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For more than a decade, readers have turned to The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror to find the most rewarding fantastic short stories. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling continue their critically acclaimed and award-winning tradition with another stunning collection of stories. The fiction and poetry here is culled from an exhaustive survey of the field, nearly four dozen stories ranging from fairy tales to gothic horror, from magical realism to dark tales in the Grand Guignol style. Rounding out the volume are the ...
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For more than a decade, readers have turned to The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror to find the most rewarding fantastic short stories. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling continue their critically acclaimed and award-winning tradition with another stunning collection of stories. The fiction and poetry here is culled from an exhaustive survey of the field, nearly four dozen stories ranging from fairy tales to gothic horror, from magical realism to dark tales in the Grand Guignol style. Rounding out the volume are the editors' invaluable overviews of the year in fantasy and horror, and a long list of Honorable Mentions, making this an indispensable reference as well as the best reading available in fantasy and horror.
Summation 1999: FantasyTerri Windling
Summation 1999: HorrorEllen Datlow
Horror and Fantasy in the Media: 1999Edward Bryant
Comics: 1999, Seth Johnson
Obituaries: 1999, James Frenkel
Darkrose and Diamond, Ursula K. Le Guin
The Chop Girl, Ian R. MacLeod
The Girl Detective, Kelly Link
The Transformation, N. Scott Momaday
Carabosse, Delia Sherman
Harlequin Valentine, Neil Gaiman
Toad, Patricia A. McKillip
The Dinner Party, Robert Girardi
Heat, Steve Rasnic Tem
The Wedding at EsperanzaLinnet Taylor
Redescending, Ursula K. Le Guin
You Don't Have to be Mad . . .Kim Newman
The Paper-Thin Garden, Thomas Wharton
The Anatomy of a MermaidMary Sharratt
The Grammarian's Five DaughtersEleanor Arnason
The Tree Is My Hat, Gene Wolfe
Welcome, Michael Marshall Smith
The Pathos of Genre, Douglas E. Winter
Shatsi , Peter Crowther
Keepsakes and Treasures: A Love StoryNeil Gaiman
What You Make It, Michael Marshall Smith
The Parwat Ruby, Delia Sherman
Odysseus Old, Geoffrey Brock
The Smell of the Deer, Kent Meyers
Chorion and the PleiadesSarah Van Arsdale
Crosley, Elizabeth Engstrom n0 Naming the Dead, Paul J. McAuley
The Stork-Men, Juan Goytisolo
The Disappearance of Elaine ColemanSteven Millhauser
White, Tim Lebbon
Dear Floods of Her Hair, James Sallis
Mrs. Santa Decides to Move to FloridaApril Selley
Tanuki, Jan Hodgman
At Reparata, Jeffrey Ford
Skin So Green and Fine, Wendy Wheeler
Old Merlin Dancing on the Sands of TimeJane Yolen
Sailing the Painted OceanDenise Lee
Grandmother, Laurence Snydal
Small Song, Gary A. Braunbeck
The Emperor's Old BonesGemma Files
The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His HorseSusanna Clarke
Halloween Street, Steve Rasnic Tem
The Kiss, Tia V. Travis
The Beast/The Hedge, Bill Lewis
Pixel Pixies, Charles de Lint
Falling Away, Elizabeth Birmingham
Honorable Mentions: 1999
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 Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Thirteenth Annual Collection
Summation 1999: Fantasy
Welcome to the thirteenth edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. This anthology series was created to be an annual celebration of the best in nonrealist literature—ranging from magic realism (à la Márquez) to imaginary world fiction (à la Tolkien), as well as from dark stories of supernatural magic to those of psychological horror. By combining works from the genres of "fantasy" and "horror," along with magical tales from "mainstream fiction," Ellen and I seek to ignore the limiting boundaries that strict genre categorization places upon contemporary writers. Thus all nonrealist writing rooted in myth, magic, and surrealism is eligible for inclusion in this collection, which contains selections from sources as diverse as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and The New Yorker. This fantasy/horror/mainstream combination reflects the wide spectrum of magical fiction published each year in English-language publications—and we are firm believers in the idea that the three fields are greatly enriched when their stories are viewed side by side. But for those readers who maintain a diehard preference for fantasy over horror, or vice versa, please note that the fantasy stories carry my initials after their introductions, horror tales carry Ellen Datlow's, and stories in the shadow realm between carry both our initials (with the acquiring editor listed first).
This introductory summation, for those new to the series, provides an overview of fantasy publishing in the year just past, with lists of recommended novels, nonfiction, children's books, art books, etc. Usually at this point I wax on a bit about what a great year it was in the fantasy field, for we've been blessed by many such lately. But 1999, I'm sorry to report from the trenches, was not a banner year. Short fiction was as strong as ever (as you'll see from the stories in this book), but novel-length fiction was disappointing. There was a handful of excellent books (such as Minions of the Moon by Richard Bowes, in genre, and Prince by Ib Michael, in mainstream fiction), but nothing close to the glorious abundance of extraordinary novels that have appeared in the last few years. I've been pondering the question of why this should be so, as well as talking to editors and publishers, and the explanation is a simple one. I don't believe we're witnessing a sudden decline of interest in magical fiction;rather, 1999's lackluster offerings are a direct result of the particularly sterling year we had in 1998. Many of the fantasy field's top authors gave us their best efforts in 1998 (Guy Gavriel Kay, George R. R. Martin, Patricia A. McKillip, Sean Stewart, Sean Russell, and Jane Yolen, to name just a few of them), and were absent from the publishing lists while working on their next books. These writers, as well as the field at large, seemed to be catching their breaths in 1999, making it a good year to check out some of the newer talent, such as Elizabeth Haydon, Thomas Harlan, China Miéville, Judy Budnitz, and Valery Leith.
The slimmer than usual offering of quality fantasy fiction for adult readers contrasts with a bumper crop of thoroughly enchanting novels in the children's book field. Love Harry Potter or hate him, there's no denying that he's had a massive impact on the New York publishing industry. It's still too soon to tell whether a significant portion of Harry Potter fans will move on to other fantasy books (as readers did in the wake of Tolkien's bestsellerdom in the 1970s), but my best guess is that a number of them will, now that the word "fantasy" has lost its faint whiff of disrepute in the children's book field. (This, despite the fact that so much classic children's fiction—Carroll, Nesbit, Eager, Baum, Lewis, Tolkien, etc.—is indisputably fantastic in both senses of the word.) Already we're seeing a surge in the amount of children's fantasy being published, with bigger advertising budgets and expectations. According to editors at several publishing houses, this is a trend that's only just beginning—and one that bodes well for the larger fantasy genre, considering that several of the field's best writers once came to us from children's books. We have not only J. K. Rowling to thank for this, but also the brilliant Philip Pullman, whose best-selling books The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife are complex, hard-hitting, and literary enough to gladden any discerning reader's heart—and to ensure that "children's fantasy" isn't limited to light, humorous books of the Potter sort. (The most interesting article on the Potter phenomenon I read this past year, by the way, is "Harry Potter's Girl Trouble," about the dubious role of female characters in Rowling's series. This insightful piece by Christine Schoefer can be found in the archives of Salon magazine, www.salon.com).
While Rowling and Potter will probably be the dominant influences in magical children's fiction for some time to come, in adult fiction (both in the genre and the mainstream) Gabriel García Márquez continues to be a strong inspiration for young writers from Latin and non-Latin cultures alike, as do, to a lesser extent, other magic realist/surrealist authors like Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ben Okri, and Angela Carter. Judging from the books that have crossed my desk in the last thirteen years, I believe it is impossible to overstate the impact Márquez has had on late-twentieth century fiction the world over. In our country, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book that, more than any other, gives young writers the permission and the courage to stray from the path of strict realism (and Gordon Lish-style minimalism) to which creative writing graduate programs all over the country seem so determined to steer them. In the fantasy genre, a particularly Márquezean way of explicating the modern world through quiet moments of transcendent enchantment can be found in the works of quite a number of our top writers (Crowley, Fowler, Carroll, Goldstein, etc.), while Angela Carter's sensuous,folkloric work has inspired a modern renaissance in adult fairy-tale fiction. At the same time, literary Tolkienesque fantasy (aka imaginary world or traditional fantasy) has not disappeared—1998 marked a strong resurgence of the form. The year 1999, it must be noted, only brought us a very few good novels of the type, but this spike downward seems to be temporary, as I've already received several good Tolkienesque novels to review for the year 2000.
On the whole, the lines drawn (by publishers, bookstore managers, and critics) between mainstream fiction and genre fiction continue to get blurrier every year, and I long for a day when all these books sit side by side on a shelf marked Fiction. Modern bookselling being what it is, however, books are still organized and sold by category labels, leading a group of writers from the fantasy and science fiction genres to come up with a label of their own: interstitial fiction. Here's a brief excerpt from the somewhat (but not entirely) tongue-in-cheek Interstitial Arts Manifesto:
Perhaps you've had this experience. You read a book, go to a gallery opening, attend a concert. You come out exhilarated, excited, enthralled. "It was great!" you tell your friends. "I loved it!" "So, what is it?" they ask. "It was ..." You think for a moment. "Sort of ..." You wave your hands helplessly in the air. "Different," you conclude weakly. Pressed, you can find analogies. A book is a "magic realist Victorian biography in the guise of a mystery novel." A painting is "symbolist Renaissance surrealism." Music performed on sitar and didgeridoo is "Afro-Celtic-punk." What all these different art forms have in common is their resistance to easy definition, to niche-labeling by either marketers or critics. It is art that is hard to pigeonhole, hard to describe in one simple sentence, art that lies in the interstices, between the cracks of recognized genres. It is Interstitial Art. Our society likes to divide its arts into tidy categories. When we walk into a bookstore, we rarely see all the newly written novels sitting side-by-side. Instead, they are divided into categories, subcategories, and genres. There's a special section for novels containing crimes and mysteries; a special section for books by women, by gay and by black authors ... science fiction and fantasy have their own little ghetto segregated from "literature." If Jane Austen were writing today, no doubt her work would be shelved under romance. Of course, labels can be useful. Such labels enable merchants and marketers to treat creation as Product, to be sold and marketed in mass quantities. For consumers, labels mean we have to spend less of our precious time distinguishing one created work from another. Genre label equals recognizable product, with clearly defined parameters and narrowly allowable variations within each one. For artists working in forms that fall between the genre cracks, too often these labels are arbitrary and ill-fitting. As Interstitial Artists, we believe that fine art can be made within any genre, and from even the most unlikely of materials (and their combinations), provided it is done with skill and style. A Mexican-American woman writes her autobiography as a magic realist tale that includes both poems and recipes (House of Houses by Pat Mora). An American jazz composer finds classical Indian musicians who will play his tunes and improvise their own (Antigravity by Warren Senders). Tibetan religious chants join with Native American flute (Winds of Devotion by Nawang Khechog and R. Carlos Nakai). A British-Portuguesepainter draws on traditional fairy-tale images to create a perverse, sensual, feminist dialogue (Paula Rego). A comic book weaves together myth and gender, history, literature, and complex illustration (Neil Gaiman's The Sandman). A "folksinger" incorporates Sufi prayer and Scottish pipes in a meditation on mortality (Loreena McKennitt). How do you label it all? What do you call it? We call it Interstitial Art: a label for art that can't be labeled, a definition for work that can't be defined.
For more on this topic (and the related Young Trollopes movement) look on the Web at www.endicott-studio.com/ia.html. For other good discussions and observations on the state of the contemporary fantasy and horror fields, I recommend the archives of the Event Horizon web site, www.eventhorizon.com, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and the author interviews conducted by Charles N. Brown in Locus magazine.
Having taken a general look at the state of fantasy publishing in 1999, let's turn to the books that were published last year and some recommended titles broken down by type (those pesky labels again). As usual, I won't claim to have read every magical, mythical, or surrealist work published in this country and abroad in 1999, but I made a darn good stab at it. Here are the best books I found among the five-hundred-odd books we received for review (gathered by my hard-working assistant editors, Richard and Mardelle Kunz). We think there were some real gems among them, and we hope that you'll agree.
Each year in this spot we list twenty novels that no fan of magical literature should miss—books chosen not only for their excellence of craft and overall entertainment value, but also those that give an indication of the direction in which the fantasy field is heading. In 1999 the strongest area of fantasy fiction was, hands down, in Young Adult books. In recognition of the strong contribution made by YA writers to our field in 1999, you'll find seven of the best YA fantasy titles listed among this year's Top Twenty, recommended to readers of all ages.
Skellig by David Almond (Delacorte): Don't be mislead by the slim size of Almond's novel, or its YA label—this is a book that deals, in deceptively straightforward prose, with the grand themes of life and literature: birth, death, hope, despair, mystery, tragedy, and redemption. (Artistic influences here, the author said in one interview, are the works of Italo Calvino, Gabriel García Márquez, and Raymond Carver—quite a trio to inspire a children's book.) It's the story of a boy who finds a broken man with tattered wings huddled in the garden shed. Michael shares this strange and troubling secret only with his new friend, Mina, while his sister lies in the hospital and life crumbles around his family. Skellig, which won England's Whitbread Award, is a rare and beautiful book, full of art, owls, natural history, and the poetry of William Blake.
Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle (Roc): One of our field's best writers turns his hand to YA fiction in this suspenseful tale of ghosts, faeries, and medieval history, set on a ramshackle English farm. Jenny is a New York City girl who bitterly resents being stuck in rural Dorset when her mother remarries, untilshe comes into contact with the magical spirits who haunt the place—including a troublesome boggart, a shifty pooka, and the three-hundred-year-old ghost of Tamsin Willoughby. Beagle does a fine job of bringing modern and Jacobean characters together, mixed with large dollops of British folklore, in a tale that hinges on the bloody history of the Monmouth rebellion in Dorset, in the time of King James II.
The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley (Atheneum): This atmospheric YA novel is told through the voice of young Corin Stonewall, a fiercely independent orphan who has cut off her long, uncanny silver hair and disguised herself as a boy in order to become a keeper of the "Folk" (dangerous subterranean creatures who will despoil the land and livestock if not kept regularly appeased). A dying man's bequest takes Corin away from her underground world to the halls of a vast seaside estate. Here she comes face to face with a past full of secrets, tragedy, and magic. The narrative voice here is an uncommon one, and the imaginary world convincing, even though we see only a corner of it. Billingsley uses standard folklore ingredients, including a wealth of selkie (seal-people) legends, but she cooks them up into a highly original, memorable story.
The Rainy Season by James P. Blaylock (Ace): Blaylock's chilling ghost tale is set in the author's usual territory of southern California, combining modern and nineteenth-century characters in a taut psychological drama. Phil Ainsworth, photographer and widower, is the sole guardian of a young orphaned niece, who comes to live with him in the rambling old house he inherited from his mother. An unusually heavy rainy season fills a long-dry well on the property, setting the story in motion—for it's a well in which a child was ritually drowned one hundred years ago, giving it magical properties that others (including ghosts from the past) are eager to exploit. Unlike so many supernatural stories, which get bogged down by their special effects, Blaylock uses the magical elements to explore characters and their relationships. The Rainy Season is yet another gem from the man Library Journal correctly called "one of the most distinctive contributors to American magic realism."
Minions of the Moon by Richard Bowes (Tor): Kevin Grierson is a man with a Shadow. This reckless, destructive part of himself dominated his troubled youth (hustling on the streets of Boston) and his subsequent years in New York City (addicted to drugs, drink, power, anything that would bring another rush). Kevin's Shadow isn't just a metaphor, however, it's a doppelganger with a life of its own. In order to confront it, he must also confront the dark years of the past and his brutal life story. This is a novel about coming of age the hard way, and the things we do to survive. Minions of the Moon shows this World Fantasy Award-winning author at the top of his form, recommended for fans of dark fantasy of the Neil Gaiman or Jonathan Carroll sort.
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card (Del Rey): The latest novel from this multi-award-winning author is a unique adult retelling of the Sleeping Beauty legend, set in a Carpathian forest and linking the ninth and twentieth centuries. When Ivan Petrovich Smetski was ten years old, his Jewish family left Russia for the United States. Now a grown man, he is haunted by vivid memories of the old country, particularly one from his last days there, when he stumbled into a clearing in a forest where a woman lay fast asleep. Ivan returns to Russiaeventually and finds the clearing once more. This time he kisses his princess awake and follows her back into time. Enchantment is a bewitching book from a writer who can spin even lesser materials into gold. Here he has all of Russian folklore and history to work with, and the result is pure magic.
The Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll (Tor): This is a controversial book. For some Carroll fans, it's the best one yet; for others (and I'm among them), the ending disappoints. Nonetheless, Carroll is one of the most consistently original authors in the dark fantasy field. His skill at character study alone makes this a Top Twenty book (not to mention his habit of tossing off breathtakingly insightful metaphors every other page), whatever your opinion of the plot. The Marriage of Sticks is the story of a self-possessed antiques dealer and her passionate affair with a dazzling married man—an affair which is going a shade too smoothly for the protagonist's comfort. She seems to suspect, as Carroll's readers certainly do, that the author will pull the rug out from under her soon—and he does, introducing one sinister element after another until her life has become completely surreal. Then Carroll pulls out all the stops.
The King of Shadows by Susan Cooper (McElderry Books): This is a darn near perfect book, so you'll have to forgive me if I gush a bit. Cooper, of course, is the Newbery Award-winning author of the "Dark is Rising" series—but don't expect epic fantasy here. The King of Shadows is a smaller tale, a beautifully crafted YA time-travel novel about a young American actor who travels to England (with a boys' theater troupe) and finds himself transported back to Shakespeare's time. This book works on three levels at once: as a fantasy tale, as an impeccably researched historical novel about life at the old Globe Theater, and as a deeply moving psychological story exploring the nature of death, loss, eternity, and art. If you can finish the last page with a dry eye, you're a better man than I.
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (Hyperion Press): The winner of last year's World Fantasy Award (for The Antelope Wife) is back with another warm-hearted tale infused with Native American myth and history, this time written for young readers, but ageless in its appeal. Little Frog is the sole survivor of her tribe's disastrous first contact with Europeans. Taken in by an Ojibway family on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, Little Frog (and the reader) are gently drawn into Ojibway culture over the course of four seasons. This evocative nineteenth-century story grew out of Erdrich's research into family history (she's Chippewa/Turtle Mountain Band Ojibway), and stories told by Ojibway elders about the spiritual history of Madeline Island. The book is illustrated with delicate black and white drawings by the author.
Memoranda by Jeffrey Ford (Avon): This is the sequel to Ford's World Fantasy Award-winning novel Physiognomy, a sardonic, densely allegorical, dark fantasy of ideas. The protagonist is Cley, the physiognomist of the previous book, who has turned his back on his former calling. The Well-Built City has fallen. Cley's allies are building a new society in the ruins. But the tyrannical Drachton Below has unleashed a plague of never-ending sleep, and Cley must find the antidote, journeying into the landscape and "memory palace" of Drachton Below's mind. Ford's story (the middle volume of a trilogy) is toldin hypnotically beautiful prose, making fascinating use of Renaissance ideas about the nature of memory.
The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy (Holt): This is a major new work from an acclaimed Canadian writer (Mister Sandman, etc.), a literary novel told from the point of view of African elephants facing extinction. It's the story of an elephant named Young Mud, adopted into the She-S clan when her own is decimated by ivory hunters and drought in the sub-Sahara. When this clan, too, is nearly wiped out, the survivors set off on a cross-continental quest to find the legendary White Bone, in hope that this will lead them to the Safe Place (away from us humans). Much more than just "the Watership Down of elephants," this is a mystical tale of epic proportions that brings the African landscape vividly to life. The White Bone is a remarkable achievement, a rousing good read, and a painful one. The book's nomination for several major awards comes as no surprise.
Black Light by Elizabeth Hand (HarperCollins): Hand's sixth novel is related to Waking the Moon (and other "Kamensic" stories), a modern mythic tale that falls in the shadow realm between fantasy and horror. Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Moylan is the precocious daughter of actors who were once involved with the film director Axel Kern, a Warhol-like figure who lords it over the seedier side of the New York art world. Charlotte has been raised in Kamensic Village, an upstate town with more than its share of dark pagan mysteries. Kern maintains a mansion there but hasn't set foot in it for years. Now he's coming back to throw the mother of all Halloween parties, to which the Moylans are invited. Thus the stage is set for a sensual, diabolical novel chock full of Hand's usual preoccupations: old gods (in this case, Dionysis and Ariadne), pagan rites in the contemporary world, artists and their acolytes, sinister secret societies, witches, warlocks, and mystics. Black Light is ingeniously plotted, suspenseful, and skillfully written.
A Red Heart of Memories by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Ace): For fans of contemporary fantasy (of the Charles de Lint or Alice Hoffman variety), here's a book by a different Hoffman (no relation) that I strongly recommend. Set in the Pacific Northwest, it's an entertaining, insightful tale about modern magic—not only magic of the supernatural sort, but the quieter magic of love and friendship that can transform desperate lives. The story is about young Matt, a homeless waif for whom all objects have spirit—she talks to tables, shoes, parking meters and, what's more, they respond to her. Edmund, a witch, is a mystery—he appeared one day in a crumbling stone wall. When the two pair up to seek Edmund's missing past, adventure and peril are in store. If Nina Hoffman isn't yet as well known as Alice Hoffman or de Lint, novels like this one indicate that it's only a matter of time.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (Regan Books/HarperCollins): This new novel by the author of Wicked is a sophisticated adult fairy tale that you'll find over on the mainstream shelves. It's a clever resetting of the Cinderella story in a market town in seventeenth-century Holland. Maguire tells most of the tale through the eyes of Iris, a plain, intelligent child whose mother marries a tulip merchant possessed of a strange and beautiful daughter. (The other stepsister is the oxlike, gentle Ruth, apparently retarded.) Maguire beautifully evokes the world of Dutch burghers, painters, and tulipspeculators as he explores the nature of beauty, art, and the stories we tell about our lives.
The Prince by Ib Michael, translated from the Danish by Barbara Haveland (FS&G): This engaging work of Scandinavian magic realism was my favorite novel of 1999, set in a fishing village on the coast of Denmark in 1912. Malte, the main protagonist (in a rich extended cast), is an adolescent boy who spends his summers at the Sea View guest house—abandoned by his self-absorbed mother as she pursues a series of wealthy escorts. One day a coffin washes ashore, with a perfectly preserved dead sailor inside. This sets off a long chain of events involving a mysterious shape-shifting spirit, an elf in amber, a lighthouse keeper, a mute girl, a parlor maid and her false lover, an Inuit child, and an old woman in a tower by the sea. Part fairy tale, part historical novel of the Louis de Bernieres variety, it's a splendid book, laced with wit, compassion, and Rilke's poetry.
Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli and Richard Tchen (Dutton): Napoli (author of Zel, Sirena, etc.) is one of the best writers working with fairy-tale material today, creating psychologically complex novels that are published as YA fiction, but read and beloved by adult readers, too. Her latest is a collaboration with Richard Tchen, focusing on "Rumplestiltskin" this time. It's the story of a girl with astonishing weaving skills, of a troubled father, and of a cruel and greedy king—ordinary components of the tale turned extraordinary by this talented team. If you enjoy the novels of Robin McKinley, Patricia A. McKillip, and Jane Yolen, I recommend Spinners highly.
The Stars Compel by Michaela Roessner (Tor): Roessner's latest is the sequel to her sparkling Renaissance fantasy The Stars Dispose, and is every bit as good as that volume—a delicious feast of magic, mayhem, and food, set in sixteenth-century Italy. It's the story of Tommaso Arista, son of two famous chefs in a magical Florence in which cooking is inextricably bound with politics and sorcery. It's also the tale of his employer, friend, and confidante, Catherine de Médicis, as she maneuvers through the schemes of popes and princes and puts her own mark on society. This one's a delight, pure fun, and comes complete with recipes.
The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie (Holt): Another tour de force from Rushdie (does he write any other kind of fiction these days?), as he wings his way through several continents and forty-odd years of pop music. The Orpheus myth is at the center of this extravagant book about the undying love between a supernaturally gifted Indian musician and a strong-willed half-Indian diva (as seen through the eyes of another one of her lovers, a world-renowned photographer). Set in a universe parallel to our own, Rushdie plays fast and loose with history, celebrity iconography, and popular culture in a book in which the language is as intoxicating as the breathless, globe-trotting plot. Rushdie has become a writer so good that it's almost frightening.
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist (HarperCollins): "Dear Reader," cautions the author on the back of this little novel, "I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. In this short bookalone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast." Well, there's nothing like truth in advertising. It is an exceedingly unpleasant book, and wickedly funny.
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead (Anchor): Whitehead's interstitial novel could be called mystery, science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, or all of the above. It takes place in an unnamed, high-rise city much like Manhattan (with nineteenth century, twentieth century, and near-future elements), and is the story of Lila Mae Watson, the city's first black, female elevator inspector. When an elevator comes crashing down soon after Watson inspected and certified it, she smells a rat somewhere in the old boys' network of the Department of Elevator Inspectors. Seeking to clear her name, and to uncover the truth behind this tragedy, Watson is drawn into an underworld of increasingly shady characters, and learns about the lost writings of James Fulton, the Intuitionist—whose perfect Black Box would make all other elevators obsolete. In the guise of a stylish noir thriller, Whitehead skewers race and gender issues, riffs on history past and the future, and all the while tells a damn good tale. Highly recommended.
In 1999, three writers made particularly strong debuts: Thomas Harlan, Elizabeth Haydon, and Judy Budnitz. The Shadow of Ararat by Thomas Harlan (Tor) is a sweeping, epic-length novel set in an alternate version of the seventh-century, in which the Roman Empire still stands. Brimming with myth, magic, well-researched historical speculation, cleverly plotted military strategies, and a far-flung cast of vivid characters, this is Must Reading for anyone who likes muscular adventure fantasy written with intelligence and panache. Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon (Tor) is a superior quest-type fantasy about an excourtesan and her companions on the run from magical forces. This, too, is a page-turner—but it's also beautifully crafted and ingeniously conceived, distinguished by the author's skillful use of elements drawn from Norse, Celtic, and other animist mythologies. If I Told You Once by Judy Budnitz (Picador) is a family saga with a folkloric tone, similar to Budnitz's short story "Hershel" (about a village baby-maker) reprinted in last year's volume of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. There are flourishes reminiscent of Angela Carter and Isaac Bashevis Singer in this unusual magic realist tale, which follows four generations of women from Eastern Europe to America.
Other noteworthy debuts: The Angle Quickest for Flight by Steven Kotler (Four Walls Eight Windows Press) is a contemporary quest novel about the search for an ancient manuscript (believed to contain Jesus's own words) by a runaway boy in Santa Fe, a semi-retired smuggler, a sinister Catholic mystic, and an albino Rastafarian rock climber. It's an uneven book with distinct first-novel flaws, but also erudite and uncommon. The Gumshoe, the Witch and the Virtual Corpse by Keith Hartman (Meisha Merlin Publishing) is another problematic small press book, but worth taking a look at. This murder mystery is set in an alternate version of our own world where pagan magic is real and its practitioners are in conflict with Christian and other religious groups. In theForests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Delacorte) is the tale of a teenage vampire on the streets of New York City. The book is fast-paced and enjoyable, if not particularly original, and most notable for the well-advertised fact that the author is fourteen years old.
Contemporary and Urban Fantasy
1999 was a good year for contemporary and urban fantasy—a category consisting of contemporary tales in real-world settings infused with magic (sometimes differing from mainstream "magic realism" only by the fantasy label on the cover). James P. Blaylock, Richard Bowes, Jonathan Carroll, and Elizabeth Hand published good novels of this sort (listed in the Top Twenty). Here are four more books that I strongly recommend, by three of the fantasy field's best authors and one talented newcomer: Dark Cities Underground by Lisa Goldstein (Tor) is an intriguing book that ought to be longer, packed so full of characters (human and inhuman), ideas, and convoluted plot twists that at 252 pages it whizzes by with the speed of the subway trains at its heart. Jeremy Jones is running from disturbing memories of his childhood, as well as from the fame of his mother's children's books (set in a land called Neverwas), tales secretly drawn from young Jeremy's own experiences in a magical world below his childhood home. Goldstein's reluctant protagonist is soon pulled back into the "dark cities underground" controlled by the mysterious Shadow Committee—a realm linked not only by subway systems around the world but also by generations of children's fiction from Alice in Wonderland to The Lord of the Rings. Dark Sister by Graham Joyce (Tor) is the overdue U.S. publication of a novel that won the British Fantasy Award in 1993, about a couple who uncover a diary full of Wiccan spells and herb lore while renovating a Victorian townhouse. An ancient spirit (the diarist's "dark sister") is subsequently released in a deft and highly suspenseful tale in which the magical elements are used to chronicle the breakdown of a marriage. Kaspian Lost by Richard Grant (Avon) is a sequel to a previous novel (In the Land of Winter) but can easily stand alone. It's the story of fifteen-year-old Kaspian Aaby, the embittered son of a religious zealot, who strays away from a camp for troubled teens into a strange Otherworld (full of sinister leprechauns) and then reappears, inexplicably, four days later and sixty miles away. The magical elements here are stranger, and not as well integrated, as in the previous novel, but the portrait of adolescent Kaspian and his battle with the whole exasperating adult world is truly first rate. King Rat by English newcomer China Miéville is a book we listed as one of the best first novels of 1998 (in its initial U.K. edition). This year Miéville's quirky book is available in a U.S. edition, so I'm happy to recommend this innovative hip-hop/noir/urban fantasy version of the "Pied Piper of Hamelin" to anyone who might have missed it.
Imaginary World Novels
Last year, we were spoiled by a bumper crop of fine Imaginary World novels. This year, by comparison, it has been slim pickings. Nonetheless, there were a few good books, most particularly Elizabeth Haydon's Rhapsody (listed underFirst Novels), as well as books by Franny Billingsley, Jeffrey Ford, and Donna Jo Napoli (listed in the Top Twenty). In addition, here are three reprints that should be on every fantasy lover's shelf, two by an early master of the field and one by a modern master: The King of Elfland's Daughter and The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany (Del Rey) have been released in handsome trade paperback editions with new introductions by Neil Gaiman and Peter Beagle. These Irish novels date from the 1920s and yet remain utterly fresh, demonstrating why Dunsany has strongly influenced generations of fantasists ever since. Patricia A. McKillip's "Riddlemaster" trilogy dates back only to the 1970s, and yet it too is a fantasy classic—for it was written in the early years of the post-Tolkien fantasy publishing genre and cast, like Dunsany's books, an enchanted spell on a generation of subsequent young writers. The new Ace edition combines The Riddlemaster of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind in one attractive omnibus volume, titled Riddlemaster. I highly recommend this lyrical tale of riddles, harpists, wizards, and wolves if you've somehow missed it.
If you're looking for adventure fantasy that won't insult your intelligence, I can recommend the following: Dragonshadow by Barbara Hambly (Del Rey) is the sequel to Dragonsbane, one of Hambly's early books, but can easily be read alone. This talented author subverts the usual fantasy plot by giving us a heroine who is married, middle-aged, and still fighting to save the Winterlands from dragons and worse. Hambly's in top form here in a book combining skillful character studies with a rousing good plot. Mad Ship by Robin Hobb (Bantam) is the middle book of a trilogy that began with Ship of Magic. It's a well-crafted series about sentient ships, intrigue, and magic on the high seas, aptly dubbed "Patrick O'Brian for fantasy readers." Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop (Roc) is dark, erotic, passionate, violent, and definitely not for the faint of heart. It's the second book in Bishop's lush, unusual "Black Jewels" trilogy. Traitor's Moon by Lynn Flewelling (Bantam) is the third book in the "Nightrunner" series, a page-turner distinguished by Flewelling's careful world-building and well-drawn characters. Aramaya by Jane Routley (Avon) follows her previous books, Mage Heart and Fire Angels, in an engaging series about the struggles of a young mage in a magical world. There's nothing startlingly new here, but Routley brings fresh life to her tale with vivid descriptions and a gift for well-structured plots. Company of Glass by Valery Leith (Bantam) is the first book of the "Everien" trilogy, set in an intriguing landscape where reality slips and shifts underfoot. Though in many ways a standard swords-and-sorcery tale, the book is vigorous and well written.
Other entertaining page-turners, noted briefly: A Cavern of Black Ice by J. V. Jones (Warner), Lord of the Fire Lands (sequel to The Gilded Chain) by Dave Duncan (Avon), The Changeling War by Peter Garrison (Ace), and Dragon and Phoenix (sequel to The Last Dragonlord) by Joanne Bertin (Tor). Notable reprints include The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny (Avon), containing the complete "Amber Chronicles, Books 1-10" in a handsome package; The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust (Ace), containing the first three Vlad Taltos adventures; and Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn (Ace), a groundbreaking novel that won the 1980 World Fantasy Award.
Historical Fantasy and Alternate History
1999 was a good year for magical books based on real or alternate history, including the Beagle, Cooper, Erdrich, Roessner, and Whitehead novels in the Top Twenty list. Here's the best of the rest: The Messenger by Mayra Montero, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (HarperCollins), is the splendid new novel from a top Cuban writer. In 1920, a bomb exploded in a Cuban opera house while the great Enrico Caruso was performing in Aida; fearing a plot by the Sicilian Mafia, Caruso fled into the streets of Havana and disappeared. Montero takes these true historical facts and weaves them into a magical novel speculating on what may have occurred during the period of Caruso's disappearance, creating a darkly atmospheric tale of love and adventure involving opera, Chinese folklore, and the mystical, secretive Afro-Caribbean religion of Santeria. At 218 pages, Montero's novel is a short one but packs a punch. Benjamin's Gift by Michael Golding (Warner) is a winsome novel about an obscenely wealthy man in early twentieth-century Manhattan, the orphan boy he adopts (born with the ability to teleport), and the jazz-playing housekeeper they both love. The tale follows its three protagonists from the 1920s to the 1960s, watching them change, and the world change around them, as Benjamin comes to terms with his strange gift. Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (Morrow) is a beautiful novel looking at the mores of early nineteenth-century America through the eyes of the wife of the seafaring hero of Melville's Moby-Dick. Naslund has created an extraordinary tale, adventurous, vigorous, and thought-provoking. Nevermore by Harold Schechter (Pocket) is an odd but engaging alternate history novel in which Davy Crockett and Edgar Allan Poe team up to fight crime, a fantasy spun on the slim fact that these two American heroes did indeed once meet. The Crook Factory by Dan Simmons (Avon) imagines Ernest Hemingway as the leader of an anti-submarine squad during World War II. This alternate history/espionage novel is suspenseful and skillfully written. The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth (St. Martin's Press/Dunne) is a book to avoid. Thriller writer Forsyth has taken up the characters of Gaston Lereux's The Phantom of the Opera and set them in early twentieth-century New York—a concoction which, although praised by some reviewers, is sadly ill-conceived.
A Calculus of Angels by J. Gregory Keyes (Del Rey), the sequel to Newton's Cannon, is an entertaining alternate history tale about Sir Isaac Newton and his young apprentice Ben Franklin, set in a version of the eighteenth century (after an asteroid has destroyed much of Europe) where alchemy works. Saint Fire by Tanith Lee (Overlook), book two in the "Secret Books of Venus" quartet, is set in a lush, darkly sensuous version of eighteenth-century Venice. Each book in the quartet is inspired by one of the four elements of alchemy. Here, Lee conjures fire with a magical version of the Joan of Arc legend. The Master of All Desires by Judith Merkle Riley (Viking) is an enjoyable page-turner set in mid-sixteenth-century France, about Catherine de Médicis, Nostradamus, and the Undying Head of Menander the Magus. The Shadow of Albion by Andre Norton and Rosemary Edghill (Tor) is a frothy confection mixing the tropes of fantasy with those of Regency romance—a lightweight but congenial tale.
Against the Tide of Years by S. M. Stirling (Penguin) is the sequel to Island in the Sea of Time, an inventive time-travel story about contemporary folk from Nantucket Island who are stranded in the Bronze Age past. Also of note: Del Rey has just reprinted one of the best alternate history novels of the past twenty years: The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers, about the Fisher King, an Irish mercenary, and the art of brewing beer in sixteenth-century Vienna.
This category includes novels inspired by myths, ancient epics, fairy tales, folklore, and folk ballads. Orson Scott Card's version of Sleeping Beauty, Gregory Maquire's recasting of Cinderella, Napoli & Tchen's Rumplestiltskin, Louise Erdrich's weaving of Native American myth and history, Salman Rushdie's virtuoso riff on Orpheus, and Franny Billingsley's exploration of selkie tales are all excellent works of mythic fiction listed in the Top Twenty above, but here's a book I'd recommend every bit as highly: Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Doubleday). Divakaruni's second novel contains no overt magic or fantasy (unlike her first, The Mistress of Spices) but it's saturated with the Indian fairy tales beloved by its two protagonists, who are cousins, "sisters of the heart," growing up in a strict traditional household in modern Bombay. There's deep magic at the core of this book, and I can't recommend it too strongly.
Other recommendations: Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser (Crown) is a 110-page novella published in a slim hardcover edition. Despite its brevity, this gorgeous tale—told as a series of luminous vignettes—uses myths, dreams, and the Pied Piper of Hamlin theme to tell the story of one enchanted night in a small Connecticut town. Kafka's Curse by Achmat Dangor (Pantheon) is a poetic, passionate book about life in post-apartheid South Africa, mixing magic realism and fairy-tale imagery with the gripping story of an extended, mixed-race family as they deal with lives, and a country, in the process of transformation. It's a wonderful, magical book (although I could have wished for a stronger ending), reminiscent of Gabriel Garca Márquez, laced throughout with an Arabian fairy tale about a gardener who loves a princess and is turned into a tree for his presumption. Highly recommended. Lovers turning to trees is the mythic theme running through another lovely book, In the Shadow of the Amates by Anne James Valadés (Ash-Tree Press). This heartrending novel begins in a small Mexican village during the Mexican Revolution, intertwining a multigeneration saga with the legend of Amacuepantle. Madame Fate by Marcia Douglas (Soho Press) tells the story of Jamaica from God's creation of the island to the present, as seen through the eyes of generations of women with a magical connection to the land and its spirits. It's a tale of shape-shifters, animism, and herbalism ("Madame Fate" is a plant said to cure all ills), weak on plot, strong on folklore, told through a collage of prose and verse. The Frog Prince by Stephen Mitchell (Harmony) carries the worrisome subtitle: "A Fairy Tale for Consenting Adults." Alas, this adult retelling of the "Frog Prince" fairy tale is more a meditation on the nature of love than a novel. Set in a magical sixteenth-century Europe, yet containing large dollops of Taoist philosophy, Mitchell's confection has its moments but doesn't manage to sustain them. If you're a diehard fairy tale fan, you'll want to take a look, butwait for the paperback edition. A better book for fairy tale aficionados is The Wild Swans by Peg Kerr (Warner), told in the form of parallel stories about two young people at odds with their families: a young woman in Puritan New England whose brothers have been turned into swans, and a young gay man in contemporary New York, living in the shadow of AIDS.
Thunderwoman by Nancy Wood (Dutton), a celebrated poet and folklorist, uses the language of myth to tell the story of how the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico survived cultural genocide at the hands of Spanish invaders. Gardens in the Dunes by Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko (Simon & Schuster) is a panoramic, richly mythic novel about the clash between Native American and Anglo cultures in the nineteenth century, ranging from the Arizona/Mexico border region to Brazil and Europe, exploring indigenous earth-based religions, Celtic magic, botany, medicine, women's emancipation, and a host of other topics along the way. Although a bit overlong in some places, a bit didactic in others, it's nonetheless a remarkable book—and more accessible than Silko's Almanac of the Dead. Another good novel about the American West—and the conflicts between peoples of different colors, backgrounds, and agendas to be found there in the nineteenth century—is Liar's Moon by Philip Kimball (Holt), a multivoice narrative wrapped around the central story of two lost children, one black, one white, raised by coyotes. The book doesn't entirely hang together, and some narrative voices work better than others, but it's definitely worth a look.
The Leper's Companions by Julia Blackburn (Pantheon) is another novel that is problematic, but it's so richly imagistic that I recommend seeking it out nonetheless. Published as a mainstream novel (with magical cover art by Thomas Woodruff), Blackburn's tale is pure fantasy: the story of a modern woman who strays into a fifteenth-century world populated by spirits, mermaids, wild men in the forest, mystics, and saints. A rather grim pilgrimage to the Holy Land becomes a metaphor for personal rebirth. Personally, I found Blackburn's novel more symbolic than satisfying, but other readers of my acquaintance have truly loved it—so give it a try, too. Medusa: The Fourth Kingdom by Marina Minghelli, translated from the Italian by Beverly Allen (City Lights), is an interesting work of postmodern metafiction exploring the Medusa legend through the journal of a young Italian woman embroiled in a troubled love affair. Minghelli shines her fiercely intelligent, if idiosyncratic, vision on classical myth, history, literary theory, and psychology in a fashion that is highly experimental, yes, but really works. If you like the fiction of Jeanette Winterson, give this one a try, too. Leaving Eden by Ann Chamberlin (Forge) is mythic fiction about Adam, Eve, and Adam's first wife Lilith, narrated by Adam and Lilith's daughter. This sweeping, romantic, thought-provoking saga by a top historical writer conjures a time of change from goddess-centered religions to a new patriarchal system. Occasionally didactic, overall it's an enjoyable story based on a combination of scholarship and speculation. The Feast by Randy Lee Eickhoff (Forge) is a rousing mythic saga by an accomplished Celtic historian. Sequel to The Raid (which was based on the "Tain"), this one chronicles the further adventures of the young Irish hero Cuchulainn based on material from the lesser-known Irish epic "Fled Bricrend."
Fans of Arthurian fiction have several volumes to choose among. My ownfirst choice would be Guenevere: Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles (Crown), an epic tale of Camelot as seen through the eyes of its queen. This is a fat, satisfying, romantic, feminist look at the Matter of Britain by a best-selling historical writer (I, Elizabeth and Return to Eden) who is also a lauded women's study scholar (The Women's History of the World). If the New Agey orientation of The Mists of Avalon put you off, here's one based on impeccable scholarship. A close runner-up for first choice is The Serpent and the Grail by A. A. Attanasio (HarperPrism), book four in this author's marvelous series about the boy-king Arthor. The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis by Jack Whyte (Forge) is book six in the "Camulod Chronicles" by this best-selling Canadian author, a violent and gripping tale of Merlyn and his young warrior protègè. Diane Paxson's The Hallowed Isle: The Book of the Spear (Avon/Eos) is book two in a projected four-book series, swords and sorcery with a mystical bent, set among the tribal cultures of sixteenth-century Britain. The Lovers by Kate Hawk (Avon/Eos) is a new retelling of the tragic tale of Trystan and Yseult, from the point of view of a young servant who becomes Trystan's companion-at-arms. Avalon: The Return of King Arthur by Steven R. Lawhead (Avon/Eos) is an odd, near-future Arthur-come-again novel by the author of the Pendragon Cycle. In this version of the mythos, Arthur returns to a troubled Britain as a young Scotsman related to the royal family, in line for the throne.
Other notable mythic and fairy-tale works: The Life of High Countess Gritta von Ratsinourhouse by Bettine von Arnim and Gisela von Arnim Grimm, introduced and translated from the German by Lisa Ohm (University of Nebraska Press), is the first U.S. publication of this lost masterpiece of German magical fiction, an arch fairy tale written by a mother-and-daughter team in the 1840s. This story of twelve young girls who run away from a dreadful convent and make new lives on a magical island populated by elves and dancing rats is a thinly veiled commentary on German society and the lives of nineteenth-century women. (Here's an interesting factoid: Gisela von Arnim Grimm was married to Herman Grimm, son of fairy tale collector Wilhelm.) The Complete Fairy Tales by George MacDonald (Penguin) is an attractive trade paperback edition containing eleven short fairy tales and one essay ("The Fantastic Imagination") by this much-loved nineteenth-century Scottish writer, about whom C. S. Lewis once said: "I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master."
For fans of funny fantasy I recommend Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones (Tor), an irrepressible novel that falls halfway between fantasy and science fiction. Jones sets her tale at PhantasmaCon, an English fantasy convention held at a hotel that just happens to be built on a multidimensional gateway. This year, the convention is the gathering place for candidates who hope to join the Magids: magicians whose job is to maintain the balance of good and evil throughout the universe. Lord Demon by Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold (Avon/Eos) is an offbeat novel about demon refugees from a cosmic war against the gods. Moving between comedy and tragedy, it's a tale of Chinese sorcerers, kite makers, feng shui masters, and magical little Pekingese dogs. (Lindskold,who often collaborated with Zelazny during his lifetime, finished this manuscript after his death.) On the mainstream shelves, try The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore (Avon/Eos). This is another loonytunes adventure from the author of Island of the Sequined Love Nun, about the inhabitants of a small California town and a blues-loving sea monster that arises off its coast. Messiah by Romanian-American author Andrei Codrescu (Simon & Schuster) is a sly, good-natured millennial spoof about two unlikely heroines—a punky private detective in New Orleans and a refugee from Sarajevo—who take on the televangelist industry, the Internet, and avert the apocalypse.
For YA funny fantasy, see the Lemony Snicket book in the Top Twenty, as well as Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson (Dutton), about a wizard who throws a spell-casting contest in order to find a wife.
Fantasy in the Mainstream
Magical books on the mainstream shelves are harder to spot than those grouped under a fantasy label, so each year we make a special effort to point the way to books you might otherwise overlook. This year, the very best of these were the Gowdy, Maguire, Michael, Rushdie, and Whitehead books listed in the Top Twenty; the Montero, Golding, and Naslund books listed under Historical Fantasy; and the Divakaruni, Millhauser, and Dangor books listed under Mythic Fiction. Here are a number of others that fantasy readers may find of interest: Thine Is the Kingdom by Abilio Estévez, translated by David Frye (Arcade) is an extraordinary new novel from Cuba: a brash, ebullient work of magic realism set on "the Island," an enclave at the center of pre-Castro Havana. Estévez is wildly, relentlessly inventive, telling his tale through multiple narrative voices and a cast of thousands. This clever, language-rich book is clearly influenced by Gabriel Garca Márquez (as well as by Dostoyevsky, Joyce, and others). Estévez's English-language debut is not a quick or easy read, but it's a rewarding one, on the cutting edge of Latin-American fiction. The Lazarus Rumba by Ernesto Mestre (Picador) is another book with a strong Márquezean influence, this one by a young Cuban-born writer living in the U.S. Less dazzling than the Estévez book, but in some ways more thoughtful and appealing, it's the story of post-Revolution Cuba seen through the eyes of three generations of the Lucientes family. Spiritual, political, and deeply moving, this novel marks a strong debut. Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea, Jr. (Dutton) is the third novel from this Yaqui/Mexican/American author who is, in my opinion, one of the finest writers in America today. This book draws on the author's experiences as a soldier in Vietnam, looking at the war through the eyes of a Latino soldier—a tale divided between the soldier's past in Vietnam and his present as a public defender involved in a double-murder trial in San Francisco. The magic realist elements are less pervasive than in Vea's previous works (La Maravilla and The Silver Cloud Café), but they simmer quietly under the plot of this hard-hitting, brilliant book. For fans of magic realism Latin-American-style, I also recommend Loving You Was My Undoing by Javier Gonzalez-Rubio, translated from the Spanish by Yareli Arizmendi andStephen Lytle (Holt), a tragic romance of the Wuthering Heights variety, laced with mysticism and set during the Mexican Revolution.
Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith by Gina B. Nahai (Harcourt Brace) is a spiced and scented work of Middle Eastern magic realism, the exotic coming-of-age story of Roxanna, born in a Tehran ghetto in the 1930s, whose mother grows wings one night and disappears. This "bad luck" child's search for her mother, and then her own identity and freedom, ranges from Iran to Turkey to Los Angeles. It's an enchanted and impassioned look into the lives of Iranian-Jewish women. The River Midnight by Lilian Nattel (Scribner) could be called Yiddish magic realism, an atmospheric novel looking at the lives of four women in a Polish village at the turn of the last century. Canadian author Nattel mixes humor, folklore, and the magic of women's friendships into a truly memorable story. Four Mothers by Shifra Horn, translated by Dalya Bilu (St. Martin's Press) is yet another new novel (an English translation of an Israeli bestseller) that uses magic realism, folklore, and fables to depict the lives of Jewish women—in this case, five generations of women in a Jerusalem family plagued by a curse.
Broke Heart Blues by Joyce Carol Oates (Dutton) is an interstitial work that defies easy characterization. On one hand, it's a murder mystery; on another, it's a meditation on American celebrity and the way lives can be turned into myth, told through the story of John Paul Reddy, a supernaturally charismatic high school "bad boy" in suburban Buffalo in the 1960s. Label it mystery, fantasy, horror, or mainstream fiction; whatever you call it, it's yet another gem from Ms. Oates. Mosquito by Gayl Jones (Beacon Press) is an ambitious, rambling narrative (more a jazz riff than a novel, despite its length) by a well-known African-American writer, following the adventures of a sassy truck driver as she journeys through the American Southwest and becomes involved with Hispanic refuges, Native Americans, and other "second class" people. Jones manages to pull in Trickster folklore, Buddhist mysticism, Shakespeare, Mexican colonial history—everything but the kitchen sink. Readers either love or hate this book; you'll know on which end of the spectrum you stand within a very few pages. The Eternal Footman by James Morrow (Harcourt Brace) is the final volume of a trio of books (following Towing Jehovah and Blameless in Abaddon) that have raised comparisons with the works of Barth and Vonnegut. Morrow's latest (like the others) is insightful, sharply satiric, and ultimately redemptive—set in a world in which God is dead ... indisputably dead, His holy skull staring down from the heavens. I highly recommend it. Simon Louvish is another author often compared to Vonnegut. His new novel The Days of Miracles and Wonders (Interlink) is a big, sprawling satirical novel that roams from Scotland to the Middle East, mixing medieval heroes with modern characters in order to tickle the underbelly of world politics, history, and religion. A Corner of the Veil by Laurence Cosse, translated from the French by Linda Asher (Simon & Schuster) was a bestseller in its original French edition, winning several literary prizes. This book (which makes an interesting pairing with Morrow's The Eternal Footman) is a smart, funny novel about six pages that turn up on the desk of the editor of a Catholic magazine which utterly prove the existence of God—and the havoc which this discovery unleashes around the world.
The 27th Kingdom by Alice Thomas Ellis (Moyer), the latest from the author of Fairy Tale, is a supernatural black comedy of manners set in an eccentric boarding house in London in the 1950s. It's light, droll, and very English. All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills (Arcade), the second novel by a lauded new British writer (his previous novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize) is a much darker look at English society. This novel is an allegorical tale about a man camping in the Lake District who gets drawn into the Kafkaesque lives of the inhabitants of a mysterious town. Crowe's Requiem by Mike McCormack (Henry Holt) is a mordant tale of Irish magic realism about a lonely boy in a rural village who refuses to speak as he grows up, and his subsequent tragi-comic life at university in the city. A Witness to Life by Terence M. Green (Forge) is a lovely, semi-autobiographical story of an extended family in Canada. The fantasy element here is that the tale is narrated by a dead man who watches over his family in the form of a black starling sitting on the phone wires. The Handyman by Carolyn See (Random House) is a book whose critical acclaim has me puzzled. It's the story of a failed-painter-turned-handyman who becomes involved in a variety of desperate lives and ends up fixing more than roofs and drains—becoming, in the end, a cult artist-messiah in the twenty-first century. You may want to take a look for yourself, but it didn't work for me. Ferney by James Long (Bantam) is a highly touted mystery/romance/reincarnation story (in the Jack Finney tradition) set in a crumbling cottage in England—a quick read, light, enjoyable, and somewhat forgettable. The Haunted Major (Ecco Press) is the reprint of a 1902 novel by the Scots writer Robert Marshall, an offbeat, supernatural, Wodehousean tale about the game of golf.
There were several novels in 1999 using magical, mythic, or folkloric motifs to tell coming-of-age stories, usually involving coming to terms with parents who were mad, bad, or dangerous to know. Other writers have done this beautifully in the past (Seamus Deane's Reading in the Dark, Heinz Insu Fenkl's Memories of My Ghost Brother, Will Shetterly's Dogland, and Susan Palwick's Flying in Place come immediately to mind). The following books, by contrast, all seem to fall a little flat—but each has moments of interest. The Professor of Light by Marina Budhos (Putnam) is one of the best of the lot, concerning a young American girl (with a Jewish mother and a Guyanese father) who spends each summer with relatives in England. Budhos knits Guyanese folklore and physics into the tale of a charismatic father's delicate descent into madness. This first novel suffers from art-novelitis (inattention to pacing, structure and plot), but less so than the others, and it carries you along. Last Things by Jenny Offill (FS&G) is another first novel about a mentally ill, science-obsessed parent—in this case it's the mother, an ornithologist, for whom the boundary between reality and myth is growing daily thinner. Offill's book received wonderful reviews, but I found it too self-consciously stylistic to be effective or truly engaging. Homework by Suneeta Peres da Costa (Bloomsbury), by a young Asian-Australian writer, is another first novel published with much hoo-ha and fanfare. The central conceit is endearing: Mina, the protagonist, is born with antennae on her head that betray her every passing emotion. But there's no plot to speak of and little in the way of character development here. I'd say, ignore the reviews and give this one a miss. Geographies of Home by LoidaMaritza Pérez (Viking) could be considered a Dominican-American version of Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina. Pérez does a lovely job of conjuring the life of a large and troubled family of Dominican immigrants in New York, and the story has some terrific supernatural touches ... but it lacks the flashes of warmth that made the brutality of Bastard Out of Carolina bearable. Here, everyone is so relentlessly awful that it's difficult to maintain one's interest in them. There's some genuine magic in the muddle of this painful story, but I'd recommend waiting to see what Perez comes up with next. The Cornflake House by Deborah Gregory (St. Martin's Press) reverses the usual scenario and tells its story from a mother's point of view—in this case, a free-spirited hippie mother of seven, with a gift for clairvoyance, relating her saga of woe from jail. I found this first novel slight and the narrator annoying, but it has its moments. Art-novelitis is a problem in the otherwise intriguing One Hundred and One Ways by Mako Yoshikawa (Bantam), which tells the story of three generations of Japanese women in the voice of a Japanese-American college student (the granddaughter of a famous geisha). Despite the usual problems with plot and pacing that seem to plague young mainstream writers these days, Yoshikawa's tale of a young woman torn between two worlds (literally haunted by the ghost of her dead lover) is a sensuous, poetic, introspective tale, and definitely worth a look. Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace (Algonquin) is the least exotic but the most successful of these coming-to-terms-with-one's-family books. It's the story of a man trying to understand his elusive father as the father lies on his deathbed. It's a humorous but poignant little story, punctuated with tall tales, Southern folklore, and Greek myths.
For fans of surrealist fiction there are several good books to chose from. The best of them is The Divinity Student by Michael Cisco (Buzzcity Press). After a near-death experience, an unnamed divinity student is sent away from the seminary to take up employment as a "word finder" in a strange, distant desert city. He soon becomes involved in reconstructing the "Lost Catalog of Unknown Words," stealing secret words from the corpses of dead scholars. If you have a taste for dark surrealism and a love of language, this one is a treat. The Artist of the Missing by Paul LaFarge (FS&G) is beautifully descriptive, haunting, but has little in the way of coherent plot. It concerns a young artist who travels to a nameless city to explore the mystery of his parents' disappearance. The young man subsequently becomes involved in other, increasingly bizarre disappearances in LaFarge's pyschological, political, and artistic fable. Orlanda by Jacqueline Harpman, translated from the French by Ros Schwartz (Seven Stories) is a postmodern, surreal mystery novel about female identity and sexuality which recasts Virginia Woolf's Orlando in contemporary Belgium. The protagonist is a professor of literature who discovers that a repressed part of her psyche has taken on a life of its own, inhabiting the body of a twenty-year-old rock journalist. This witty novel was the winner of the 1996 Prix Medicis; Booklist aptly dubbed it "Kafka with a dash of Ursula K. Le Guin."
The Best Peculiar Book award for 1999 goes to A Hive for the Honeybee by Soinbhe Lally (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), a curious little fable about aworker bee and two rebel drones, written by an Irish writer and nominated for a literary prize in that country. Lally mixes wonderful bee lore with (occasionally heavy-handed) philosophy. Even when the story doesn't quite work, it's endearing—and the entire package is a delight, from the honeycomb-patterned book covers to the charming art by Patience Brewster.
Runners up: Seven Dreams of Elmira by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti (Zoland) is the story of a beautiful spirit named Elmira who appears to the workers of an antiquated rum distillery on the West Indian island of Martinique. The narrator is an old rum worker who is more than one hundred years old; the book is made up of interviews with the rum workers relating their visions of Elmira, along with photographs of Martinique, the distillery, and the workers. This is a beautiful, dreamlike little book, full of folklore and gentle humor, by an author who has been called the Gabriel García Márquez of the Antilles. The Tale of the Unknown Island by José Saramago, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa (Harcourt Brace) is another quirky little publication—an illustrated book (part fairy tale, part philosophical/political fable) about a man with a dream, a king's cleaning woman, and a boat sailing off toward an island that may or may not exist. Saramago was the 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock (HarperCollins) is the latest from this master of the peculiar, consisting of a surreal art catalog and the story of a mysterious art curator who is on an afterlife journey, heading either to Heaven or Hell.
The best animal story of 1999 was Barbara Gowdy's African elephant saga, The White Bone, listed among the Top Twenty novels. Here are some others you may enjoy, filled with fantastical felines and a couple of clever mutts.
The Golden Cat by Gabriel King (Del Rey) continues the story begun by the talented team of Jane Johnson and M. John Harrison (under the King pseudonym) in their previous novel, The Wild Road. This is a charming and truly magical story about English cats who travel the "wild roads"—secret intercontinental pathways—in an ongoing battle between good and evil. In this new volume, the golden kittens of the king and queen have been villainously catnapped, and an expedition must be mounted to find them. To Visit the Queen by Diane Duane (Warner) is the second book in a less successful cat saga. Following The Book of Night with Moon, this is the story of cats who guard the gates between worlds and foil plots to destroy civilization as we know it. Duane is a good writer, but in this series she's just not at her best. Cat in a Jeweled Jumpsuit by Carole Nelson Douglas (Forge) is book eleven in Douglas's wacky "Midnight Louie" series about a wise-ass feline detective. This one is set in Las Vegas and involves the ghost of Elvis—need I say more? The Lighthouse, the Cat, and the Sea by Leigh W. Rutledge (Dutton) is a best-selling little book that tells the story of the highly adventurous life of a cat named Mrs. Moore, from her beginnings as a kitten stowaway on a schooner sailing through the tropics to her subsequent life with a lighthouse keeper in Key West. Jane on Her Own by Ursula K. Le Guin (Orchard) is book four in the author's"Catwings" series for young readers. It's about, well, cats with wings. The illustrations by S. D. Schindler are truly delightful. Ghost Cats by Susan Shreve (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic) is a sweet little tale for young readers about a troubled young boy in Boston and the phantom cats who haunt him. Cat fanciers will also want to take a look at the anthology Catfantastic Vol. V, edited by Andre Norton (that famous cat lover) and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW). It contains a range of middling-to-good stories, and sports a witty Renaissance-style cover by Mark Hess. Speaking of cat art, don't miss Pre-Raphaelite Cats by Susan Herbert (Thames & Hudson), famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings recast with feline stunners instead of human ones. (Someone was bound to do it, weren't they?)
Dog Eat Dog by Jerry Jay Carroll (Ace) is the follow-up to Carroll's surprisingly good novel Top Dog, about an amoral corporate raider who finds himself in a canine body. In this volume, back in his own body but surrounded by dozens of homeless pooches, Carroll's hero finds himself menaced once again by his enemies from the previous book. This volume has some amusing moments but, sadly, it's not as fresh as Top Dog, which didn't really need a sequel. Timbuktu by Paul Aster (Henry Holt) is the first-person narrative of a dog named Mr. Bones, companion to the homeless "poet-saint" Willy G. Christmas, on a quest from Brooklyn to Baltimore to find Willy's high school mentor in the hope that she will become the literary executor of the poet's opus (seventy-four notebooks stashed away in a bus-terminal locker) when Willy, in failing health, crosses over to the otherworld of Timbuktu.
In the field of science fiction, there were a few books with magical elements published last year which fantasy readers might also enjoy: Land of the Golden Clouds by Archie Weller (Allen & Unwin) is a science fiction novel from Australia with strong fantasy and mythological underpinnings. Set three thousand years after a nuclear holocaust, it's a sweeping, though somewhat episodic story about a future Dark Age, where tribal cultures struggle to survive on an irradiated continent and can recall the past only with the language of myth. Weller makes good use of aboriginal languages and folklore to create his intriguing future world. Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody (Tor) is another post-apocalypse tale from a talented Australian writer. If you love the early works of Andre Norton, try this captivating story of an orphaned child with exceptional abilities. The Stone War by Madeleine E. Robins (Tor) is a science fiction/horror/disaster novel with ingenious fantasy elements, set in the ruins of a magical version of Manhattan. It's a brutal, breathtaking novel in which the author's love for the city shines from every page.
The following fantasy novels hit the bestseller lists in 1999. Beloved by large numbers of readers across the country, they deserve a mention: Angel Fire East by Terry Brooks (Ballantine), Servant of the Dragon by David Drake (Tor), Brotherhood of the Wolf by David Farland (Tor), Krondor the Betrayal by Raymond E. Feist (Avon), Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind (Tor), The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan (Tor), The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey (DAW),Owlknight by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon (DAW), and The Demon Apostle by R. A. Salvatore (Del Rey).
The most notable books in YA fantasy, of course, are the two new Harry Potter volumes: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic). Yes, Rowling may be turning them out a bit too quickly. (Secrets doesn't quite live up to the first Potter book, although the series picked up steam again with Azkaban.) And yes, there are better YA fantasists out there (Jones, Cooper, Pullman, Yolen, Barron) who, in a better universe, would also receive Rowling's level of fame, wealth, and adulation. But the Potter books are fun, and no eight-year-old diehard fan is going to quibble about the quality of the prose from one book to another. The Potter books are lightweight, to be sure, but they're clever and clearly doing their job: persuading a generation of kids that the world can be a magical place.
In addition to the Almond, Beagle, Billingsley, Cooper, Erdrich, Napoli, and Snicket books listed previously (in the Top Twenty), and those ubiquitous Potters, here are some other children's fantasy novels you may enjoy: The Mirror of Merlin by T. A. Barron (Philomel) is book four in Barron's mystical, utterly gorgeous "Lost Years of Merlin" series exploring the youth of this legendary magician from the Arthurian mythos. Downsiders by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster) is yet another "there's a society of people living under the city" book (Downtown, Neverwhere, King Rat, Dark Cities Underground, etc.), but don't let that deter you. Shusterman's tale of the forbidden friendship between a "Topsider" girl and a "Downsider" boy in New York City is witty, wise, and chock full of urban folklore and Manhattan history. Midnight Magic by Avi (Scholastic, packaged with gorgeous cover art by Laurel Long) is a medieval mystery novel—entertaining and ghostly. Set in the fifteenth-century kingdom of Pergamontio, it's the story of the clever young servant of a magician who doesn't believe in magic. First Test by Tamora Pierce (Random House) is the first in a new sequence of books set in Pierce's imaginary kingdom of Tortall, revisiting ten-year-old Keladry (from "The Lioness Quartet") as she trains to be a knight. The Coyote Bead by Gerald Hausman (Hampton Roads) is a haunting novel based on Navajo legends, set in the American Southwest; The Banished by Betty Levin (Greenwillow) roams through lands much farther north, telling the story of a young girl, polar bears, and the tribal "Furfolk." Random House has begun a new series of books, each by a different fantasy author, based on The Voyage of the Bassett art book by James C. Christensen about a magical ship that sails through the lands of myth. Book I is Islands of the Sky, a Greek adventure by Tanith Lee; Book II is The Raven Queen, a Celtic faery story by Ellen Steiber and yours truly; and I hear that Sherwood Smith and Will Shetterly are doing the next ones.
The Adventures of Blue Avenger by Norma Howe (Holt) is a funny, romantic, and wonderfully manic novel in which a teenage boy endeavors: a) to become a comic book hero and b) to solve the mysteries of the universe. Hidden Talents by David Lubar (Tor) is a strong debut novel about a group of five misfits withstrange "hidden talents" at the Edgeview Alternative School for delinquent children. Violet & Claire by Francesca Lia Block (HarperCollins) starts off with a good premise: the friendship between two high school girls, one who dresses entirely in black and wants to be a screenwriter, the other who wears fluttery fairy wings and wants to be a poet. Unfortunately, the book falls apart as the two friends are drawn into the black heart of Hollywood—the jaded vision of L.A. depicted by Block is just so trendier-than-thou that it's hard to take it seriously. (For a much better book with the theme of teenage girlfriends, try Local Girls by Alice Hoffman (Putnam), fifteen interconnected stories about a young girl in a troubled Long Island family and her best friend.) Block has been a fine writer in the past, but her decadent-L.A. shtick is in danger of becoming a parody of itself.
For younger readers, I recommend The Wizard's Map and The Pictish Child, the first two books in the new "Tartan Magic" series by Jane Yolen (Harcourt Brace). These are fun, atmospheric tales about three American children visiting relatives in Scotland who are pulled into adventures involving time-travel, wizards, and witches. The Lost Flower Children by Janet Taylor Lisle (Philomel) is a gentle, wistful story about finding fairies at the bottom of the garden. The Firework-Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic) is a magical fable about a rebellious girl who wants to become a master firework-maker; this book is short and rather lightweight compared to Pullman's utterly brilliant novels for older children (The Golden Compass, etc.), but skillfully rendered nonetheless. Notable reprints: E. Nesbit's classic children's fantasy Five Children and It has been reprinted in a splendid new edition with illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky, in Peter Glassman's "Books of Wonder" series (Morrow). Houghton Mifflin has released a fiftieth anniversary edition of Farmer Giles of Ham, a short dragon story by J. R. R. Tolkien, containing pleasant if unexceptional black-and-white art by Pauline Baynes. Also from Houghton Mifflin: The Father Christmas Letters, an edition containing the letters Tolkien wrote, illustrated, and sent to his children in the guise of Father Christmas each December beginning in the 1920s, describing life among reindeer and polar bears at the North Pole. The letters have a certain whimsical charm, but will be of interest mainly to Tolkien collectors. Alan Garner's stunning Welsh fantasy novel The Owl Service has been reprinted in a handsome new edition (Voyager), as has Diana Wynne Jones's sprightly, pre-Harry Potter tale The Magicians of Caprona (Beech Tree/Morrow). The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea is fine Celtic fantasy full of Irish gods, spirits, and fairies, nicely repackaged (Holiday House). The Random House Book of Greek Myths by Joan D. Vinge, with full-color illustrations by Oren Sherman, is the first big, lushly illustrated Greek myths book since the D'Aulaires's more than thirty years ago. This book of retellings has all of the major and many minor myths told in the crisp, evocative style of award-winner Vinge, with colorful renderings by a talented poster artist. And for Oz fans, there are several good reprints to chose from: The Tin Woodman of Oz and The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum, meticulously reproduced editions with the original John R. Neill illustrations, from the "Books of Wonder" series (Morrow); The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Kansas Centennial Edition by L. Frank Baum, with wood-engravings by Michael McCurdy and an introduction by Ray Bradbury (University of KansasPress); and The Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum, a paperback facsimile of the 1915 edition, with John R. Neill illustrations in both black-and-white and color (Dover).
Single-Author Story Collections
Elementals by A. S. Byatt, which was far and away the best story collection of 1998 (in its original U.K. edition) is now available in the U.S. in a volume from Random House. The book contains Byatt's brilliant adult fairy tale "Cold" and other magical works. Moonlight and Vines is a new collection from Canadian mythic fiction writer Charles de Lint (Tor), containing interconnected stories set on the streets of Newford, a contemporary city located somewhere in North America where myths, legends, and wonders intersect with modern life. Most of these tales are reprints, but they've not been collected in one volume before. A Vaudeville of Devils by Robert Girardi (Delacorte) contains seven supernatural stories (by the author of Vaporetto 13 and other literary ghost novels) that are richly imaginative, erotic, and sinister, set in various centuries and locations around the globe. A Citizen of the World by MacLin Bocock (Zoland Books) is another collection of fine stories with far-flung settings, some of which have magical and fabulist elements. This edition contains an introduction by Alice Hoffman. The Oracle Lips by Storm Constantine (Stark House) is a collection of fantasy, horror, and science fiction tales from this stylish, iconoclastic British author. This edition contains eighteen reprints, four originals, one poem, and an introduction by Michael Moorcock. Reave the Just and Other Tales by Stephen R. Donaldson (Bantam) is a collection of eight tales, three of them original to the volume. ("The Killing Stroke," a story about martial arts, is particularly recommended.) Refugees from an Imaginary Country by Darrell Schweitzer (Owlswick Press) is a reprint collection of atmospheric, dark fantasy tales, illustrated by Stephen E. Fabian. Dragon's Fin Soup by S. P. Somtow (Alexander Publishing) contains eight modern Siamese fables by this highly talented Thai-American writer. The Square Moon by Ghadah Samman, translated from the Arabic by Issa J. Boullata (The University of Arkansas Press) contains contemporary gothic tales by a celebrated Lebanese writer now living in Paris. Ghost Dancing by Anna Linzer (Picador) is a collection of eleven wry stories about Jimmy One Rock, his wife Mary, and their assorted relatives and neighbors, penned by a Lenape writer from the Suquamish reservation in Washington. Men on the Moon by Simon J. Ortiz (University of Arizona Press/Sun Tracks Vol. 37) collects the short fiction of this underrated Native author from the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. Ranging from humorous to tragic, with some mythic elements, these stories explore the spiritual conflict between Native and Anglo cultures. (I particularly recommend Ortiz's tale "What Indians Do.")
B. Horror by Wendell Mayo (Livingstone Press) is an offbeat mainstream collection of stories making unusual use of horror movie imagery. (The poignant title tale, "B. Horror," is particularly recommended.) The South & Bene by Adelaida García Morales, translated from the Spanish by Thomas G. Deveny (University of Nebraska Press) contains two novellas by this contemporary Spanish writer, the second of which is gothic and disturbing. Haunted Traveller:An Imaginary Memoir by Barry Yourgrau (Arcade) is a collection of linked short-short stories forming an imaginary travel memoir through a Borgesian, surrealistic landscape. Nude in Tub: Stories of Quillifarkeag, Maine by G. K. Wuori (Workman) is a collection of eighteen loosely connected stories set in a Maine border town, several with surreal elements. Wuori has a great prose style, but most of his stories have little in the way of plot. These are brief snapshots of north coast life, rather than fully satisfying tales. The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and Other Stories by Julia Slavin (Henry Holt) is a volume of strange stories about suburban life: some of them surrealistic, some of them witty, some grotesque, and some just slight.
Two Young Adult fantasy collections are recommended to adult readers: Believing Is Seeing by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow), containing six terrific reprint tales and one lightweight original; and Odder Than Ever by Bruce Coville (Harcourt Brace), another strong collection mixing reprint and original material, all vintage Coville. ("The Stinky Princess" is particularly recommended.) Small press volumes published in 1999 include Leaving the Autoroute by Bill Lewis (Lazerwolf Press), Women's Work by L. A. Taylor (Allau Press), The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris by Duncan Shriek by Jeff VanderMeer (Necropolitan Press), Shadow Bones by David Memmott (Wordcraft), and What Ho, Magic! by Tanya Huff (Meisha Merlin Publishing). Notable reprint collections: The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein (Tor), a fat volume of stories, many of them first published in the pulp magazine Unknown Worlds; and The World and Other Places by Jeanette Winterson (Knopf), a small volume reprinting works dating back to 1986 (some of them magical or surrealist) by this award-winning British author.
1999 was, frankly, another lackluster year for fantasy anthologies. Among the few collections of original tales were Merlin edited by Martin H. Greenberg (DAW), an Arthurian anthology with notable contributions by Charles de Lint and Jane Yolen (the latter reprinted in this volume); A Dangerous Magic edited by Denise Little (DAW), a collection of romantic fantasies with a noteworthy tale from John DeChancie; Flights of Fantasy edited by Mercedes Lackey (DAW), stories about "fantastic flying creatures"; Sword and Sorceress Vol. XVI edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley (DAW), with a nice contribution by newcomer Carol E. Leever; Catfantastic V edited by Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW), with a clever tale by India Edghill; and Silver Birch, Blood Moon edited by myself and Ellen Datlow (Avon), containing original adult fairy tales by Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, Patricia A. McKillip, Wendy Wheeler, and others (the last two reprinted in this volume). Time Out Book of Paris Short Stories edited by Nicholas Royle (Penguin) contains a few good fantasy pieces among its mainstream contributions; stories by Kim Newman, Christopher Kenworthy, and Erica Wagner are particularly recommended. For dark fantasy fans, The Last Continent edited by John Pelan (Shadowlands Press) is a small-press collection of original "tales of Zothique," based on the works of Clark Ashton Smith.
As for reprint collections, if there were any good volumes devoted to fantasyout there, I sure couldn't find them. The only good reprint anthologies to cross my desk were mixed-genre volumes, or those devoted to gothic tales. Even The Dedalus Book of Spanish Fantasy edited and translated by Margaret Jull Costa and Annella McDermott (Dedalus) is really a collection of gothic and horror stories, although interesting. Crossing the Border edited by Lisa Tuttle (Indigo), billed as "tales of erotic ambiguity," is a fine literary collection of erotic tales, some with dark fantasy or horror elements, by authors ranging from Angela Carter and Joyce Carol Oates to Neil Gaiman, Geoff Ryman, and Graham Joyce. The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Edward L. Ferman and Gordon Van Gelder (Tor), contains a wide range of good stories, many of them award winners or nominees, including fantasy and dark fantasy by Elizabeth Hand, John Crowley, and Rachel Pollack. The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories edited by Emma Donoghue (Carroll & Graf) contains some nonrealist stories by the likes of Tanith Lee, Elizabeth A. Lynn, Christine Crow, and Sara Maitland. Night Shade edited by Victoria A. Brownworth and Judith M. Redding (Seal Press) is a reprint collection of gothic tales by women; while the closely named Nightshades edited by Robert Phillips (Carroll & Graf), is a solid collection of "literary ghost stories" ranging from Henry James and Shirley Jackson to Gabriel García Márquez and Joyce Carol Oates.
Girls on the Run by John Ashbery (FS&G) is the latest from this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. The book consists of a single poem based on a band of little girls called the "Vivians" created (in an illustrated novel) by outsider artist Henry Darger (1892-1972). It's a surreal, strange, subversive work, and I can't describe it better than David Kirby (writing in The New York Times): "If Andy Warhol and T. S. Eliot had played with Barbies together, the result might have been something like the adventures of [the Vivians]."
Beauty Is the Beast is the latest chapbook from Kentish poet and performance artist Bill Lewis. (Lazerwolf Press, 66 Glencoe Road, Chatham, Kent, U.K.) As always, Lewis's work is wound through with myths, fairy tales, gypsy lore, and dreams. Sixty Odd is a strong but primarily realist collection from Ursula K. Le Guin (Shambhala). In the Bear's House combines poetry and prose, some of it mythic in flavor, by the excellent Native American author N. Scott Momaday (St. Martin's Press).
The best market for writers of short fantasy fiction continues to be the big three genre magazines: F&SF edited by Gordon Van Gelder; Asimov's edited by Gardner Dozois; and Realms of Fantasy edited by Shawna McCarthy. The number of "Year's Best" selections and honorable mentions from these magazines spiked sharply upward this year. In particular, F&SF is publishing some first-rate work with Van Gelder at its helm. Omni continues to be sorely missed for its consistently high quality fiction that blurred the borders between fantasy, science fiction, and the mainstream. Ellen Datlow (former fiction editor of Omni) picked up some of the slack at her own website, Event Horizon (whichsupplied two excellent stories for this volume)—but now Event Horizon, too, has disappeared (officially it's "on hiatus"), and Ellen has moved on to SCIFI.COM (www.scifi.com), where she's the new fiction editor. The fantasy genre's semipro and little magazines continue to be as discouraging as ever, ranging from mediocre to downright awful, with one sterling exception: Century is back! This elegant little magazine of science fiction, fantasy, and interstitial fiction (edited by Robert K. J. Killheffer and Jenna A. Felice) is finally back on a quarterly schedule as of their recent Winter 2000 issue, and I urge you to support this much-needed outlet for literary and unusual works. (For more information, write: Century Publishing, P.O. Box 150510, Brooklyn, NY, 11215-0510. Web address: www.centurymag.com.)
On the mainstream shelves, small literary journals continue to be a good source for magical stories and poetry. This year we've reprinted material from Calyx, Pleiades, Descant, The Hudson Review, The Iowa Review, and Columbia. The latter journal dedicated a portion of the Winter 1999 issue to "Reinventions: a new look at fairy tales, legends, parables, and fables," which included short fiction by Jeanette Winterson, an interview with Rick Moody, and an essay by Neil Gaiman. A small quarterly out of Los Angeles, Lynx Eye (edited by Pam McCully and Kathryn Morrison) also deserves a mention. Although not as polished as Century, this journal (mixing realist and magical stories) is far more ambitious than most that cross my desk and has contained some memorable fiction, including the Mary Sharratt story we're reprinting in this volume. (For more information, write: Lynx Eye, 1880 Hill Drive, Los Angeles, CA, 90041.)
On the Web, there's no single source for fine fantasy fiction (now that Event Horizon is suspended), but here are several good sites for news, reviews, essays, and useful links: Folk Tales edited by Cat Eldridge (www.folk-tales.com); Rambles (www.rambles.net); Rodger Turner's SF Site (www.sfsite.com); and Phantastes, edited by Staci Ann Dumoski (www.phantastes.com). For magical art from Beardsley to Rackham to Waterhouse, try Julia Kerr's ArtMagick site (www.artmagick.com). For fairy tale information, book recommendations, essays, and art, try the SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages, edited by Heidi Anne Heiner (www.members.aol.com/surlalune/frytales/index.htm), Christine Daae's Introduction to Fairy Tales (www.darkgoddess.com/fairy), and The Endicott Studio of Mythic Arts (www.endicott-studio.com).
For me, the most important art news of 1999 is the fact that The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, translated by Marie Ponsot (Golden Books), is finally back in print after too many years of obscurity, featuring the distinctive fairy tale art of French illustrator Adrienne Segur—a woman whose work has profoundly influenced several of us in the fantasy field. It's a gorgeous volume, reproduced in a format similar to the battered 1950s edition I've been hauling around for decades now. But for those of you who aren't diehard Segur fans, here's what else the year had to offer: Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966, with text by Sylvia Yount (Abrams) is an important new art book dedicated to this great American illustrator. Yount's excellent text carefully builds the case for placing Parrishin a more prominent place in American art history. The Genres and Genders of Surrealism by Annette Shandler Levitt (St. Martin's Press) offers a fresh look at this imaginative group of artists, writers, and filmmakers, including the all too often overlooked women in the movement. Surreal Lives by Ruth Brandon (Grove/Atlantic) is a lively biographical work following these artists from Europe in the 1920s and 1930s to New York in the 1940s. The Essential René Magritte by Todd Alden (Andrews McMeel) is a welcome new addition to Magritte scholarship. The Collected Writings of Salvador Dali edited by Haim Finkelstein (Cambridge University Press), containing writings from the 1920s to 1970s, shows the artist to be just as mad (and occasionally brilliant) as we'd expect. Barry Windsor-Smith: Opus by Barry Windsor-Smith (Fantagraphic Books) is an art-packed volume in which this innovative and idiosyncratic artist offers us a retrospective of his own life's work, combined with a highly personal, hallucinatory text. It's a strange but courageous book. Here's a fascinating book you might not have run across: Goddess Embroideries of the Balkan Lands and the Greek Islands by Mary B. Kelly (StudioBooks). This volume not only collects wide-ranging examples of this beautiful art form, but also talks about the meanings of the various symbols, the rituals in which they were used, and the remnants of those rituals still evident in art and folk customs today.
Fans of "fantasy art" of the bronzed barbarian variety have two new books to chose from: Legends: Selected Paintings & Drawings by the Grand Master of Fantastic Art: Frank Frazetta, with text by Arnie and Cathy Fenner (Underwood Books), and Dreams: The Art of Boris Vallejo, with text by Nigel Suckling (Avalon). You'll find heroic-school fantasy illustration mixed in among the science fiction art in the following volumes: Spectrum 6: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, edited by Arnie and Cathy Fenner (Underwood Books), a collection of science fiction/fantasy art selected by jury from works submitted by art directors and the artists themselves. Painterly works by Kinuko Craft, Jeffrey Jones, Phil Hale, Dave McKean, and Charles Vess stand out among the swords and spaceships. Fantasy Art Masters: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Artists Show How They Work by Dick Jude (Watson-Guptill) is not a bad volume of science fiction illustration if that's what you're in the market for—but the name is strangely misleading. Alan Lee is the only artist who can possibly qualify for master status here, and the book seems to be focused on American and English commercial art. Er, what happened to the rest of the world?
Children's picture books provide a good showcase for magical storytelling and art. Here's a baker's dozen of the best to cross my desk this year (in alphabetical order by title):
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Lizbeth Zwerger (North South): a wonderful new vision of a classic tale featuring spare and exquisite watercolors by the peerless Ms. Zwerger, a young Austrian artist who won a well-deserved Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1990. (There are two other new Alice editions worth taking a look at as well: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, with its charming modern Alice (Candlewick Press) and a boxed-set edition of Alice's Adventures Underground andThrough the Looking Glass featuring the handsome original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel (Harcourt Brace).)
The Fairies' Ring by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Stephen MacKey (Dutton): a beautifully designed edition containing fairy stories from around the world, retold in Yolen's lyrical prose, as well as fairy poetry and MacKey's dreamy, romantic art. It's a gem.
The Gargoyle on the Roof by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis (Greenwillow): a mischievous book about gargoyles, werewolves, griffins, gremlins, and other magical creatures featuring Prelutsky's loony poetry and Sis's ebullient art.
The Goblin Baby, written and illustrated by Lauren Mills (Dial): this one works with the "changeling" theme from folklore, involving goblins, gnomes, and fairies in the garden. Mills's art is a treat.
Jack and the Beanstalk, retold by Ann Keay Beneduce and illustrated by Gennady Spirin (Putnam): the familiar tale is competently retold, but buy this volume for the art—utterly gorgeous watercolors by a Russian master of the form.
The Magic Tree, story by T. Obinkaram Echewa, illustrations by E. B. Lewis (Morrow): this is a fine retelling of an African folk tale by Nigerian writer Echewa, accompanied by beautiful watercolor paintings, skillfully rendered.
The Perfume of Memory, story by Michelle Nikly, illustrations by Jean Claverie (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic): a fabulous original fairy tale inspired by the author's childhood in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, with equally good watercolor illustrations by an award-winning French illustrator.
Shibumi and the Kitemaker by Mercer Mayer (Cavendish): the lovely story of a princess, a kite-maker, and a young samurai in an ancient, Japan-like kingdom. Mayer brings Asian art influences into his usual distinctive style, and the result is enchanting.
Puss in Boots by Charles Perrault, translated by Anthea Bell, illustrated by Giuliano Lunelli (North South): Bell's rendering of the tale is excellent, as her translations always are, but this is another edition to buy for the art—which is sly, highly original, and wickedly good.
Sleeping Boy by Sonia Craddock, illustrated by Leonid Gore (Atheneum): this is the most unusual book of the lot, a reworking of the Sleeping Beauty theme told through a series of collagelike pictures, set in Berlin from the turn of the century to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.
The Tale I Told Sasha by Nancy Willard, illustrated by David Christiana (Little, Brown): two major talents team up here to create a whimsical, captivating tale about a land of lost treasures. Willard's deceptively simple prose is lovely, and the art is first rate.
Watakame's Journey: The Story of the Great Flood and the New World by Hallie N. Love and Bonnie Larson, illustrated by Huichol artists (Clear Light Publishers): here's another unusual one, particularly recommended for fans of folklore and myth. A traditional legend of the Huichol Indian people of Mexico is accompanied by the brightly colored, intricate "string art" pictures for which this culture is famed, filled with shamanic and folkloric symbolism. It's an amazing volume.
Wind Child by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (HarperCollins): yet another gem from the Dillons, this one contains a bewitchingoriginal fairy tale by Murphy, embellished by the stunning art of this husband and wife design team.
The best of the rest, noted briefly: Trickster and the Fainting Birds: Seven Algonquin Tales retold by Howard Norman, illustrated with charming paintings by Tom Pohrt (Harcourt Brace/Gulliver Books); Westlandia by Paul Fleischman, about a boy who creates an imaginary country in his backyard, with delightfully quirky illustrations by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick Press); The Bone Keeper by Megan McDonald, an eerie, deeply mythic desert tale illustrated by G. Brian Karas (DK Publishing); The Crystal Mountain by Ruth Sanderson, an original fairy tale about a magical tapestry and some thieving fairies, with lushly detailed art (Little, Brown); In the Moonlight Mist: A Korean Tale retold by Daniel San Souci, distinguished by the lyrical art from Eujin Kim Neilan (Boyd Mills Press); The Lost Boy and the Monster, a Native American tale written by Craig Kee Strete, with gorgeously weird paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Putnam); Under the Lemon Moon, a tender Mexican tale by Edith Hope Fine, with simple, effective pictures by Rene King Moreno (Lee & Low Books); The Acrobat and the Angel by Mark Shannon, illustrated by David Shannon, a retelling of the spiritual French medieval folk tale of the "Acrobat of God" (Putnam); Blue Willow by Pam Conrad, illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher, a gentle Chinese love story based on the "blue willow" china pattern (Putnam); Dog Tales by Jennifer Rae, illustrated by Rose Cowles, clever fractured fairy tales about dogs and cats (Tricycle Press); Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters by Margaret Olivia Wolfson, illustrated by Karla Sachi, a sweet Fijian folk tale about a brave princess, her daughter, and giant sea turtles (Beyond Words); and Animalia: Thirteen Small Tales by Barbara Berger, a reprint edition (first published in 1982) of short-short stories inspired by world folk tales and religious parables, with intricate illustrations resembling an illuminated manuscript (Tricycle Press).
Nonfiction works of interest to fantasy readers and writers in 1999: No Go the Bogeyman by Marina Warner (FS&G) is the American edition of an English book we recommended highly last year, a study of ogres, giants, bogeyman (and other figures of masculine terror) in myth, folklore, and popular culture, by a dazzlingly erudite writer. Myth & the Body by Stanley Keleman (Center Press) is based on topics explored by Keleman and Joseph Campbell during fourteen annual seminars on the subject. It's an interesting read, bursting with ideas from two highly original thinkers. When Dreams Come True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition by Jack Zipes (Routledge) is an examination of fairy tales and their tellers from the sixteenth century to the twentieth by one of the leading scholars in the field. The Witch Must Die: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives by Sheldon Cashdan (Basic Books) is a sound, clear-eyed look at the history of fairy tales from a psychologist/historian who avoids the pitfalls of assigning modern psychoanalytic interpretations (à la Bettelheim) to tales rooted in older cultures. Fabulous Identities by Patricia Hannon (Rodopi) is a 1998 book I missed last year, an excellent study looking at the women fairytale writers in the aristocratic salons of seventeenth-century France. In the Shadow of the Dreamchild: A New Understanding of Lewis Carroll by Karoline Leach (Peter Owen/Dufour Editions) is a controversial and interesting new study in which Leach argues that Carroll's famous obsession with little girls is a literary myth, and that the Alice books were not written for Alice Liddell but for another member of the Liddell family. Leach supports her arguments with previously unpublished material from the Liddell family archives, along with Carroll's letters and unpublished diaries. The Culture of Christina Rossetti: Female Poetics and Victorian Contexts edited by Mary Arseneau, Anthony H. Harrison, and Lorraine J. Kooistra (Ohio University Press) contains essays on Rossetti's great fairy poem "Goblin Market," her relationship to the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and other subjects. 100 Years of Oz by John Fricke (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) is an illustrated edition of Oz history, imagery, and memorabilia drawn from the Oz collection of Willard Carroll.
Fantasy reference volumes: The Ultimate Fantasy Encyclopedia by David Pringle (Peter Mayer Publishers) is an illustrated book devoting many pages to film, television shows, and fantasy gaming, but it also contains a survey of fantasy fiction, lists famous fantasy characters, and describes classic imaginary worlds. Pringle does a good job within the limited parameters of the book, clearly meant to be an entertaining guide to fantasy in pop culture, and not a reference volume for the serious reader. (Readers looking for the latter should seek out Pringle's St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, as well as John Clute and John Grant's The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.) Fluent in Fantasy: A Guide to Reading Interests by Diana Tixier Herald (Libraries Unlimited, Inc.), published as part of the "Genreflecting Advisory Series," is a book aimed at librarians, giving lists of recommended reading, a short history of the genre, definitions of fantasy terms, and a limited listing of authors. Herald's choices here are a bit idiosyncratic (as any such book limited to 250 pages is bound to be), but it's a good guide for libraries (and new readers) building a fantasy collection. Myth and the Movies by Stuart Voytilla and Christopher Vogler (Michael Weiss Publications) is an interesting volume looking at fifty popular films through a Joseph Campbell lens. Fantasy and Horror: A Critical and Historical Guide to Literature, Illustration, Film, TV, Radio, and the Internet edited by Neil Barron (Scarecrow Press) is a book we haven't yet received for review, so I'll just note its existence here.
The American Writer: Shaping a Nation's Mind by Jack Cady (St. Martin's Press), is "an open letter to young writers" by this World Fantasy Award-winning author. It's a passionate discourse on American history with letters delivered in Cady's blunt, plain-spoken prose. I highly recommend it. Writing and Fantasy edited by Ceri Sullivan and Barbara White (Addison Wesley/Longman) is a book with a misleading title—sounding, as it does, like a guide to writing genre fiction. This is actually an academic collection of short essays on subjects ranging from fairy mistresses in medieval literature and sexual fantasy in the English Renaissance to the "fantasies" of travel, credit, and female criminality. The King of the Ants by Zbigniew Herbert, translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter (Ecco), is a slim volume of musings that are part essay, part fiction, and part philosophical meditations on classical myth.
Mythology and Folklore
1999 was a great year for books on myth and folklore, definitely putting a dent in my book-buying budget. Here's the best of what I've found: The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa by Clyde W. Ford (Bantam) is a terrific book in the Joseph Campbell tradition, not only exploring the many facets of African folklore and myth, but also looking at the relevance of these stories in modern life. I highly recommend this one. Other good books on African lore: A Dictionary of African Mythology: The Mythmaker as Storyteller by the always excellent Harold Scheub (Getty), and Children of Wax: African Folk Tales by Alexander McCall Smith (Interlink), collecting stories from the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe. Also check out African American Folktales: Stories from Black Traditions in the New World edited by Roger D. Abrahams (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library). Another favorite of the year is Magnificent Corpses: Searching Through Europe for St. Peter's Head, St. Chiara's Heart, St. Stephen's Hand, and Other Saints' Relics by Anneli S. Rufus (Marlow & Co./Avalon Publishing). This is a fascinating volume full of macabre stories and mystical Catholic lore, presented in a travel book format, marred only by its breathless prose style. Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society by Jean-Claude Schmitt (University of Chicago Press) is a wide-ranging and entertaining look at ideas about death and the afterlife in medieval culture.
The Grail: The Celtic Origins of the Sacred Icon by Jean Markale (Inner Traditions) is a provocative new study by one of the great French scholars of Celtic myth. Also check out: Celtic Legends of the Beyond: A Celtic Book of the Dead by Anatole Le Braz, translated from the French by Derek Bryce (Samuel Weiser), and The Chronicles of the Celts: A Survey of Tales from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, The Isle of Mann, and Brittany by Peter Berresford Ellis (Carroll & Graf). The Key to the Kalevala by Pekka Ervast, translated by Tapio Joensuu (Blue Dolphin Publishing) is an English edition of a classic text by a famous Finnish mystic and theosophist, first published in 1916. Ervast's influential interpretation of the Kalevala (the national epic of Finland) is idiosyncratic, shamanic, poetic, and mind-expanding. Ancient Goddesses, edited by Lucy Goodison and Christine Morris (University of Wisconsin Press), is a welcome volume indeed. Recent books and ideas about ancient goddess religions have been so permeated with fuzzy New Age theories that the whole area of goddess mythology scholarship has hung under a cloud of disrepute. In this well-researched, informative collection of essays (written for the lay reader), top feminist archaeologists and scholars take a hard look at the subject.
Women of Mythology by Kay Retzlaff (Metro Books) is a glossy, illustrated coffee-table book looking at women in myth, legend, and folklore around the world. Ancient Land, Sacred Whale: The Inuit Hunt, Its Rituals and Poetry by Tom Lowenstein (Havrill Press) is a brilliant mythic study of the Inuit people, beautifully written. Over the Lip of the World: Among the Storytellers of Madagascar by Colleen J. McElroy (University of Washington Press) is a mythic journey through a little-known part of the world, highly recommended. Jamaican Culture and International Folklore, Superstitions, Beliefs, Dreams, Proverbs andRemedies by Claudette Copney (Pentland Press) is a good reference volume, full of interesting lore. Some other useful reference volumes: The Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology by Rachel Storm (Lorenz Books); Chinese Mythology: An Introduction by Anne M. Birrell (John Hopkins University Press); and Zoo of the Gods: The World of Animals in Myth & Legend, a slim trade paperback edition by Anthony S. Mercatante (Seastone). A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack (Owl Books) is a well-researched look at demon legends and lore worldwide. Sirens: Symbols of Seduction by Meri Lao (Inner Traditions) looks at mermaids and sirens in myth, literature, and art. Some good new folk tale collections: Grey Heroes: Elder Tales from Around the World edited by Jane Yolen (Penguin); Folktales of India by Brenda Beck (University of Chicago Press); The Clever Sheikh of the Butana and Other Stories, Sudanese folk tales retold by Ali Lutfi Abdallah (Interlink), and California Indian Folklore by Frank F. Latta (Brewers Historical Publications), an important volume of tales collected from Yokut elders early in the twentieth century. And here's an oddity: Wilson's Grimm (Cottage Classics, San Francisco), containing seven German fairy tales with peculiar (and thoroughly adult) illustrations by the underground comics artist S. Clay Wilson.
Recommended folklore collections for children: Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls, collected and told by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Susan Guevara (Harcourt Brace); Dogs of Myth, tales from around the world collected by Gerald and Loretta Hausman, illustrated by Barry Moser (Simon & Schuster); The Element Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals in Nature, Myth and Spirit by Fran Pickering (Element); The Barefoot Book of Giants, Ghosts and Goblins by John Matthews, illustrated by Giovanni Manni (Barefoot Books); The Troll With No Heart in His Body and Other Tales of Trolls, from Norway by Lise Lunge-Larsen (Houghton Mifflin); Italian Fairy Tales by Lilia E. Romano (Hippocrene/World Folklore Library); And It Is Still That Way, legends told by Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Tohono O'odham, Pima, and other Native American children in Arizona, collected by Byrd Baylor (Cinco Puntos Press, Texas); and Turtle Island: Tales of the Algonquian Nations, retold by Jane Louise Curry (McElderry Books). I also recommend Witches and Witch-hunts by Milton Meltzer (Blue Sky/Scholastic), an excellent, timely book for young people on the subject of witches, witch-hunts, prejudice, and discrimination throughout Western history. (This one ought to go out en masse to all the anti-Harry Potter parents.)
For fans of faery lore and art, there are several new books to chose from: Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness is an extensive, fascinating survey of this subject by Carole G. Silver (Oxford University Press). The Faeryland Companion by Beatrice Phillpots (Barnes & Noble Books) is a terrific edition with an informative text and a wide range of illustrations from the Victorian "fairy painters" through mid-century artists like Cicely Barker to modern painters like Brian Froud and Alan Lee—but (annoyingly) it's only available through Barnes & Noble bookstores. Faeries: Doorways to the Enchanted Realm by Lori Eisenkraft-Palazzola (Smithmark) is a coffee-table book of classic faery art from the turn of the last century: Richard Doyle, Arthur Rackham, Warwick Gobel, etc. More a gift book than a reference volume, this edition has no text to speak of, but the art is handsomely reproduced. Fairies by Suza Scalora (HarperCollins) is an unusual art book of contemporary faery photographs, by aphotographer who (according to the tongue-in-cheek text) has tracked these elusive creatures around the world. Urban fantasy fans should check this one out. For children: Talking to Fairies by Sheila Jeffries (Element) is a well-researched, informative little book on fairy lore and customs—I highly recommend it for young fairy fans of your acquaintance. How to See Fairies (Smithmark) is more of a gimmick edition: a gift box containing a little volume of illustrations by Charles van Sandwyk, a blank fairy journal, a poster, and notecards. Nonetheless, little girls will probably love it. I should also mention my own new children's faery book, if only so that you don't miss the exquisite art by doll-artist Wendy Froud. A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale (Simon & Schuster) features an original fairy tale illustrated by Froud's enchanting three-dimensional faeries (photographed in a woodland setting), reminiscent of the creatures she created (with her husband Brian Froud) for the films Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
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 contemporary fantasy fiction (by writers like Charles de Lint or Emma Bull), for artists in both fields are updating old folk themes for a modern age. There is such a wealth of traditional material available these days that we have room to mention only a handful of favorites from 1999 here, with priority given to those that include magical, mystical, or storytelling elements. For further recommendations, check out the Folk Tales and Rambles review web sites (the URLs are listed under "Magazines").
The real buzz in world music these days, at least here in North America, is all the terrific music coming out of Scandinavian countries, brought to this side of the Atlantic almost single-handedly by the Minneapolis label Northside. Here are just a few of the 1999 Northside releases you should give a listen to: Top of the list is Wizard Women of the North, a survey of leading women vocalists and musicians who are "taking the music of their foremothers and making it relevant today." It's wild and gorgeous. Nordic Roots 2 is a sampler CD and makes a good introduction to this kind of music. R7 by Rosenberg 7, recorded in Sweden, is another favorite: a stirring mix of four female voices, fiddle, viola, and cello. Vengeance is the latest from the amazing Swedish band Garmarna, full of raucous vitality. Yet another good Swedish CD is Lavalek, from the band Groupa. The Stone Chair by Bukkene Bruse mixes ancient and modern instruments, playing the traditional music of Norway. Sorten Muld is a Danish singer of traditional ballads (with titles like "The Man and the Elfgirl") who also blends the old with the new in odd and interesting ways; check out her new one, Mark II. Gierran by Wimme is even stranger, and completely hypnotic: a CD of traditional Finnish shamanistic chants (called "yoik"—songs about reindeers, magical journeys, and the like) recorded in a fusion of old and new instrumentation.
If you like innovative music that combines the old and the new, here are some great releases with a tribal/techno/trance/dance beat: The Best of Agricantus by Agricantus is an infectious CD by an Italian band working with Celtic, African, and Middle Eastern rhythms. The Blue Chip Orchestra (Hearts of Space) is aband out of Austria inspired by Native American music—dubious as this may sound, their CD Red Sky Beat is actually good. Vol. 2: Release (Real World/Virgin), the new release by Afro Celt Sound System, is every bit as good as this ground-breaking band's previous work. Prayer by Uttara-Kuru fuses world rhythms with haunting Japanese folk songs, while Dagda trances out on the music of the British Isles on their aptly named CD Celtic Trance (PARAS/Owl). For traditional Celtic music played in lively untraditional ways, the three top releases of the year in my opinion are: Tóg É Go Bog É from the Irish band Kila (Green Linnet), In My Hands by Cape Breton fiddle player Natalie McMaster (Rounder), and Crossing the Bridge by Irish fiddle virtuoso Eileen Ivers (Sony Classical). Some other good ones are: Rising by Tarras, a talented new band from the English-Scots border region (Rounder); Tierre de Nadie by Helvia (Higher Octave), the Celtic music of Spain, a hot release over there right now; Xieme from the French-Canadian band La Bottine Souriante (Mille-Pattes); Turn by Great Big Sea from Newfoundland (Wea); and At Home, the latest from Ireland's fabulous all-women band Cherish the Ladies (RCA). For good old Celtic rock-and-roll, try SixMileBridge's No Reason (Loose Goose). If you're looking for ballads with a bit of storytelling to them, your first stop should be Celtic Voices (Green Linnet), a compilation CD with Loreena McKennitt, Kila, Tarras, Altan, and other first-rate performers. Maddy Prior's latest is well worth checking out even if, like me, you haven't loved her recent work: Ravenchild (Park Records) is a bit uneven but worth the price for a whole cycle of songs inspired by raven mythology—Prior ought to be doing more of this kind of thing. The latest CD by the other half of Silly Sisters, June Tabor's A Quiet Eye (Green Linnet) is divine, as usual. Boy, can this woman sing. Niamh Parson's Blackbird and Thrushes is quietly beautiful, with a power that sneaks up on you. In the Greenwood (Prairie Druid) is a very nice CD (a debut, I think) from Paddy Tutty—a Canadian singer/musician from Canada (female, despite the name). I also recommend Trespass by British folksinger Pete Morton (Harbourtown) for pleasing, unflashy ballad renditions. Sheela Na Gig's Live by the Aire (Arktos) mixes old ballads with a range of world rhythms; Full Throated Abandon by Tanglefoot (Borealis) specializes in long story ballads; and The Dragon by Elvendrums (American Entertainment) is a quirky CD made by four drummers using percussion as the backdrop for stories and ballads. A few final recommendations: Inner Voices by R. Carlos Nakai (Canyon) and Inside Monument Valley by Paul Horn and Nakai (Canyon) are hauntingly beautiful CDs of Native American flute music; Sacred Voices by December Wind (Canyon) features new music infused with traditional aspects of Akwesasne Mohawk culture; and One Truth by Omar Faruk Tekbilek (World Class) presents mystical Sufi song-poems from the Middle East.
Celtic Solstice by folk/jazz/New Age musician Paul Winter, is a rather lovely CD in which he gathers top Irish and American musicans to play together in the world's largest Gothic cathedral, St. John the Divine in New York City. And finally, the fantasy field's own Ellen Kushner is the maestro behind a CD related to her nationally syndicated "Sound & Spirit" radio program: Welcoming Children into the World (Ryko), a survey of music from around the world exploring the ways different cultures celebrate the birthing process. Ranging from chants of the Baka Forest People to Navajo lullabyes, it's a delight.
Recommendations from Charles de Lint: "Without question, the disc of theyear for me was Otherworld by Lúnansa (Green Linnet). It's acoustic, traditional, yet still manages to be innovative, and the music and playing really does sound as thought it came right out of the otherworld—evocative and sinewy, and not at all like that twee wave of mushy New Age CDs with 'Celtic' in the title where often the only Celtic element is a bad version of an O'Carolan tune. And speaking of Turlogh O'Carolan, what's often forgotten is that much of his inspiration came from classical composers and musicians. For a wonderful collection of rarer O'Carolan pieces that show this, the music played with great heart and integrity, give a listen to O'Carolan's Dream by Garry Ó'Briain (Gael Linn). If Lúnansa is the music of a revel in the fields, then Ó'Briain's CD is what they're playing in the fairy court, under the hill. Other great Celtic releases of the year featuring some lively tune sets and occasional vocals include Midsummer's Night by Dervish (Whirling Music), From the Inside Out by Loretto Reid Band (Reta Ceol), Debatable Lands by Kathryn Tickell (Park Records), Come to Dance by John Whelan (Narada), and Buzzin' by Bumblebees (Beehave Records). If the ancient goddesses could still be heard today, they'd probably have made these CDs: Live in Paris and Toronto by Loreena McKennitt (Quinlan Road) and Sleepless by Kate Rusby (Pure Records). But faerie folk living on the city streets probably sound more like à ma zone by Zap Mama (Virgin) with its mix of hiphop beats, rap, and pure vocal gymnastics, or the harder rocking R&B of street faerië by Cree Summer (Work). And the hill faeries down the holler are undoubtably listening to the acoustic bluegrass flavorings of The Mountain by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band (E-Squared), and more electric and eclectic story songs of Fred Eaglesmith on 50-Odd Dollars (Razor & Tie)."
Literary Conventions and Awards
The World Fantasy Convention, an annual gathering of writers, artists, publishers, and readers in the fantasy and horror fields, was held in Providence, Rhode Island, Nov. 4-7. The Guests of Honor were writers Charles de Lint, Patricia A. McKillip, and Robert Silverberg, with special guest Samuel R. Delany, and artists Leo and Diane Dillon. The following World Fantasy Awards (for works published in 1998) were presented at the convention: Best Novel: The Antelope Wife, mythic fiction by Louise Erdrich. Best Novella: "The Summer Isles," alternate-history fiction by Ian R. Macleod. Best Short Fiction: "The Specialist's Hat," an eerie tale on the border between fantasy and horror, by Kelly Link. Best Anthology: Dreaming Down-Under, a multigenre anthology of Australian fiction edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. Best Story Collection: Black Glass, a multigenre volume of tales by Karen Joy Fowler. Best Artist: Charles Vess, illustrator/co-creator of the graphic novel Stardust and other works. Special Award/Professional: Jim Turner, editor of Golden Gryphon Books. Special Award/Non-Professional: Richard Chizmar of the small press Cemetery Dance. Life Achievement Award: horror writer Hugh B. Cave. The judges for the 1999 awards were Gregory Frost, Don Hutchison, Michael Kandel, Rebecca Ore, and Al Sarrantonio.
The Mythopoeic Award was presented at Mythcon, an annual convention for academics, writers, and readers of fantasy literature. Mythcon was held July 30-August 2 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Guests of Honor were writerDouglas A. Anderson and scholars Gary and Sylvia Hunnewell. Winners of the Mythopoeic Award were as follows. Adult Literature: Stardust, an illustrated "faerie novel" by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. Children's Literature: Dark Lord of Derkholm, humorous fantasy by Dianna Wynne Jones. Scholarship Award for Myth & Fantasy Studies: A Century of Welsh Myth in Children's Literature by Donna R. White. Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies: C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide by Walter Hooper.
WisCon, a convention for writers, artists, publishers, readers, and academics interested in feminism and gender issues in speculative fiction is held each year over Memorial Day weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. Mary Doria Russell and I were the 1999 guests of honor. The James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, for works exploring issues of gender, was presented to Suzy McKee Charnas for The Conqueror's Child. The judges for awards were: Bill Clemente, L. Timmel Duchamp, Kelly Link, and Diane Martin.
The winner of the 2000 William L. Crawford Award for best first fantasy novel is Anne Bishop for the "Black Jewels Trilogy," Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of Darkness. Second place went to Elizabeth Haydon for Rhapsody. Judges for the award were Stefan Dziemianowicz, Diana Francis, Larry Segriff, Pat York, and Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch. The award was presented at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, March 25, 2000, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
That's an overview of the year in fantasy, now on to the stories themselves. As usual, there were stories we were unable to include in this volume but which should be considered among the year's best:
Robert Antoni's erotic fable "My Grandmother's Tale of How Crab-o Lost His Head," in The Paris Review, #152.
Jeffery M. Brockman's bizarre tale "A Misery of Shoes" in Chelsea 66.
Orson Scott Card's ghostly story "Vessel," in F&SF, Dec.
Bruce Colville's fractured fairy tale "The Stinky Princess" in his collection Odder Than Ever.
Charles de Lint's long Newford tale "The Buffalo Man," published as a chapbook by Subterranean Press.
Tim Nickels's contemporary mermaid tale, "The Hungry Shine," in Timeout: Net Books.
Viktor Pelevin's riff on myths in modern Russia, "The Greek Version," in Agni 50.
Robert Silverberg's Roma Eterna novelette, "A Hero of the Empire," in F&SF Oct./Nov.
Jeff VanderMeer's surreal novella "The Transformation of Martin Lake" in Palace Corbie Eight.
I hope you will enjoy the stories and poetry chosen for this volume 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, U.S. 1999-2000
Copyright © 2000 by James Frenkel and Associates. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
|Summation 2005 : fantasy|
|Summation 2005 : horror|
|Fantasy and horror in the media : 2005|
|Graphic novels : 2005|
|Anime and manga : 2005|
|Music of the fantastic : 2005|
|Obituaries : 2005|
|The mushroom duchess||17|
|An incident at Agate Beach||25|
|Among the tombs||47|
|Obedience, or the lying tale (poem)||60|
|Night train : heading west (poem)||78|
|Follow me light||133|
|The horse of a different color (that you rode in on)||153|
|Where angels come in||166|
|The last ten years in the life of Hero Kai||192|
|The souls of Drowning Mountain||214|
|The last one||223|
|The ball room||231|
|Nymphs finding the head of Orpheus (poem)||240|
|A case study of emergency room procedure and risk management by hospital staff members in the urban facility||271|
|The scribble mind||277|
|Going the Jerusalem mile||299|
|The machine of a religious man||334|
|My father's mask||355|
|The Guggenheim lovers||369|
|A statement in the case||376|
|The pavement artist||383|
|The gypsies in the wood||398|
|Honorable mentions : 2005||461|