and heart, and is surely going to be a classic. I also strongly recommend The Lake Dreams the Sky by Swain Wolfe (Cliff Street Books), a wonderful work of mythic fiction set in the mountains of Montana. Wolfe combines a piquant love story about a drifter and a local waitress in the years after World War II with the contemporary tale of a real estate analyst returning to Montana from Boston ona journey of self-discovery. It's enriched by vivid characters, folklore, mysticism, and magic, and was one of my personal favorites of the year. If you like the fiction of Alice Hoffman, Susan Power, or Charles de Lint, then go and find it.
Other recommendations: The Last Paradise by James D. Houston (University of Oklahoma Press) is a mystical mystery tale about an insurance investigator on a job in Hawaii. His encounters with an old lover (a mixed-blood Native woman) draw him close to the living myths of the land and Pele the fire goddess. It's a suspenseful, romantic novel about about myth and spirit in the ground below. The Giant O'Brian by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt) is the tale of an Irish giant and storyteller of the 18th century who flees to England hoping to make a living as a sideshow exhibit—where he attracts the attention of a surgeon obsessed with dissecting his dead body. This is very dark fantasy, chock full of folk and fairy tales, beautifully written, incredibly grim, deepened by meditations on science, history, and art. Darkest Desire by Anthony Schmidt (Ecco Press) is an odd, amusing novella from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf in German folk tales. Filled with angst, ashamed of his compelling desire to devour children, the Wolf is befriended by the Brothers Grimm ... or so he thinks. It's a wicked look at the nature of fairy tales, and of desire. Little Red Riding Hood by Manlio Argueta, translated from the Spanish by Edward Waters Hood (Curbstone Press) is a hard-hitting book by one of the most important writers to come out of El Salvador, mixing fairy tales and poetry into the story of two young lovers in a war-ravaged country. Argueta's novel is brilliant and touching, but not for the faint of heart.
The Mermaids Singing by Lisa Carey (Avon Bard) is a book I fully expected to love, and was disappointed. Carey's first novel is the story of three generations of Irish-American women, beautifully wound through with euphonious Celtic folk tales and mermaid lore. Unfortunately, the mother and daughter at the center of the book have such large chips on their shoulders that it's a wonder they still walk upright; only the stoic Old Country grandmother kept this reviewer reading. Carey has a magical touch when it comes to descriptions of Irish country life—so despite my misgivings about this particular book, she's clearly a writer to keep an eye on. If relentlessly bad-tempered protagonists don't faze you, give this one a try. Ghost Country by Sara Paretsky (Delacorte) is an unusual book by the author of the popular V. I. Warshawski mysteries. Mystery fans were deeply disconcerted by the novel, but fantasy readers won't blink an eye—we're in familiar territory here. Paretsky has created an affecting tale about homeless women in the streets of Chicago and ancient myths in the modern world. The Moor by Laurie R. King (St. Martin's Press) is the latest in this author's Mary Russell series about "the wife of Sherlock Homes." This one, which returns to the misty Dartmoor setting of The Hound of the Baskervilles, is a story seeded with the myths and legends of England's West Country. (King even uses a real-life folklorist, Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, as a character.) It's a terrific book (but as a Dartmoor dweller, I admit to being biased here!). Eucalyptus by Murray Ball (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is a realist story but follows a classic fairy tale theme: a man in western Australia has created a living museum of trees consisting of hundreds of different species of eucalyptus. When it comes time for his daughter to marry, her suitors must pass the test of correctly naming each tree on the property. It's an amiable, quirky little romance, embellished withnuggets of folklore, natural science and Australian history. Faraday's Popcorn Factory by Sandra Lee Gould (St. Martin's Press) is contemporary mythic fantasy set in a small Ohio town, blending African folk tales with a sensual, spiritual love story. This first novel has charming moments and lovely descriptive passages; it doesn't quite hang together as a whole, but is worth a look. Holding Out by Anne O. Faulk (Simon & Schuster) is an entertaining page-turner inspired by Aristophanes's Lysistrata. In this good-natured political satire, women across America are encouraged to go on sexual strike until certain social changes are made ... . It's light, but a lot of fun. Medea by Christa Wolf (Doubleday) is a more ponderously feminist work based on the Medea legend (with an introduction by Margaret Atwood). After German unification, it was discovered that Wolf had been a Stasi informant for many years—which gives her exploration of the much-maligned Medea figure additional levels of meaning.
Fantasy in the Mainstream
Magical books on the mainstream shelves can be harder to spot than those grouped tidily under a fantasy label, so each year we try to point the way to books you might otherwise overlook. This year, the best of these are the Day, Doud, Erdrich, Hogan, Knox, and McCrumb books listed previously, but here are a handful of others which are also strongly recommended: Oyster by Janette Turner Hospital (W. W. Norton) is another stunning novel by the Australian author of The Last Magician. In her latest, Hospital paints a shattering portrait of a charismatic doomsday cult leader who takes over a remote town of opal miners in the Australian outback. It's a densely layered novel, shot through with elements of surrealism and aboriginal myth. The plot is compelling, even hypnotic, and leaves you stunned at the book's end. Another book I recommend highly is Semaphore by G. W. Hawkes (MacMurray & Beck), a coming-of-age tale about a boy who can foresee the future (his sister's death by drowning, his own marriage to the little girl next door ... ) and how he and his family live with this unsettling ability. It's a provocative premise, well executed. Quarantine by Jim Crace (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is a beautifully penned novel imagining Jesus of Nazareth's forty days in the wilderness, set in a convincingly historical, non-miraculous context. This thoughtful, passionate book won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and was short-listed for the Booker Prize. I recommend it highly even if, like me, you don't usually read Biblical fiction. Ghost Children by Sue Townsend (Soho Press) is darker than Townsend's usual work (the best-selling "Adrian Mole" series), concerning class issues, poverty, and child abuse in modern England. The plot involves the ghost of a teenage girl (among other unwanted children) who haunts a woman seventeen years after an abortion. It's a hard-hitting but compassionate book, complex in its moral outlook and brightened by flashes of the author's trademark humor. Don't be put off by the bleak topic—this is Townsend at her best. The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is a sagacious, highly erotic new novel from this acclaimed Peruvian writer, a sequel of sorts to his comic novel In Praise of the Stepmother. Llosa is a magician with words, conjuring illusion and enchantment through a text layered with stories, notebook excerpts and anonymous letters, stitched togetherby the life and art of the painter Egon Schiele. Ghost Town by Robert Coover (Henry Holt) is another phantasmagorical novel consisting of stories embedded within stories, although in this case the effect is a postmodern one, comic but brutal. As in his gorgeous book Briar Rose, Coover is reworking mythic themes: this time, cowboy myths and outlaw tales of the American West.
Other mainstream novels of note: The Passion Dream Book by Whitney Otto (HarperCollins) is a novel that should have pushed all my buttons: a fantasia about women artists, starting in the Italian Renaissance and moving to Hollywood, Harlem, and Paris in our own century. (The slight fantasy element here is the way in which the past entwines with the present.) Otto's book never quite engages, however, and the characters are oddly distant. The atmospheric Italian section is worth a look, but overall it's a disappointment. Esperanza's Box of Saints by Maia Amparo Escandon (Scribner), on the other hand, is fully engaging. The novel follows the journey of a beautiful widow searching for her missing daughter, guided by a box full of whispering santos. Ranging from a small village in Mexico to the streets of modern L.A., it's a beautifully redemptive novel, both comic and tragic. The History of Our World Beyond the Wave by R. E. Klein (Harcourt Brace) is a modern fable about a young man surfing the oceans in search of fellow survivors after a massive tidal wave engulfs the Earth. Full of big ideas and grand adventure, Klein's novel is quirky and better than it sounds. Our Sometime Sister by Norah Labiner (Coffee House Press) is the first novel by a young author mixing autobiographical material about a girl exiled to boarding school with fragments of Hamlet. Some of the first novels coming out of Coffee House Press are a bit self-indulgent ... but this one is an exception. It's a fat, ambitious book—not flawless, but unique and memorable.
Ximena at the Crossroads by Laura Riesco, translated from the Spanish by Mary G. Berg (White Pine Press) is about a young girl growing up in a wealthy Spanish family in 1940s Peru, slowly becoming aware of the gulf between her privileged life and the poverty of the native people, as well as of the world of politics impinging on her nation. The fantasy elements include the stories Ximena tells to connect to the adults in her life; it's a magically atmospheric book, but has little in the way of plot. The Undiscovered Country by Samantha Gillson (Grove Press) is the harrowing tale of a family of American researchers torn apart by their experiences in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. This is another richly atmospheric book flavored with folk tales, myths and local color, yet it's flawed by irritating characters who seem almost to deserve their fate. (For a better book with a similar theme, try The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver instead.) Flower in the Skull by Kathleen Alcala (Chronicle) is the sequel to last year's Ordinary Spirits. Unlike the previous volume, Alcalá strays away from magic realism here—but it's a beautiful story nonetheless, ranging from nineteenth-century Sonora, Mexico to modern-day Tucson, and readers who loved the previous volume will certainly enjoy this one as well. The Sin Eater by Alice Thomas Ellis (Moyer Bell) is another novel with little in the way of overt magic in it (although the theme and title of the book are based on an old Welsh folk tale), but fans of her last novel, A Fairy Tale, will want to give it a go. This one involves a Welsh family gathered around the death bed of its patriarch.
Persian Brides by Dorit Rabinyan, translated from the Hebrew by Yael Lotan (George Braziller) is a novel to steer clear of—don't be swayed by the laudatoryreviews. This young author's book is woven through with folk tales and dark magic, but is ruined by characters who wail, whine, shriek, and giggle endlessly, then beat and sexually torment each other. It could have had the flavor of the Arabian nights; it's more like curdled milk. The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora by Michael Nesmith (St. Martin's Press) is another one I'd give a miss—although, to be fair, my assistant loved it, as did mainstream reviewers. It's a first novel by a blues musician (and member of the Monkees—yes, that Mike Nesmith) involving a musician's quest through the New Mexico desert to track down a mysterious blues musician who may, or may not, turn out to be an Indian High Priestess ... or a Martian. The book has the flavor of fantasy written by someone unfamiliar with similar books already published in the field; the mythic elements are earnestly utopian and didactic. Still, it has its moments.
Angels seem to be a popular theme in mainstream fiction these days. Some of these novels are dreadful and I won't attempt to list them here, but a few writers managed to avoid both sentimentality and cliché to create fine tales. The very best of them, hands down, is The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox (listed previously), but here are three more angel stories that I can recommend: Falling to Earth by Elisabeth Brownrigg (Firebrand Books), a comic novel about a closeted lesbian and her exasperating guardian angel; River Angel by A. Manette Ansay (Morrow), a lovely tale about the guardian angel of a river in Wisconsin; and Rose's Garden by Carrie Brown (Algonquin), an incandescent little novel about angels, grief, and gardening.
Reflections of Loko Miwa by Lilas Desquiron, translated from the French by Robin Orr Bodkin (University of Virginia Press) is an intense story about Haitian society, female sexuality, and the magical traditions of Haitian Vodoun. Chocolat by Joanne Harris (Viking) is an enigmatic tale about a mysterious woman in a French village who runs a chocolate shop and may, or may not, be a witch. The Ruins by Tracy Farrell (New York University Press) is a peculiar little book that won the N.Y.U. Press Prize for First Novel: a dark, mystical fable about a hapless shoeshine boy. The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is a self-consciously magic realist novel set in the Blue Mountains of Australia. The turn-of-the-century period detail is very nice indeed, but the prose tends toward the overly-lyrical and sometimes floats away altogether. Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White (Knopf) is a charming episodic book about small-town life in southern Georgia from a writer best known as a storyteller on National Public Radio. White's work is eccentric, whimsical and droll, with a quiet folksy appeal. The Circus at the End of the World by Rosalind Brackenbury (Fithian Press) is a curious magic realist talc about a young juggler who travels the world searching for love, and the mother who abandoned him as a child. Hell by Kathryn Davis (Ecco Press) is the latest from the author of the fine adult fairy tale novel The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf Her new one is a darker book, braiding the stories of three households: the home of Edwina Moss (a 19th-century expert on domestic management), a suburban family of the 1950s, and a dollhouse family. The ideas here are interesting, even brilliant, but the author's style is challenging to the point of inaccessibility. Gaff Topsails by Patrick Kavanagh (Viking) is a dense, Joycean first novel set in a remote Newfoundland fishing village. This is another challenging read, but one that is worth the effort. Although Kavanagh sometimes goes over the top with self-consciously poetic prose,he tells a fascinating story of the conflict between the Christian religion and old pagan beliefs. A Troubadour's Testament by James Cowan (Shambhala) is a short, handsomely packaged book from the author of A Mapmaker's Dream. Hardcore medievalists may love this one, but for the rest of us it's a bit cerebral, based on the now-familiar conceit of an academic drawn into the past (in this case, 12th-century Provence) in the course of his research. Although billed as a novel, Cowan's book is really a slow meditation on spiritual love, more educational than moving. D'Alembert's Principal: Memory, Reason, and Imagination by Andrew Crumey (Picador) is another one that disappoints. Crumey calls this "a novel in three parts," set in the 18th century, exploring reality and mathematics. It's obscure rather than intriguing, and I'd give it a miss. Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber (Bantam), a bestseller in its original French edition, was promoted by the publisher as "the Watership Down of ants." If that description attracts rather than repulses you, then give it a try. And if one bug book isn't enough, you can also look for The Life of Insects by Victor Pelevin, translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), an allegory about modern Russian society told through anthropomorphic insects.
For good satiric fantasy, I recommend The Smithsonian Institute by Gore Vidal (Random House), a political saga set in Washington, D.C., in 1939. T., a teenage math prodigy with an uncanny ability to understand Einstein's formula, is sent to the Smithsonian to help work on the secrets of the bomb. After hours, the various Smithsonian dioramas come to life in a complex plot in which T. attempts to change history and to have a lot of sex. It's pure Vidal—an entertaining spoof enriched by his dazzling command of American history and politics. I also recommend Second Coming Attractions by David Prill (St. Martin's Press), a parody of the Christian film industry and religious fanaticism. Although perhaps not quite as tight as his previous novel, Serial Killer Days, it's pretty funny nonetheless, and pulls no punches. Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland (HarperCollins) is a cynical, offbeat tale about a teenage girl who loses her virginity then lapses into a coma; she wakes up eighteen years later to find that the world and her friends have changed. The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe (Knopf) is a thoughtful tale, both satiric and romantic, about sleeping, dreaming, and the shifting nature of reality. Memories of My Father While Watching TV by Curtis White (Dalkey Archive Press) is a sharply satiric fantasia about American family life and television culture.
Notable reprint editions: Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan (Tachyon Publications) is the reprint of a supernatural love story from the 1940s, with introductions by Peter S. Beagle and Sean Stewart. Ashe of Rings and Other Writings by Mary Butts (McPherson & Co.) revives the work of a British author who played a vibrant part in the expatriot literary community in Paris between the two wars. Her fiction, often autobiographical, is tinged with occult elements. The McPherson edition contains her first novel, Ashe of Rings, a novella, "Imaginary Letters," and three essays, including one on ghost fiction. Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann (Knopf) has been newly translated by John E. Wood. If you haven't yet read this German classic about a musical genius who trades his soul in order to become a great composer, here's an opportunity to do so.
The Best Peculiar Book distinction of 1998 goes to An Unlikely Prophet by Alvin Schwartz (MacMurray & Beck). Though billed as autobiography, this reads like fantasy to me—or else a Tom Robbins novel. Schwartz was a writer of the forties and fifties who hung out with the likes of Jackson Pollack and Saul Bellow, yet was best known as the author of Superman and Batman comic strips. Unlikely as it seems, writing Superman becomes the first step in a wild adventure involving a seven-foot-tall Tibetan tulpa, a time-traveling Hawaiian kahuna, and messages in Pollack's paintings ... . What more can I say? The runner-up for this "award" is Last Love in Constantinople: A Tarot Novel for Divination by Milorad Pavic, translated from the Serbian by Christina Pribichevich-Zoric (Dufour Editions). Pavic's literary fantasy tale is set during the Napoleonic Wars; it comes complete with tarot cards designed by Pavic and instructions on how to use them in conjunction with the text. It's odd and ingenious, like so much of Pavic's work.
Raining Cats and Dogs
What is it with cat and dog books? Last year, so many were sent for review that we put them into a category of their own; this year, they are equally abundant. The best cat fantasy of the lot is The Wild Road by Gabriel King (Del Rey), the epic journey of a London house cat crossing the island to Cornwall. There are animal companions to aid the quest, an evil alchemist to be thwarted, and a world of enchantment conjured behind the backs of oblivious humans. This premise has the potential to end up being nauseatingly cute, but we're dealing with first-rate writers here (M. John Harrison and Jane Johnson, collaborating under the King pseudonym); as a result, the book is smart, clever, and sparkles with genuine magic. The best dog story is A Dog's Head by Jean Dutourd, translated from the French by Robin Chancellor (University of Chicago Press), a classic tale of French magic realism brought back to print after thirty-five years. It's a bittersweet, satiric novel—part Borges and part fairy tale—recounting the life story of a boy born with the head of a spaniel.
Others, briefly noted: The Dogs by Rebecca Brown (City Lights) is a bizarre novel written in the form of a "modern bestiary" about an American woman living in a small apartment with a pack of otherworldly Doberman pinschers, and her slow descent into madness. Very strange. The Cat by Pat Grey (Ecco Press) is an offbeat comic novel about the lives of Cat, Mouse, and Rat in a house whose owner has fallen down dead in front of the refrigerator. It's amusing, and very British. Snow by Betsy Howie (Harcourt Brace) is an indulgent semiautobiographical "story of self-discovery" about a woman in an isolated winter cabin trying to stave off a nervous breakdown with the aid of two cats (one of whom talks) and Spam-loving bears. Samurai Cat Goes to Hell by Mark E. Rodgers (Tor) is the fifth and final book of this rather broad comedy series about the adventures of a feline samurai warrior and his nephew sidekick. The Bridegroom Was a Dog by Yoko Tawada, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani (Kodansha) is a collection of three novellas by a young, award-winning Japanese writer. The title piece is a quirky erotic story about a teacher, her unconventionallover, and the fairy tale of a princess promised in marriage to a dog. It's ... unusual. Rover's Tales: A Canine Crusader and his Travels in the Dog World by Michael Z. Lewin (St. Martin's Press) contains forty short stories, by a popular mystery writer, about a smart and lovable mutt. The tales range from funny to overly sentimental; the illustrations by Karen Wallis are delightful. Cat on a Hyacinth Hunt by Carole Nelson Douglas (Forge) is the latest in her "Midnight Louie" series about a feline detective. The book is light, but a page-turner and charming in an offbeat way. If you're interested in books about cats, try: Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas edited by Nicholas J. Saunders (Routledge); or The Mythology of Cats: Feline Legend and Lore Through the Ages by Gerald and Loretta Hausman (St. Martin's Press). 99 Lives: Cats in History, Legend and Literature by Howard Loxton (Chronicle) is lavishly illustrated with photographs and fine art, and would make a fine gift book. Angel Cat by Michael Garland (Boyd Mills Press) is a handsome picture book, and a lovely present for a child, or even an adult, whose cat has died.
The following fantasy novels hit the bestseller lists in 1998. Beloved by large numbers of readers across the country, they deserve mention: A Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks (Ballantine), Running With the Demon by Terry Brooks (Del Rey), Queen of Demons by David Drake (Tor), Polgara the Sorceress by Eddings & Eddings (Del Rey), Krondor the Betrayal by Raymond E. Feist (Avon Books), Shards of a Broken Crown by Raymond E. Feist (Avon), Temple of the Winds by Terry Goodkind (Tor), Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Mercedes Lackey (Baen), Into the Fire by Dennis L. McKiernan (Roc), Sword-born by Jennifer Roberson (DAW), and The Demon Spirit by R. A. Salvatore (Del Rey).
In the field of science fiction there are several books with magical elements that fantasy readers may also enjoy. The best of them is Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (Warner), a novel set in the economic ruins of 21st-century Toronto. Despite the SF premise, the book reads more like fantasy or magic realism, for it's a talc bursting with Afro-Caribbean myths, legends, folkways, voodoo, and spiritual beliefs. This book won the Warner Aspect First Novel Award, and Jamaican-born Hopkinson is clearly a writer to keep an eye on. I also recommend Octoberland by Adam Lee (Avon), a blend of science fiction, fantasy and postmodern phantasmagoria. Like all of A. A. Attanasio's fiction, including tales published under the Lee psuedonym, the book astonishes with its language, breadth, and sheer inventiveness. Ark Baby by Liz Jensen (Overlook Press) has both SF and fantasy elements. The book features two plot lines, one set in twenty-first-century Britain in which all women are mysteriously barren, the other set in the nineteenth century. Both plots are darkly humorous, unusual to the point of weird, and are tied together by Darwinian theories of evolution.
Time travel novels are usually properly classified as science fiction, but some of these tales can be of interest to fantasy readers as well. The best of these in 1998 is To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (Bantam Spectra), a smart, hilarious romp ranging from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, and stamping over every known genre boundary in the process. It's a unique homage to the fiction of Jerome K. Jerome, Dorothy Sayers, and P. G. Wodehouse. I alsorecommend The Iron Bridge by David E. Morse (Harcourt Brace) about a young woman from a dystopian future trying to prevent the building of the first iron bridge (and the Industrial Revolution). Morse's book is a first novel, and an impressive debut. Making History by Stephen Fry (Random House) is a new satiric novel by this well-known British actor/writer, about a history student who unwittingly falls into a time-travel plot to prevent Hitler's birth. Fry creates an extravagant story that stumbles a little along the way, but is enjoyable nonetheless. Flesh Guitar by Geoff Nicholson (Gollancz, U.K.; Overlook, U.S.) is about a woman who travels through time to jam with the greats of musical history (both real and invented). It's an unusual, moving tale—not flawless, but worth seeking out.
The best children's fantasy novel of the year is the one on all the bestseller lists: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling (Scholastic). This Scottish author's first novel is a fast-paced, sparkling dark comedy about a boy on scholarship at "Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry." It won England's National Book Award, among other prizes, and is captivating audiences of all ages around the world. For fantasy readers, little in Rowling's tale will be startlingly original, but her narrative voice is wonderful and I recommend seeking the book out.
The best of the rest: The Heavenward Path by Kara Dalkey (Harcourt Brace) is a gorgeous, mythic, romantic novel set in twelfth-century Japan. This book is the sequel to Dalkey's Little Sister, and I recommend it highly. Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli (Scholastic) is another novel that shouldn't be missed—the lyrical story of a mermaid and a Greek warrior, by the author of Zel. In a Dark Wood by Michael Cadnum (Orchard) is a dark version of the Robin Hood myth, retold from the point of view of Lord Geoffrey, Sheriff of Nottingham. It's a taut, suspenseful portrayal of daily life in the Middle Ages. Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher (Atheneum) is an outstanding fantasy novel inspired by the stories of Scheherazade, poetically told from the point of view of a lame serving girl. The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson (Dutton) is a clever, surprising story in which a London railway platform becomes the door to a magic island—a door which can only be opened, however, once every nine years. Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow) is a tongue-in-cheek fantasy spoof about an inept wizard and tourists from another world—silly and fun. Clockwork by Philip Pullman (Scholastic) is a terrific new work from the award-winning author of The Golden Compass. This slim little volume contains the story of an apprentice clockmaker and the sinister stranger who comes to offer him his heart's desire. Reminiscent of old German folk tales but filled with unique Pullman twists and turns, the book is a treat, and beautifully illustrated by Leonid Gore. Pullman fans should also keep an eye out for Count Karlstein (Knopf), a deliciously Gothic tale in a small, illustrated edition.
I also recommend the following: Circle of Magic: Sandry's Book, Tris's Book and Daja's Book by Tamora Pierce (Scholastic), three books in the "Circle of Magic" quartet, involve young student mages in a landscape steeped in enchantment, vividly rendered. The Long Patrol by Brian Jacques (Philomel), the tenthbook in the best-selling "Redwall" series, is the story of hedgehogs, hares, and shrews who band together to save Redwall Abbey from vicious vermin. I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson (Orchard) is a memorable tale with lovely period detail set in fourteenth-century China, about a lame girl, her grandmother (a Mongolian shaman), a talking horse, a tiger cat, and the court of Kublai Khan. Dark Shade by Jane Louise Curry (Atheneum) is a fine time-travel novel about two children in western Pennsylvania who walk through a dark forest into the French and Indian War of 1758. The Boxes by William Sleator (Dutton) is wonderful dark fantasy about two mysterious boxes ... and what they contain. The Islander by Cynthia Rylant (DK Publishing) is a charming little edition by a Newbery Medal winner—a gentle story about the sea, a magic key, and a mermaid. Another good ocean story is The Sea Man by Jane Yolen (Philomel), a lyrical merman tale with illustrations by Christopher Denise (Philomel). Twilight Boy by Timothy Green (Rising Moon/Northland) is a mystical mystery novel set on the Navajo Indian reservation. Adult readers will prefer Tony Hillerman's books, which Green's story greatly resembles, but this is a good one to give to younger fantasy and mystery fans. The Godmother's Web by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Ace) is another Native-American tale, part of the "Godmother" series exploring the folklore of different cultures. I recommend the previous two volumes as well: The Godmother (European folklore) and The Godmother's Apprentice (Irish folklore). Other good books, noted briefly: Switchers by Kate Thompson (Hyperion), Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster), Court Duel by Sherwood Smith (Harcourt Brace), The Darkling by Charles Butler (McElderry), Fire Arrow: The Second Song of Eirren by Edith Pattou (Harcourt Brace), Angels Turn Their Backs by Margaret Buffie (Kids Can Press), and Draugr by Arthur G. Slade (Orca Books, Canada).
The best children's story collection of the year is Even a Little is Something: Stories of Nong by Tom Glass (Linnet), a volume of colorful tales set in a rural village in Thailand, illustrated by Elena Gerard. Here There Be Ghosts by Jane Yolen (Harcourt Brace) is also recommended: a volume of stories and poems on a ghostly theme, illustrated by David Wilgus. Also of note: Enchanted Journeys: Fifty Years of Irish Writing for Children edited by Robert Dunbar (The O'Brien Press, Ireland). This collection features eighteen Irish authors from the 1940s to the present, represented here with excerpts selected from previously published books. Although it is rarely satisfying to read snippets of larger works, Dunbar's anthology performs a valuable service in bringing fine writers like Marita Conlon-McKenna, Tom McCaughren, Elizabeth O'Hara (the pseudonym of Elis Ni Dhuibhne), Martin Waddell, Eilis Dillon, and others to our attention. Maurice, or the Fisher's Cot by Mary Shelley (Knopf) is a bittersweet "new" children's tale by the author of Frankenstein. Claire Tomalin's fascinating introduction recounts how Shelley's manuscript, lost for more than two hundred years, was recently rediscovered in a trunk in an old Italian palazzo. The book provides a good introduction to Mary Shelley's life and work—but it's likely to be more of interest to adults, and Shelley fans, than to children. There's been a lot of hoopla this year about a new story by J. R. R. Tolkien: Roverandom, edited and introduced by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (Houghton Mifflin). Tolkien first invented this shaggy dog, oops, I mean magical dog story on a family vacation. Eventually he wrote it down and submitted it to his British publisher,just after the success of The Hobbit. Wisely, his publisher declined it and requested another story instead: the story that eventually became Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. Now, lo these many years later, the older piece has been revived. If you're a rabid Tolkien fan, check it out; otherwise give it a miss.
Notable reprint editions: Peter Glassman of "Books of Wonder" continues to produce gorgeous facsimile editions of classic Oz titles, complete with the old John R. Neill illustrations. Available this year are The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum, and The Royal Book of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson (Morrow/Books of Wonder). Also for Oz fans (although not quite as handsome): The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill (Dover); and an original title: Visitors from Oz by Martin Gardner (St. Martin's Press), which brings Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man to the streets of modern Manhattan (not a book meant for kids). The Antique Collector's Club has started a new line of books called "ACC Children's Classics," publishing venerable children's tales in new editions with contemporary illustrations. Their first publications are: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, Mistress Masham's Repose by T. H. White, and Sailing Days: Stories and Poems about the Sea compiled by Amy McKay. Another welcome reprint is The Fisherman and His Soul and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde (St. Martin's Press), a small hardcover edition published in the Bloomsbury Classic Series.
Single-author Story Collections
1998 has turned out to be a particularly strong year for collections, particularly within the fantasy genre. The top volume of the year, however, comes from a mainstream source: Elementals: Stories of Ice and Fire by A. S. Byatt (Chatto & Wyndus, U.K.). This edition features six extraordinary tales by this Booker Prizewinning author, including her French fantasia "A Lamia in the Cevennes" and her sensual fairy tale "Cold." It's the best one yet from Byatt—thoroughly magical, and presented in a handsome little volume with art by Edvard Munch. I also recommend Moonlight and Vines by Charles de Lint (Tor), the author's third collection of "Newford" stories (following Dreams Underfoot and The Ivory and the Horn). De Lint mixes the myths of Old World immigrants and New World native peoples, stirs them into a melting pot of contemporary urban fiction, and imbues them with music, magic, and an almost shamanic style of storytelling. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (Avon Books) is a flashy, versatile collection by a flashy, versatile writer who was named one of the "Ten Top Postmodern Writers in America" by The Dictionary of Literary Biography. In his new collection, Gaiman dazzles the reader with his storytelling powers—and with the sheer diversity of his work, ranging from pastiche to crystalline fairy tales to psychological horror. The Night We Buried Road Dog by Jack Cady (DreamHaven) contains six ghostly tales, along with an introduction by Peter S. Beagle. Cady is one of the great writers of our day, with a distinctively American voice. The title novella is worth the price of the book alone. Karen Joy Fowler has been called "the American Angela Carter" and she shows how apt that label is in her fine new collection Black Glass (Henry Holt). It's another one that dazzles withdiversity and literary panache. Last Summer at Mars Hill by Elizabeth Hand (HarperPrism) is yet another excellent volume, reprinting strong cross-genre tales like "The Erl-King," the title story, and a handful of other pieces that have, as Tappan King once described them, "heart and also sharp little teeth." Going Home Again by Howard Waldrop (St. Martin's Press) reprints nine classic Waldrop stories—witty, wacky, wonderful stuff from a World Fantasy Award-winning author. The Cleft and Other Odd Tales by Gahan Wilson (Tor) contains fine works of dark fantasy and horror: disturbing, often mesmorizing fiction accompanied by Wilson's art.
On the mainstream shelves, I recommend Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley (Viking), an omnibus edition of this Argentinean master's distinctive short stories, dating from 1935 publications to never-before-translated tales. The Knife Thrower and Other Stories by Steven Millhauser (Crown) is a tour de force of Millhauserian phantasmagoria—demonstrating once again that this author is one of the finest fantasists of our day. Flying Leap by Judy Budnitz (Picador) is the debut collection of a talented young writer—primarily a realist work, but with several forays into fantasy. The Woman with the Flying Head and Other Stories by Kurahashi Yumiko, translated from the Japanese by Atsuko Sakaki (M. E. Sharpe), is the first English-language collection of stories by this award-winning writer. Yumiko's volume of eleven dreamlike stories, with erotic and surrealist elements, was published as part of M. E. Sharpe's "Japanese Women Writing" series.
Small press story collections this year include Lost Pages by Paul Di Filippo (Four Walls Eight Windows), a strong volume of tales reimagining the lives and adventures of such literary figures as Franz Kafka, Anne Frank, Henry Miller, Philip K. Dick, Joseph Campbell, Jack Kerouac, Theodore Sturgeon and others. Weird Women, Wired Women by Kit Reed (Wesleyan University Press) is a genre-and gender-bending collection by one of our most interesting writers. This volume draws tales from three decades of work, and contains three original pieces. The Mirror of Lida Sal by Miguel Angel Asturias, translated from the Spanish by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert (Latin American Literary Review), collects fabulous, very surreal little stories based on Guatemalan myths and legends. Dance House by Marshall Joseph III (Red Crane Books) is a collection of contemporary stories (and essays) by a member of the Sicunga Lakota Sioux nation. While most of these are realist tales, Joseph's poignant ghost story "Cozy by the Fire" is recommended to fantasy readers. Sari of the Gods by G. S. Sharat Chandra (Coffee House Press) is a collection of stories portraying the Indian-American immigrant experience. The middle section of the book, set in rural India in the 1950s and 1960s, is full of exotic, magical detail and thus recommended to fantasy readers. The Music Behind the Wall: Selected Stories, Vol. 2 by Anna Maria Ortese, translated from the Italian by Henry Martin (McPherson), will be of interest to fans of surrealism and stylistic experimentation—as will Hectic Ethics by Francisco Hinojosa, translated from the Spanish by Kurt Hollander (City Lights Books), the first U.S. publication of this award-winning Mexican author's work.
Reprinted classics: Farewell to Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber (Borealis/White Wolf) is a new edition bringing Leiber's famous "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" stories back to print. Many fantasists today cut their teeth on Leiber's work, so if your own reading began with Jordan and Brooks, go get this volume at once.The Avram Davidson Treasury by Avram Davidson, edited by Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis (Tor) is an elegant posthumous collection of the short fiction of this erudite writer, with afterwords by Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, and story introductions contributed by a veritable who's who list of fantasy authors. The selections in the book span a period of thirty years (beginning in the 1950s), containing such classics as "Or All the Sea with Oysters" and "Manatee Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight." The Perfect Host: The Collected Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 5, by Theodore Sturgeon (North Atlantic) is the latest volume in a series collecting short fiction by yet another great writer who shaped the modern fantasy field. Going back a little further in time, there's a new collection of Fairy Tales, Short Stories and Poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Lang), an unattractive but useful edition of works by this great German Romantic, including his imagistic fairy tales, translated from the German by J. W. Thomas.
There are several fat anthologies devoted exclusively to fantasy fiction this year, but little that's new or innovative to get excited about. The best of them is probably The Fantasy Hall of Fame edited by Robert Silverberg (HarperPrism), a reprint volume containing stories chosen by the membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization. It's a worthy, solidly conservative book (despite a nod to Jorge Luis Borges), filled with the names you would expect and stories that have been anthologized before by Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, Peter S. Beagle, Roger Zelazny, Gene Wolfe, Ursula K. Le Guin, etc. According to the book's promotional material, these are the authors and stories that have shaped and defined the modern fantasy field. Well now, this is true only if one ignores broad sections of the fantasy landscape of the 80s and 90s, which is more diverse (and contains far more women writers) than this book would lead you to believe. Yet within its limitations, this doorstop of a volume contains some fine, classic tales. I recommend it as a gift for young readers who have never ventured beyond commercial fantasy sagas. It's a good foundation volume, and better than your other choice: A Magic Lover's Treasury of the Fantastic edited by Margaret Weis (Warner), an uneven collection. Then there's Legends edited by Robert Silverberg (Tor), boasting brand new fiction by Robert Jordan, Stephen King, Terry Goodkind, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Pratchett and a host of others, each story set in a fantasy world the author has already made famous. Lavishly designed and illustrated by Darrell Sweet and Michael Whelan, if ever a book was designed specifically for the bestseller lists, this is it.
When we turn to anthologies mixing fantasy tales with science fiction and horror, things get a bit brighter. The best original anthology I read this year was Starlight 2, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor), the second installment in this astute editor's World Fantasy Award-winning series. Magical, highly literary tales by Susanna Clarke, Ellen Kushner, Ted Chiang, Angelica Gorodischer (translated from the Spanish by Ursula K. Le Guin), and others make this book of interest to fantasy readers, and I highly recommend it. Of the various reprint anthologies, I recommend three in particular. Flying Cups and Saucers: GenderExplorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Debbie Notkin and "the Secret Feminist Cabal" (Edgewood Press) contains sharp, transgressive fiction by Lisa Tuttle, James Patrick Kelley, Ian McDonald, Delia Sherman, Kelley Es-kridge, Ursula K. Le Guin and others—all tales that either won or were short-listed for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Dreaming Down-Under edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb (Voyager, Australia) is a broad-ranging collection of fantasy, science fiction, horror, surrealism, and magical realism by Australian authors. There's some very fine work here by Lucy Sussex, Terry Dowling, and numerous others. Great American Ghost Stories edited by Frank D. McSherry, Jr., Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenberg (Rutledge Hill Press) is an unusually good reprint collection, ignoring genre boundaries to gather stories scattered across the fifty states by Ambrose Bierce, Seabury Quinn, Donald E. Westlake, Madeleine L'Engle, Manly Wade Wellman, Joyce Carol Oates, Jack Cady, Harlan Ellison, Dahlov Ipcar, and many more.
Other anthologies, mentioned briefly: Lord of the Fantastic edited by Martin H. Greenberg (Avon Books) is a lovely tribute volume honoring Roger Zelany (1937-1995), one of the finest writers to grace the SF and fantasy fields in the last half-century. The book features original fiction by Robert Silverberg, John Varley, Andre Norton, Steven Brust, and many more—mostly science fiction tales, but a small amount of fantasy, too. The Best of Crank! edited by Bryan Cholfin (Tor) collects weird and wonderful interstitial stories (first published in the Crank! small press journal) by the likes of Jonathan Lethem, Michael Bishop, and R. A. Lafferty. In the Shadow of the Gargoyle edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas R. Roche (Berkley) is a theme collection of stories about gargoyles—mostly horror fiction, but there's also some nice fantasy tucked within these pages. Black Cats and Broken Mirrors edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Heifers (DAW) is the best of the many Greenberg theme anthologies this year, with nice original work from Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Charles de Lint, and Bruce Holland Rogers. Imagination Fully Dilated edited by Alan M. Clark and Elizabeth Engstrom (Cemetery Dance) is a small press edition of tales based on Alan M. Clark's macabre art. It's primarily of interest to horror and SF fans, but it contains a bit of fantasy too. Things Invisible to See edited by Lawrence Schimel (Circlet) is a small press collection of "gay and lesbian tales of magical realism," nicely packaged, with a particularly good contribution from Martha Soukup. The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy edited by Mike Ashley (Carroll & Graf) mixes old and new tales ranging from Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, and James Thurber to Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, and Douglas Adams.
For swords-and-sorcery fans: Fantastic Worlds edited by Paul Collins (HarperCollins) contains original tales from Australian writers; Swords and Sorceresses XV edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley (DAW) is the latest in a long-lived series which has given many young writers their start; and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Worlds edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Rachel Holmen is a small press collection of original fiction (The MZB Literary Works Trust). For mystery fans: Once Upon a Crime: Fairy Tales for Mystery Lovers edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg (Prime Crime); and Crossing the Line: Canadian Mysteries with a Fantastic Twist edited by Robert J. Sawyer and David Skene-Melvin (Pottersfield Press, Nova Scotia). Also from Canada: Arrowdreams edited by Mark Shainblum and John Dupuis (Nuage Editions, Canada), storiesexploring alternate versions of Canadian history. Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Jack Dann (Jewish Lights) is a reprint edition of a book that has been out of print for twenty-five years.
Lovers of surrealist fiction should seek out Leviathan 2: The Legacy of Boccaccio edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Rose Secrest (Ministry of Whimsy Press), and The Belgian School of the Bizarre edited by Kim Connell (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press). Prospero's Mirror: A Translator's Portfolio of Latin American Short Fiction edited by Ilan Stavans (Curbstone) contains a range of stories from some of the best Latin American writers and translators working today, including magical realist works. Cubana: Contemporary Fiction by Cuban Women edited by Mirta Yanez, translated from the Spanish by Dick Cluster (Beacon Press), is another good collection ranging from realist to magic realist fiction. Which Lilith edited by Enid Dame, Lilly Rivlin, and Henry Wenkart (Jason Aronson) is an anthology collecting "women's responses to the Lilith myth in prose and poetry." It's a wildly uneven volume with some very good essays and poetry, but the fiction has an amateur feel. If you're interested in the subject check it out, but be forewarned.
I should also mention my own anthologies here, for the sake of the authors published in them: The Essential Bordertown co-edited with Delia Sherman (Tor) contains original urban fantasy stories on teenage coming-of-age themes by Ellen Kushner, Midori Snyder, Charles de Lint, Steven Brust, Patricia A. McKillip, and a host of others. Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers co-edited with Ellen Datlow (HarperPrism), contains original stories and poems on the theme of passion, obsession, and mytho-eroticism by Joyce Carol Oates, Tanith Lee, Ellen Kushner, Brian Stablefold, Neil Gaiman, Delia Sherman, Pat Murphy, and others.
There is a great deal of magical and mythic poetry being published these days, but for the most part it's scattered across journals and magazines rather than collected into single volumes. I can recommend a few editions, however, that are well worth seeking out:
Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson (Knopf), billed as "a novel in verse," is a contemporary reworking of the myth of Geryon and Herakles—a passionate, extraordinary book which I recommend highly. Proper Myth by William F. Van Wert (Orchises Press) is a rich, thoughtful collection exploring Greek myths, along with the themes of race and gender. Esperanza: Poems for Orpheus by Holly Prado (Orchises Press) is a wonderful collection about ancient Greek myth, modern life, and the nature of inspiration. Mrs. Dumpty by Chana Bloch (University of Wisconsin Press) is a powerful, heart-breaking memoir-in-verse using themes from a classic nursery rhyme to portray the dissolution of a marriage. Magic Words: Poems by Edward Field (Gulliver Books) is a beautiful collection based on Inuit legends; although published for young readers, adults will enjoy these mythic poems too. My personal favorite of the year is The Boy Changed into a Stag Cries Out at the Gate of Secrets by Ferenc Juhasz. This lengthy mythic poem was first published in Hungary, then translated into English by Kenneth McRobbie and Ilona Duczynska as part of The Plough and the Pen:Writings from Hungary (1963). Now Juhasz's powerful, disturbing work has been brought back to print in the June 1998 edition of Agenda magazine, edited by William Cookson, published in London.
The state of fantasy fiction in genre magazines was somewhat better this year than last. As you can see on our copyright and Honorable Mentions pages, a number of stories either reprinted or recommended this year came from the Big Three genre magazines: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction edited by Gordon Van Gelder; Asimov's edited by Gardner Dozois; and Realms of Fantasy edited by Shawna McCarthy. F&SF, in particular, has really picked up steam since editor Van Gelder came on board, and it is now a more reliable source for fine fantasy short stories. When it comes time to chose the stories for The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror annual, however, I truly notice the hole in the field left by the demise of Omni magazine (which gave up even its online edition in 1998). Under editor Ellen Datlow, Omni regularly published fiction of the highest literary quality—and had the money to attract some of the best writers working today. I greatly miss having that well to draw from when making selections for this annual volume. On a brighter note, Ellen Datlow's new venture, the online magazine Event Horizon, has begun to publish first-rate fiction (see the Kelly Link story reprinted here)—and I wish it every bit of success.
Unlike the horror field, which supports a wide variety of small press 'zines that are often sources for good horror fiction, I'm just not seeing memorable work in the semi-professional magazines that publish fantasy. The excellent Century magazine is dormant, and the rest of the 'zines that cross my desk seemed to be geared to adventure tales, not literature. If you're actually looking for adventure tales, however, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine edited by Rachel E. Holmen, is probably the most reliable of them (and Darrell Schweitzer's perceptive interview columns are always worth reading). The quality of the stories is uneven since Holmen and Bradley give a lot of their print space to new writers still earning their chops, but somebody has got to provide a forum for young writers, so bravo to them. Now if only someone would create an entry-level forum for young writers of literary fantasy and mythic fiction ... . Three good web sites devoted to fantasy are good sources for reviews, news, and recommendations: Legends edited by Paula Katherine Marmor (http://www.legends.dm.net/); Folk Tales edited by Cat Eldridge (http://www.kinrowan.com/); and Phantastes edited by Staci Ann Dumoski (http://www.phantastes.com/). As for mainstream magazines and literary journals, fantasy continues to thrive out there, as long as it's labeled something else: magic realism, surrealism, or—my favorite—"post-realism." (No, I'm not making that up.) Stories and poems reprinted in this volume were culled from The New Yorker, Ms., The New York Review of Books, The Tampa Tribune Fiction Quarterly, Pleiades, AGNI, The Sewanee Review, The Antioch Review, The Poetry Review (U.K.), and Southerly (Australia). Many other journals provided tales for our Honorable Mentions list.
The big art news of the year is the publication of Brian Froud's long-awaited sequel to Faeries, the ground-breaking, often-imitated art and folklore volume he created with Alan Lee twenty years ago. The new book, titled Good Faeries/ Bad Faeries (Simon & Schuster), offers faerie mythology from around the world, viewed through Froud's unique art and vision. I was involved with the book (editing Froud's text), so I'm too close to the project to critique it, but any new work by this master faerie artist is an event, and worth checking out. You should also take a look at Stardust, another glimpse into the world of faerie: this time through the lovely Rackham-flavored art of Charles Vess, with text by Neil Gaiman. Originally published as four graphic novels, the story has been collected into a single beautiful edition (DC/Vertigo); both the text and the art have a wonderful turn-of-the-century feel, and create real magic. Tibet: Through the Red Box by Peter Sis (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is an amazing, award-winning publication based on a true story. Sis's father, a filmmaker in Communist Czechoslovakia, was sent to film road contruction in China in the 1950s. Lost during a blizzard, separated from his crew, he ended up in Tibet, where he was nursed back to health by gentle monks (and even met the Dalai Lama). Sis grew up with tales of this dreamlike journey throughout his childhood, but only after his father's death did he read the diary of the journey (kept for decades in a red lacquer box), which in turn inspired the creation of this stunningly illustrated book. In the fine art field, I recommend Paula Rego (Thames & Hudson) highly, a 1997 book not seen until this year, published to coincide with a touring show organized by London's Tate Gallery. Born in Portugal, Rego is one of the finest figurative artists working in Britain today. Her work often incorporates Portuguese legends and disturbing fairy tale symbolism, and has some of the same dark, passionate feel as Angela Carter's fiction.
Here are other recommended art publications from 1998: Wondrous Strange: the Wyeth Tradition (Bulfinch Press) features the work of three generations of Wyeth painters, along with the art of Howard Pyle, in a book inspired by a show curated at the Delaware Art Museum. The Life and Works of Sir Edward BurneJones by Christopher Wood (Stewart, Tabori and Chang) is the best volume yet on a painter whose work was infused with myths and fairy tales. I also recommend an informative new biography: Edward Burne-Jones by Penelope Fitzgerald (Sutton Publishing). Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists by Jan Marsh and Pamela Gerish Nunn (Thames and Hudson) is a welcome look at the women associated with the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts-&-Crafts movements. Juliet Margaret Cameron's Women by Sylvia Wolfe (Yale University Press) is a book inspired by a recent exhibition of sixty-three works by this Victorian photographer associated with both the Pre-Raphaelite and Bloomsbury circles. American Book Design and William Morris by Susan Otis Thompson (Oak Knoll Books) looks at the pervasive, on-going influence of this brilliant, versatile designer. Carl and Karin Larsson: Creators of the Swedish Style edited by Michael Snodin and Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark (Bulfinch Press) is a beautiful volume dedicated to the enchanted paintings and the colorful interior designs of this husband and wife team of artists from the turn of the century. For fans of surrealist art, there arefour excellent volumes to chose from: Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation edited by Whitney Chadwick and Dawn Ades (MIT Press); Leonora Carrington: A Retrospective Exhibition (Americas Society); Ernst edited by Jose Maria Faerna, translated by Alberto Curotto (Abradale Press); and The Fantastic Art of Beksinski, Zdzislaw Beksinski (Morpheus International).
Also of note: The Mole and the Owl, written and illustrated by Charles Duffie (Hampton Roads Publishing), is a poignant, romantic fable set in the magical world of nature, packaged in an elegantly designed little edition. Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: The Young King and The Remarkable Rocket (NMB Publishing) is illustrated by P. Craig Russell in an attractive comic book format. Minidoka (937th Earl of One Mile Series M) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Dark Horse) is the earliest surviving unpublished story by Burroughs, with a color cover painting and black-and-white interior art by Michael Wm. Kaluta. Icon: A Retrospective by the Grand Master of Fantastic Art, Frank Frazetta edited by Arnie and Cathy Fenner (Underwood): For those who like art of the muscular-barbarians-and-babes-in-chain-mail variety, Frazetta was indeed the Grand Master of this particular genre. Spectrum #5: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art edited by Arnie and Cathy Fenner (Underwood): Much of the work in this annual edition is science fiction or swords-and-sorcery oriented, but for fans of a more romantic brand of magical art there are good contributions here from John J. Muth, James Christensen, and David Bowers. The Gold and Silver Awards in the Unpublished Category (by Phil Hale and Kirk Rienert respectively) are particularly fine. The judges for volume #5 were: Terry Lee, Joe Kubert, Donato Giancola, Joseph DeVito, John English, and Tom Dolphins.
Children's picture books are a wonderful showcase for magical storytelling and art. Here is a baker's dozen of the best to cross my desk this year (in alphabetical order):
The Crane Wife by Odds Bodkin, illustrated by Gennardy Spirin (Gulliver/ Harcourt Brace), a haunting Japanese tale with luminous paintings by a Russian master.
To Everything There is a Season by Leon and Diane Dillon (Blue Sky/Scholastic), a handsomely designed book with art based on visual imagery from all around the world.
Tales of Wonder and Magic by Berlie Doherty, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard (Candlewick Press), a collection of enchanted stories from cultures the world over, beautifully retold, gorgeously illustrated. Don't miss this one!
The Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Holden, illustrated by Drahos Zak (Houghton Mifflin), a poetic retelling of this German folk tale with unique, quirky illustration by an artist from the Czech Republic.
Old Mother Hubbard by David A. Johnson (McElderry), a lovely, gentle edition with a wonderful old-fashioned feel.
Pegasus by Marianna Mayer, illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft (Morrow) is a fine retelling of this Greek myth adorned with Craft's distinctive, jewel-toned paintings. (Another good Pegasus retelling is Pegasus the Flying Horse by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ming Li [Dutton].)
The Stone Fey by Robin McKinley, reprinting one of McKinley's finest stories in a romantic new edition illustrated by John Clapp (Harcourt Brace).
Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun's Kung Fu by Emily Arnold McCully (Levine/Scholastic), a rousing good tale about a beautiful Chinese Kung Fu master and a girl running away from marriage.
Animal Dreaming by Paul Morin (Harcourt Brace), a story of the Aboriginal Dreamtime, following a young aboriginal boy's rites of passage into adulthood.
King Stork by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Morrow/Books of Wonder), a classic tale from Pyle's The Wonder Clock, with terrific new illustrations from this fine watercolorist.
Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert San Souci, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney (Simon & Schuster), a lively Cinderella variant set on the island of Martinique, with vibrant scratchboard art.
The Blind Fairy by Brigitte Schar, illustrated by Julia Gukova (North South), a memorable, unusual fairy tale by a Swiss writer (and expert on German folklore), brought to life by unusual work from this fabulous Russian artist.
Other titles I recommend seeking out, noted briefly: Tales of Wisdom and Wonder retold by Hugh Lupton, illustrated by Niamh Sharkey (Barefoot Books); Joan of Arc, a picture book biography by Diane Stanley (Morrow Junior); A Dog's Tooth: A Tale from Tibet by W. W. Rowe, illustrated by Chris Banigan (Snow Lion); Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll, a Russian story retold by Hiawyn Oram, illustrated by Ruth Brown (Dutton); The Fox's Kettle, a Japanese story by Laura Langston, illustrated by Victor Bosson (Orca); The Legend of the Panda, a Chinese tale retold by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Song Nan Zhang (Tundra Books); The Chrystal Heart: A Vietnamese Legend by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Joseph Daniel Fielder (Atheneum); Hanuman, a retelling of India's Ramayana by Erik Jendresen and Joshua M. Greene (Tricycle Press); A Gift for Abuelita: A Celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead (in both English and Spanish) by Nancy Leunn, illustrated by Robert Chapman (Rising Moon); Grandmother's Song, a Mexican tale by Barbara Soros illustrated by Jackie Morris (Barefoot Books); The Tortilla Cat by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt Brace); This Big Sky, Poems Inspired by the Land and Culture of the American Southwest by Pat Mora, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Scholastic); The Legend of the White Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble (National Geographic Society); Touching the Distance: Native American Riddle-Poems by Brian Swan, illustrated by Maria Rendon (Harcourt Brace); The Legend of Sleeping Bear, an Ojibwe tale about Lake Michigan retold by Kathy-Jo Wargin, illustrated by Gi-jsbert van Franenhuyzen (Sleeping Bear Press); and (particularly recommended) The Barefoot Book of Princesses, stories from around the world retold by Caitlin Matthews, illustrated by Olwyn Whelan (Barefoot Books).
1998 has been another good year for works of nonfiction relevant to our field. The following four volumes are particularly recommended to readers and writers of fantasy: No Go the Bogeyman by Marina Warner (Chatto & Windus, U.K., 1998; Farrar, Straus & Giroux, U.S., 1999) is the latest work by the author of the study From the Beast to the Blonde (a dazzling examination of women andfairy tales in European history). Warner now turns her penetrating gaze to the darker images in myth, folklore, and popular culture: ogres, giants, bogeymen, and other figures of masculine terror. This is a fascinating, subversive, fiercely intelligent book; I can't recommend it too highly. The Voice That Thunders by Alan Garner (The Harvill Press, U.K.) is a stunning collection of autobiographical essays about myth, fantasy, and the creative process by this singular, brilliant writer, the author of The Owl Service, Elidor, and other classics. Shaking a Leg: Collected Writings by Angela Carter, edited by Jenny Upglow (Penguin) is a fine posthumous edition collecting Carter's journalism and essays, including musings on the subjects of fairy tales, folklore, magic realism, and feminism. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer (Doubleday), is a wonderful collection of essays and reflections by twenty-four contemporary authors including Margaret Atwood, A. S. Byatt, Fay Weldon, and a broad range of others from the well-known to the obscure. My only quibble with this excellent book (but it's a big one) is that no genre authors were included here, despite the fact that fine writers like Robin McKinley, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sheri S. Tepper, Patricia A. McKillip (I could go on and on here), have worked with fairy tales more extensively than most writers included in the volume. Pity.
Also recommended: Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150—1750 by Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park (MIT Press), an exploration of mankind's appetite for wonders, monsters, and the miraculous. This lengthy, broad-ranging volume examines the ways writers from the Middle Ages through the Enlightment used wonders to envision the natural world. Does this sound like the background to a John Crowley novel? As a matter of fact, Crowley reviewed this intriguing book for The Washington Post. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain (Viking) is a provocative investigation of the effect of written language on myth and gender issues—highly recommended. Fantasy: the Liberation of Imagination by Richard Mathews (Simon & Schuster/ Twayne) discusses fantasy as a literature of subversion and liberation, from ancient epics through William Morris to Tolkien and Le Guin. Northern Dreamers edited by Edo van Belkom (Quarry Press), contains interviews with twenty-two Canadian writers of speculative fiction including Charles de Lint, Dave Duncan, Elisabeth Vonarburg, and Tanya Huff. Presenting Young Adult Fantasy Fiction by Cathi Dunn MacRae (Simon & Schuster/Twayne) is a useful reference guide, including reading lists, comments from young readers, and writer biographies. C. S. Lewis: Writer, Dreamer and Mentor by Lionel Adey (Eerdmans) takes a fresh look at Lewis' work in all its many forms, as well as the biographical context in which the work was written. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates by Greg Johnson (Dutton) is not a critical study but a proper life of this prolific, gifted author. The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Vol. I, translated from the Latin by Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (Oxford University Press), provides a tantalizing glimpse into the mind and magical life of this Christian mystic. For those interested in the writing process, I recommend the following two volumes: Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin (Eight Mountain Press), a useful, supportive, thought-provoking volume that no would-be writer should be without. Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers by Joyce Carol Oates(W. W. Norton) is another excellent volume about the writer's craft, including an interesting section on retelling myths and fairy tales.
Mythology and Folklore
There were several excellent, highly useful reference volumes published this year. In particular, I recommend: Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature by Mary Ellen Brown and Bruce Rosenberg (ABC-CLIO), an extensive volume documenting folklore and myth in the works of writers through the ages (as well as filmmakers, playrights, composers, and other creative artists); and Folklore edited by Thomas A. Green (ABC-CLIO), a two-volume encyclopedia of "beliefs, customs, tales, music and art," compiled by an international team of folklorists, designed to be of use to general readers as well as scholars. More tightly focused, but equally engrossing, is The Encyclopedia of Native American Shamanism by William S. Lyon (ABC-CLIO), a reference volume on Native-American myths, beliefs, and ceremonies. I also strongly urge you to seek out The Book of Fabulous Beasts: A Treasury from Ancient Times to the Present by Joseph Nigg (Oxford University Press). From Babylonian myth to Renaissance heraldry, from Herodotus to J. R. R. Tolkien, this dazzling book follows the tracks of magical beasts down through the ages. Two more helpful reference volumes from the Oxford University Press: The Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop; and The Dictionary of Native American Mythology by Sam D. Gill and Irene F. Sullivan.
Assorted Celtic and British works: Animals in Celtic Life and Myth by Miranda Green (Routledge) is a lucid, thorough reference volume. Tales of the Celtic Otherworld by John Matthews (Blandford) is an insightful text, with dramatic, rather startling illustrations by Ian Daniels. Robin Hood: the Green Lord of the Wildwood by John Matthews (Blandford) is a fresh, incisive look at this legendary figure. Drinking from the Sacred Well: Personal Voyages of Discovery with the Celtic Saints by John Matthews (HarperSanFrancisco) is an exploration of the lives and legends of twelve mystical Celtic saints, plus an overview of the history of Celtic spirituality. The Grail Legend by Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz (Princeton University Press) is a strictly Jungian take on the grail mythos. The Sacred Circle Tarot by Anna Franklin, illustrated by Paul Mason (Llewellyn), offers a book and tarot deck combining standard tarot imagery with Celtic symbols (for instance, the Fool becomes the Green Man, the World becomes the World Tree, etc.). Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala (Llewellyn) contains more than two hundred recipes discovered by the author (a folklorist) during travels through Europe and the British Isles, along with fairy tales, ballads, charms, riddles, etc. Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns and Goblins: An Encyclopedia by Carol Rose (W. W. Norton) is a light but charming edition—and preferable to A Field Guide to Irish Fairies by Bob Curran (Chronicle Books). Not only is the art in the latter volume alarmingly derivative of Faeries (the classic volume by Alan Lee and Brian Froud), but the publisher then proclaims this "the first and only such guide available." Excuse me?
For myth, folk, and fairy tale material of particular interest to women, try: Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Fairy Tales edited by Kathleen Ragan (W. W. Norton), a terrific sourcebook of tales from all around the world, drawing upon older variants, highly recommended despite asteep cover price. On the Edge of Dream: The Women of Celtic Myth and Legend by Jennifer Heath (Plume) contains fifteen tales drawn from Celtic epics and the oral tradition. The Women We Become edited by Ann G. Thomas (Prima) is a light but pleasant edition of myths and folk tales about growing older. Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales and Femininity by U. C. Knoepflmacher (University of Chicago Press) is a fascinating study, published in a handsome package. Scheherezade's Sisters: Trickster Heroines and Their Stories in World Literature by Marilyn Jurich (Greenwood Publishing) is filled with useful reference information, but look for it at the library, because the price is astronomical. The Gift of Life by Bonnie Glass-Coffin (University of New Mexico Press) is a ground-breaking anthropological study of women, shamanism, and spirituality in northern Peru. Lotus Seeds and Lucky Stars by Shu Shu Costa (Simon & Schuster) is a gentle, mystical little book of Asian myths, folklore, and traditions surrounding pregnancy and birthing.
For myths and folklore in America, both native tales and transplanted ones, try: Myths, Legends and Folktales of America by David Leeming and Jake Page (Oxford University Press), an anthology encompassing everything from ancient indigenous stories to modern-day mythic figures like Superman, Elvis, and Billy the Kid. The Mythology of Native America, also by the team of Leeming and Page (University of Oklahoma Press) provides a good overview of the traditional lore of a variety of tribal peoples. American Indian Trickster Tales edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (Viking), is a superlative (and long-awaited) collection from this well-respected duo and highly recommended. The Serpent's Tongue: Prose, Poetry and Art of the New Mexico Pueblos (Dutton) is a gorgeous coffee table book full of wonderful tales, photographs, and art both old and modern. Good collections of tales from different tribes: Living Stories of the Cherokee edited by Barbara R. Duncan (University of North Carolina Press); Grandmother, Grandfather and Old Wolfe edited by Clifford E. Trafzer (Michigan State University Press), oral tales from the Northwestern tribal tradition; Life With the Little People by Robert Johnson Perry (The Greenfield Review Press), a look at creatures in Muskogea tales sometimes called "Indian Leprechauns"; Hopi Animal Tales edited by Michael and Lorena Lomatuway'Ma (University of Nebraska Press); Nez Perce Coyote Tales: The Myth Cycle by Deward E. Walker and Daniel N. Matthews (University of Oklahoma Press); and, my personal favorite, Northern Tales: Stories from the Native People of the Arctic and Subarctic Regions edited by Howard Norman (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Series).
Miscellaneous myths and folklore:
Aesop: the Complete Aesop's Fables, translated by Robert and Olivia Temple (Penquin): this uncensored translation has caused quite a stir, for it includes some rather ribald fables which have never seen print before in English. Lilith's Cave by Howard Schwartz (Oxford University Press) is a collection of Jewish supernatural tales. The Monkey and the Mango Tree by Harish Johari (Inner Traditions) contains twenty-five "teaching tales" drawn from the great Indian epics. An Anthology of Russian Folk Epics, translated by James Bailey and Ta-tyana Ivanova (M. E. Sharpe), offers epics and ballads drawn from the Russian oral tradition. Also available from the same publisher: The Animal Tales: The Complete Russian Folktale, Vol. 2 edited by Jack V. Hanley. Fairy Tales andFables from Weimar Days edited by Jack Zipes (University of Wisconsin Press) is a good, slim collection of tales translated by a first-rate folklore scholar. Kaua'i: Ancient Place Names and Their Stories by Frederick B. Wichman (University of Hawaii Press) is a surprisingly fascinating little book of myths and legends behind the names on the island of Kauai, reminding us that we don't have to go to Middle Earth or Narnia to find lands of wonder. At the Edge of the World: Magical Stories of Ireland edited by John Lowings (Holt), is a striking edition of Irish fairy tales and ghost stories, illustrated with dramatic photographs of the Irish landscape. Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook edited by Robert M. Torrance (Counterpoint Press) is an extensive guide (weighing in at a hefty 1,200 pages) to nature writing from around the world, including nature myths and legends. Longing for Darkness: Kamante's Tales from Out of Africa by Peter Beard (Chronicle) is a captivating edition (which Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had a hand in before her death) featuring fables and autobiographical tales related by the hero of Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, along with Kamante's watercolors and photographs by Dinesen and the adventurer/photographer Peter Beard. This one's a real treat.
A handful of good editions for children: Favorite Medieval Tales retold by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell (Scholastic); Hearsay: Strange Tales from the Middle Kingdom, magical tales of China by Barbara Ann Porte (Greenwillow); Why Goats Smell Bad and Other Stories from Benin edited by Raouf Mama (Shoe String Press); American Indian Fairy Tales by W. T. Larned (Derrydale); The Deekatoo: Native American Stories about the Little People edited by John Bierhorst (Morrow); and American Fairy Tales: From Rip Van Winkle to Rootabaga Stories edited by Neil Philips, with an introduction by Alison Lurie (Hyperion).
Traditional music is of interest to many fantasy lovers because it draws on some of the same cultural roots as folk tales and other folk arts. Contemporary "world music" can be compared to certain kinds of fantasy fiction, for artists in both fields are updating ancient folkloric themes for a modern age. There is so much good traditional music these days that it's hard to keep recommendations down to a length that won't overwhelm this summary, but I've collaborated with writer/ musician Charles de Lint and Ellen Kushner (host of the "Sound and Spirit" program for Public Radio International) to come up with a pared-down list of favorites that you shouldn't miss.
From Charles: "My top album of the year is Robbie Robertson's Contact from the Underworld of Redboy (Capitol), a stunning, evocative mix of traditional Native-American chants and drumming, contemporary music, and sampled sounds. Roots/narrative-based music had a couple of real highlights: first there was the debut release from transplanted Irish native Bap Kennedy, Domestic Blues (E Squared), featuring Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Roy Husky Jr. (his last recording), Nanci Griffith, and Steve Earl (who also co-produced as part of the Twangtrust). Then later in the summer Earl's sister Stacey released her debut, Simple Gearle (Gearle Records), a collection of acoustic songs that hark back to the old high, lonesome sound of the hills while remaining very contemporary.And do I even have to mention that Lucinda Williams finally has a new release? Car Wheels on the Gravel Road (Mercury) is everything her fans could have hoped for. In Celtic music, Solas released The Words That Remain (Shanachie), yet another matchless collection of instruments and songs. Donny Lunny finally got out from behind the producer's chair to release his second, long awaited album, Coolfin (Metro Blue)—a mix of Celtic, European and original material that is worth the wait. If there was a rave scene in Celtic music, Bongshang would be leading it. Their second release, The Hurricane Jungle (Bongshang) is an infectious blend of traditional and drum and bass. The Poozies lost the talented Sally Barker, but gained the equally talented Kate Rusby to replace her. She appears with them on Infinite Blue, and on a three-song EP of her own, Cowsong (both on Pure Records). Some of the most fascinating experiments with traditional music seem to be happening on the Latin music scene. My favorite this year was the self-titled Los Super Seven (RCA), featuring members of Los Lobos and the Texas Tornadoes; but the self-titled Ozomatli (Almo Sounds) runs a close second with their tougher, more rocking sound. The Black Light by the Tucson band Calexico (Quarterstick) offers an Anglo's take on the Tex-Mex border flavor, while traditionalists will delight in the nouveau flamenco of Robert Michael's Utopia (Melaby/WEA)."
From Ellen: "The most exciting musical moment for me of 1998 was getting to meet the African musician Stella Chiweshe of Zimbabwe in connection with the release of her collection The Healing Tree: the Best of Stella Chiweshe (Shanachie). Her music is not merely beautiful; in the Shona tradition music is essential for summoning spirits of the ancestor (and when you meet Chiweshe, you realize that this is a person who is magic, yet real) in the modern world, through an ancient tradition that has not died. 1998 also marked the 900th anniversary of the birth of the mystic, scientist, poet, and composer Abbess Hildegard von Bingen. Many brilliant recordings of her music have been released, including a superb historical recreation by the groups Sequentia and Anonymous 4 on Tapestry's Celestial Light (Telarc), which includes not only Hildegard's own music, but a stunning contemporary piece based on her words. Last but not least, the absolutely perfect 1998 release for fantasy readers is Ruth MacKenzie's Kalevala: Dream of the Salmon Maid (Omnium). This is the 'original cast recording' of McKenzie's performance piece based on an ancient Finnish epic. "Salmon Maiden" retells the story of Aino, whose mother tries to marry her against her will to the musician Vainamoinen; Aino escapes by transforming herself into a fish. The music is a thrilling combination of rock, traditional Finnish women's music, even pagan animal hollers ... and if those names sound kinda familiar, yes, J. R. R. Tolkien drew on the Kalevala myth and language in The Silmarillion." For more information on these artists and extensive playlists of music, see the Sound & Spirit Web site: http://www.wgbh.org/wgbh/pages/pri/spirit/index.html
I second the previous recommendations, and have a few of my own to add. My favorites of the year were: Red and Rice, a dazzling two-CD set by the young English singer/musician Eliza Carthy, a very contemporary take on the folk music of the British Isles (Topic); and Mahk Jchi by Ulali (Corn, Beans & Squash), a trio of Native-American women singers (featured on Robbie Robertson's RedRoad Ensemble) who blend traditional songs with jazz, blues, and gospel influences in a unique and gorgeous way. I also highly recommend Omaiyo, a terrific CD from master percussionist Robin Adnan Anders of Boiled in Lead (Ryko). In this solo work, he has created gorgeous pieces of music which he calls "tone poems"—each one based on a brief story by, variously, Jane Yolen, Neil Gaiman, Ellen Kushner, Steven Brust, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, and other writers from the fantasy field.
Other British/Celtic music recommendation: Alloy is the latest from the legendary Minneapolis rock-and-reel band Boiled in Lead (Omnium), combining a selection of tunes from previous CDs with live and alternative-mix tracks. A Certain Smile by Bachue is a lovely CD of Scottish music with jazz influences. Crossing the Bridge by Eileen Ivers (Sony) mixes Irish music performed by this world class fiddler combined with music from cultures around the globe. Deaf Shepherd is a hot young band out of Scotland; check out their infectious second release, Synergy (Greentrax). If you're looking for good Celtic vocals try: On Air by the peerless June Tabor (Strange Fruit), Circle of the Sun by Aine Minogue (RCA), Women of Ireland by Ceoltoiri (Maggie's Music), Starry Gazy Pie by Nancy Kerr and James Fagan (Fellside), Lights in the Dark, a CD of Sacred Irish songs produced by Hector Zazou (Detour), and Celtic Voices, an excellent compilation CD (Green Linnet). The best traditional instrumental CD I heard all year was Spellbound: The Best of Sharon Shannon, from a wizard on the accordion (Green Linnet). For music of the Loreena McKennitt type, try Kate Price's new release, Deep Heart's Core (Omtown). For a bardic CD of fine storytelling and Celtic harp music, try The Language of Birds from Scotland's Fiona Davidson (Watercolor Music). Another good harp release is Savourna Stevenson's Calman the Dove (Cooking Vinyl), inspired by the 1400th anniversary of the death of St. Columba on the mystic island of Iona. And for a real treat, try Abby Newton's Celtic music for the cello (yes, the cello), titled Crossing to Scotland (Culburnie).
On our own shores, there were a number of first-rate CDs this year mixing traditional Native American music with jazz, blues, and other contemporary rhythms: Things We Do by Indigenous (Pachyderm); Spirit Nation by Spirit Nation (V2 Records); Orenda by Joanne Shenandoah & Lawrence Laughing (Silver Wave); Big Medicine by the R. Carlos Naki Quartet (Canyon); and Blood of the Land by Burning Sky (Canyon). It was also an amazing year for magical music from the Celtic and Sami traditions of Scandinavia. I particularly loved two CDs of contemporary joik-songs from the Sami people of northern Finland: The New Voice of the North by Girls of Angeli (Warner Finlandia) and ruossa eanan by ulla pirttijarvi (Atrium). Other good Scandinavian CDs mixing ancient and contemporary rhythms, all released by Northside in Minneapolis: Stolen Goods by Chateau Neuf, String Tease by JPP, Triakel by Triakel, Swap by Swap, Storsvartan by Olov Johansson, and the Northside 1998 compilation CD, which provides a good introduction to this kind of music. Also check out Ranarop: Call of the Sea Witch, a strong CD from the Finnish band Gjallarhorn (Warner Finlandia). From other parts of the world, give a listen to the nuevo flamenco music of La Esperenza (Higher Octave); folk music from the Andes performed by Inti-Illimani on Lejania, "next-wave Jewish roots music" by The Klezmatics on The Well (Xenophile); diverse styles from the Cuban tradition on Rhythm &Smoke: the Cuba Sessions (Intersound); and great dance music on Tarika: D from Malgasy (Xenofile) and on the compilation CD Salsa: the Rough Guide (World Music Network).
Literary Conventions and Conferences
The World Fantasy Convention, an annual professional gathering of writers, illustrators, publishers, and readers of both fantasy and horror fiction, was held in Monterey, California this year, over Halloween weekend. The Guest of Honor was Gahan Wilson. The 1998 World Fantasy Awards (for works published in 1997) were presented at the convention. Winners were as follows: The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford for Best Novel; "Streetcar Dreams" by Richard Bowes for Best Novella; "Dust Motes" by P. D. Cacek for Best Short Fiction; Bending the Landscape: Fantasy edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel for Best Anthology; The Throne of Bones by Brian McNaughton for Best Collection; Alan Lee for Best Artist; The Encyclopedia of Fantasy edited by John Clute and John Grant for Special Award/Professional, and Fedogan & Bremer (book publishers) for Special Award/Non-Professional. The judges were: Peter Crowther, Peter Schneider, David Truesdale, Janeen Webb, and L. E. Modesitt, Jr. For information on future World Fantasy Conventions, visit their Web site: http://world.std.com/~sbarsky/mcfi/wfc
Mythcon, a scholarly convention devoted to fantasy, sponsored by the Mythopoeic Society, was held in July in Wheaton, Illinois. The Guests of Honor were Paul F. Ford and Verlyn Flieger. Winners of the 1998 Mythopoeic Award were as follows: The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye by A. S. Byatt (Adult Literature category), The "Young Merlin" trilogy by Jane Yolen (Children's Literature category); The Encyclopedia of Fantasy edited by John Clute and John Grant (Scholarship Award for Myth & Fantasy Studies); and A Question of Time: Tolkien's Road to Faerie by Verlyn Flieger (Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies). The award is judged by the membership of the Mythopoeic Society. For information on future Mythcons, visit their Web site: http://www.mythsoc.org
The WisCon Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention was held, as it has been for several years, at the end of May in Madison, Wisconsin. The Guests of Honor were Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Sheri S. Tepper. The 1998 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, for work addressing gender issues, went to Raphael Carter for the story "Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation," published in Starlight 2. Judges for the award were: Kate Schaefer (chair), Ray Davis, Candas Jane Dorsey, Sylvia Kelso, and Lisa Tuttle. For information of future WisCons, visit their Web site: http://www.sf3.org/wiscon
The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, a scholarly conference devoted to all forms of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and magical realism, was held (as always) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in March. They present the Crawford Award every year; this year's honors went to Children of Amarid by David B. Coe. For information on future IAFA conferences, visit their Web site: http://ebbs.english.vt.edu/iafa/iafa.home.html
The British Fantasy Convention and the British Fantasy Awards are covered in Ellen Datlow's Summary.
That's an overview of the year in fantasy—now on to the stories themselves.
As usual, there are stories we were unable to include in this volume, but which are among the year's very best. I encourage you to seek out the following:
James P. Blaylock's "The Old Curiosity Shop" in the February issue of F&SF.
Richard Bowes's "Diana in the Spring" in the August issue of F&SF.
Angelica Gorodischer's "The End of a Dynasty," translated by Ursula K. Le Guin, in Starlight 2.
Tim Nickles's "Glisten and Beyond Herring" in The Ex Files.
And in particular: Ian R. MacLeod's alternative history novella "The Summer Isles" in the Oct./Nov. issue of Asimov's.
I hope you will enjoy the stories and poems that follow as much as I did. Many thanks to the authors, agents, and publishers who allowed us to reprint them here.
—T. W. Devon, U.K. and Tucson, US 1998—1999
Copyright © 1999 by James Frenkel and Associates.