Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, editors, Year's Best
Fantasy and Horror, Volume 6 (St. Martin's Press, 1993)
This early entry into Datlow and Windling's long-running anthology series finds the editors in fine form, their choices genre-spanning, highly entertaining and well-worth sinking your teeth into and spending a few hours with. As with every volume, there is the Thomas Canty art (here lovely women emerging in full bloom from flowers), summations of the previous year's activity in fantasy and horror, fantasy and horror in the media, obituaries and honorary mentions. And then there's the stories. . . .
Volume 6 is a particularly strong collection. It opens with a marvelous tale from Emma Bull, "Silver or Gold," featuring a very unlikely queen-to-be in practical hedge witch Moon Very Thin. Craig Curtis' "Queequeg" brings an entirely new -- and downright disturbing -- meaning to climbing the corporate ladder. And for all you self-absorbed artists out there, Reginald McKnight's "The Homunculus: A Novel in One Chapter" has a warning or two for you.
Charles de Lint's "The Bone Woman" is an uplifting story of one woman's labor of love when all seems hopeless. Coming right after that is A. S. Byatt's "The Story of the Eldest Princess," where the title character refuses to be bound by the rules of the story, and in so doing, defies fate and lives her own story. Neil Gaiman's "Murder Mysteries" is an old favourite at this point, and one of perhaps only a handful that I've read before. But definitely well-worth reading again! Other stories falling into that category are Poppy Z. Brite's "Calcutta, Lord of Nerves," Haruki Murakami's "The Second Bakery Attack," Joyce Carol Oates' "Martyrdom" and Harlan Ellison's "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore." (In my opinion, too few have been exposed to Murakami, and while his short stories aren't quite at the caliber of his novels, this one, from his collection The Elephant Vanishes: Stories, is one of his better offerings. I applaud Datlow and Windling for including it here.)
This series is always a great place to find new authors -- at least, new to you, if not always new on the scene. Volume 6 was no exception for me. This time around, I was introduced to Steve Resnic Tem's work, with the one (there were several in the volume) that will stick with me being the deeply disturbing "Hungry." And I have to admit I'd never read Judith Tarr before, but found her "I Sing for a Maiden" utterly charming and would love to read more. Brian W. Aldiss' "Ratbird" was a little more difficult to get into, but philosophically intriguing, nonetheless. And most fascinating of all was an opportunity to read Angela Carter's "Alice in Prague, or the Curious Room," a bizarre crossover of Alice Liddell, Ned Kelly and Dr. Dee. I had only encountered Carter as an editor before, and now I desire much more of her as a writer.
There is, of course, much more in the way of fiction, all of it excellent -- Silverberg, Straub, Barker, Shepherd, Haldeman and more. Volume 6 is a stellar entry in this much lauded series!