Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, editors, Year's Best
Fantasy and Horror, Volume 3
(St. Martin's Press, 1990)

We said a few years ago in summing up The Year's Best Reading that the 'Best Anthology or Collection: This one was a no-brainer. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume Fifteen, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, easily sweeps the charts for its combination of excellence and diversity of stories -- and for the splendid Summation that we drool about every year!' Now, what we said for that edition holds true for all twenty years worth of YBFHs! And as you will see in my review of the third edition from way back in 1990, this is indeed a stellar affair! (Once gain, our thanks to Ellen Datlow and Jim Frenkel for making available these early editions.) Now while I listen to some tasty music from the Old Blind Dogs who were just getting started as this edition came out, let's look at what's here.

First, note that it's now The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, not the Year's Best Fantasy. Though Ellen Datlow was editor for the first two volumes, horror was not added to the the title until this edition was published. According to Ellen Datlow in an email response to the question of why the name change, 'It was meant to be that all along. It was only that St Martin's bridled at including it the first two years. We finally persuaded them that it had to be in there.' Other than the name change, the contents are the same as the first two editions in that there's acknowledgments and an introduction, followed by a summation of fantasy for 1989 by Terri Windling who picks the fantasy fiction here, horror published that year is looked at by Ellen Datlow (as always during the series), and horror and fantasy on the screen get their due from Edward Bryant, noted horror writer. Oh, and Frankel's listing of the newly passed on is as comprehensive, as it will be in every edition. This front material runs to some one hundred pages or so!

Ahhhh, but the fiction is the heart and soul of any YBFH, Want to read what was the best published in any year during the reign of this series? This is your best guide despite what appears to be more pretenders to the crown than can be counted. (Did I mention that noted artist Tom Canty does the wrap-around cover art as he has for the entire series? Here's the front cover art for this edition. Lovely, isn't it? My favorite of the entire run is this one. Yes, it's an illustration of a fairytale princess seated at a woodland banquet table -- a table burdened with 'tasty dishes such of a plate of eyeballs, a dish of infant's skulls, and the severed head and hand of Prince Charming. Yes, I have the entire run in their somewhat rare hardcover editions! No, you may not borrow any of them.)

I know that you've most likely read Emma Bull's must-read The War for The Oaks novel, but I'll bet you a pint of properly poured Guinness served by Reynard in the Green Man Pub that you haven't read 'A Bird That Whistles', which is the prequel to it? Well, it's here. Likewise 'White as Sin, Now', a stunning tale served up by Tanith Lee is here, as is Midori Snyder's 'Jack Straw' and Jane Yolen's poem, 'Beauty and the Beast: An Anniversary'.

Even some very well-known SF writers offer up some fantastic tales -- just see 'Dori Bangs' (Bruce Sterling) and 'Equilibrium' (John Shirley), not to forget Joe Haldeman's poem,'Time Lapse'. As I've noted elsewhere in looking at other anthologies, one of the purposes for reading any best of year anthologies is to discover great stories which the reader otherwise would have missed. In my case, this is easy as I don't read any of the myriad periodicals that much of any YBFH is drawn from. (I don't watch network TV programming either. Or go to smelly movie theaters. Like waiting for anthologies to gather the best kibbles and bits in one neat package, I prefer DVDs.) Now the real question is this -- Will this book be worth who seeking out? Though it's a matter of personal taste, I think so. There's something oddly pleasing about the continuity of this series over the now twenty year that an early volume -- despite some minor changes (the front matter gets added to gradually over the years, i.e., the tenth edition adds a comics overview by Seth Johnson and volume fifteen added a slew of new summations including Joan D. Vinge's manga and anime coverage) and major (Terri Windling will depart the series with Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant taking over her role). There's something very comforting about a series like YBFH -- like the old tales, it just feels like it has been here for a very long time. And I for one appreciate all the hard work that Jim Frenkel, Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, Kelly Link, Edward Bryant, Gavin Grant, Charles de Lint, Tom Canty, and many, many others have put into making this so.

[Cat Eldridge]