Oh, that artwork. Tom Canty designed it for this edition. Lovely, isn't it?
I'm Iain Nicholas Mackenzie, the Green Man Librarian, and I have the distinct pleasure of introducing this special edition which is solely devoted to the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology which celebrates its twentieth year with its latest edition! Yes, twenty years of choosing the very best in both fantasy and horror tales that were written for our pleasure. Now if you consider that myriad anthologies ranging from mediocre to superb are published every year and all of them are attempting the same task as YBFH, that YBFH is by far the best of the lot is quite a feat. It is the only such anthology that is consistently checked out from the Library. We keep three or four copies of the trade edition available for reading as the value of the hardcover editions collectively is in the thousands of dollars. Yeah, they're that collectible!
Our Editor once said that 'the strength of the YBFH collections has always been their ability to find the very best in short fiction in the fields of fantasy and horror... I don't know about you, but I don't see enough short fiction each year to have a feel for what's the very best which has been published. Novels I see by the hundreds, single author collections, quite a few, but much of the really interesting short fiction appears in publications, both digital and hardcopy, that one never, ever would be expected to know about unless one was assembling an anthology like this.'
But it's more than just the stories in these massive volumes that make them impressive, i.e. each is graced by a wrap-around cover by one of the best artist working today, Tom Canty. Though St. Martin's hasn't kept most of them in print, they are readily available online for quite reasonable prices for the trade paper editions. Got a week's worth of evenings free? If so, you can do far worse than pick up any of the YBFHs. As one of our Librarians noted she kept 'reading and reading and reading even more, but the stories kept going on as if they couldn't possibly be contained by the pages themselves.'
All of us here at Green Man 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. So read on for interviews with Jim Frenkel, Tom Canty, Ellen Datlow, and others involved in keeping YBFH thriving all this time, and an indepth look at all of the editions up to and including YBFH No. 20
As a special treat, we have an interview with Tom Canty who has done the wrap-around cover illustrations for all of these volumes, and a piece by Jim Frenkel, the packager extraordinaire who has shepherded all twenty years of YBFH. Canty, designer of the YBFH header for this page, says he got involved this way:
My involvement began one afternoon while I was house-sitting at my sister's. Terri (Windling) phoned, we chatted, and during the conversation she asked if I had an image that would be right for an anthology combining fantasy with horror and something other than those two as well. It was a planned combination of the two genres from the start, along with the "other" that makes this collection so extraordinary. At that time I was playing around with an image that seemed just right and described it to her. We worked up an idea, including design and such, for the comp and that was the beginning of it all. I think that we both had always thought that eventually we might combine talents on a very dark and romantic fantasy anthology/collection and bounced this sort of stuff around all the time. The first image grew out of that dream, somewhat.
Read the complete interview here.
For the nitty gritty details on how the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology first came into existence, and stories of the Fey being involved may or may not be truthful, no one knows better than Jim Frenkel (who provided hard to find review copies of some of the early YBFHs to us) tells us everything you need to know about this subject. Go read his thoughts thisaway!
Lastly, the editors shared some thoughts with us. We sat down with Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant on an early afternoon here in the Green Man Pub to have them answer some questions we had about twenty years worth of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology which they, along with Kelly Link, currently edit. (Terri Windling, a previous editor, is busy moving homes this month and therefore could not visit us.) A particularly fine single malt whisky, an Aberfeldy sixteen year-old. is at hand for their drinking pleasure. Should they wish there's also a keg of the house cider, Ryhope Wood, on tap as well. Read their thoughts on YBFH here.
'No, this didn't come just now as a review copy,' explains Jack Merry of his 1988 copy of Year's Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection: 'This is a retro review of the first volume of a series that is without doubt the best of its kind ever done.' On that note, we begin our retrospective look at an anthology series which has helped shape, define, and celebrate the last twenty years of some of the best short fiction in speculative genres.
1989 brought Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 2. Book Editor April Gutierrez gives a warning: 'Even though "horror" isn't officially in the title yet, there's horror and dark fantasy here in spades.' Some horror may not be everyone's cup of tea, as our reviewer discovers. If it's not yours either, never fear: 'Lest you think the entire volume is dark, there are moments of hope, beauty and whimsy too.'
'Horror' is officially added to the title of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 3. YBFH co-editor Ellen Datlow explains the name change to Green Man editor Cat Eldridge: '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.'
'I resist the idea of rigid genre classification,' begins Camille Alexa in her look at Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 4. 'Somehow, this diverse assortment emerges as a coherent whole without, for the most part, relying too heavily on the dreaded aforementioned taxonomies by stating "this is a horror tale" or "this is a fantasy." ' See why this approach works best for our reviewer.
Joselle Vanderhooft devoured all of the 5th installment in the series and had this to say about it: 'Overall, the selections in the 5th Year's Best Fantasy and Horror intrigued me, charmed me, frightened me and made me think. Ultimately, this collection (the first I have read cover to cover) has shown me why many readers and critics consider this year's best anthology of genre work to be the best in the field. I highly recommend it not just to readers curious about what was hot in 1991, but readers who like their fantasy and horror edgy, daring and thoughtful.'
April Gutierrez reenters the fray with Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 6. Read her review of this one to see why she claims 'This series is always a great place to find new authors -- at least, new to you, if not always new on the scene.'
Master reviewer Kathleen Bartholomew opens her review of The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 7th Annual Edition like so, 'Any annual collection is a time capsule; one originally published 13 years ago is even more so. The writers and the readers were a lot younger and more innocent, and the face of fiction (especially horror) has changed a great deal since 1993. However, the stories in this anthology would not have been ordinary in any year.' And then goes on to tell us just how strong the stories are.
Cat Eldridge begins his review of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 8 by stating, 'I don't, as a rule, collect entire runs of anthologies.' Here he tells us why he thinks YBFH is a worthy exception to that particular rule.
In her review of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 9, April Gutierrez takes care to mention the fascinating and informative editors' summation/introduction to the anthology, 'filled with an amazing wealth of information not just on novels and movies, but children's books, art books, collections, magazines, television series, CDs and more. Even looking back now, eleven years after the fact, this section is intriguing to flip through -- and there's some items definitely worth hunting down that I (and other readers, no doubt) missed at the time.' But the best story in this collection of bests? April's pick is a tale by a favourite author of the Green Man staff, Peter S. Beagle.
Senior reviewer Elizabeth Vail goes to great lengths to give fair shrift to each of over forty individual stories and poems in her in-depth review of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 10, which she says 'contains 42 fantasy and horror short stories. Of those 42, three were tedious, disjointed muddles . . . while thirteen were vivid, startling wonders.' Find out which were which by reading the review.
Master reviewer Robert Tilendis was also impressed by the wealth of information offered at the beginning of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collection he reviewed, in this case, the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 11. He considers this anthology 'an immensely valuable resource for the student of speculative fiction, just on the basis of the beginning sections.' Of the collection itself he says, 'in the realm of genre fiction, the idea of publishing a collection of fantasy and horror is one I find sensible: the two have been bleeding into each other (if you'll pardon the expression) at least since the days of H. P. Lovecraft.' Did this particular anthology hold his attention? His review tells all.
When Cat Eldridge reviewed Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 12, he described it as 'yet another exciting anthology of fantasy and horror stories . . . ranging from the brightest of crystalline fairy tales to the darkest of terrors and nightmares.' See why he claims 'This is one of the most valuable services The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series offers: the chance to discover new writers and the diverse ways fantastic imagery is used in modern literature.'
Michael M. Jones says of YBFH, 'It's one of those books I've come to depend upon year after year to serve as a tour guide through the realms of fantastic and horrific literature of the year past. I might not like every story contained within, but I can't fault their inclusion.' See why he 'recommends The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 13 wholeheartedly and without reservation.'
Mr. Jones's enthusiasm for this collection carried him into the next year and the next volume: 'I can't say much more than to reiterate, in no uncertain terms, that The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 14 is one of those absolutely indispensable offerings that any true lover of fantasy and/or horror should pick up.'
Michael says that 'Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 15 is as strong as the rest in the series. Word for word, you get more for your money than any other Year's Best collection on the shelf, with the assorted summaries being well worth the price just on their own merits.' Read the review to hear more about why Michael would 'recommend this book without hesitation.'
Matthew Scott Winslow reviewed Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Volume 16. He notices that 'If there's one idea or trope that seems to have been more common this past year, it is (appropriately enough) the Green Man. This is in no small part because of the excellent 2002 anthology, The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, edited by Windling and Datlow.' See what he makes of this last volume with co-editor Terri Windling.
Maria Nutick reviewed the first YBFH with editors Kelly Link and Gavin Grant at the fantasy helm (Volume 17, published in 2004). 'I don't think I can point to a radical difference between the Windling edited volumes and this maiden effort from Link and Grant; at most, I can say there's a bit of a different feel to it. Perhaps there are a few more "realistic" fantasies, and a few less of the ethereal and mythic tales that I associate with Terri Windling.' Read the review to see if she felt the tradition of excellence continued seamlessly.
Senior reviewer Denise Dutton has some excellent advice on how to go about reading Volume 18 (or any other volume) of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: 'Skip around if you must (I did). Read the whole thing in order if you like. Nibble, or take the plunge. Then decide what moves you.'
Nineteen years into the YBFH collections, Cat Eldridge reviews his copy of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 19. He says, 'despite changes in some editors as time went along with Terri Windling leaving and Kelly Link and Gavin Grant coming on board, it remains as impressive as it ever was. As I know I've said before, this is the anthology to pick up every year if you want to read the best short fiction from the previous year and get overviews of the best fiction, non-fiction, films and video, anime, and music that was released in that year.' He, too, has some advice for reading these dense anthologies: 'Please don't read The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror -- Nineteenth Annual Collection all in one sitting, as the best way to appreciate these stories is a few, very few, at a time. If you manage to do that, there's many a fine evenings reading pleasure to be had herein.'
And only our enigmatic Cat Eldridge would begin his review of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 20 with a Beatles quote: 'It was twenty years ago today / That Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play / They've been going in and out of style / But they're guaranteed to raise a smile. . .' See why our editor and senior reviewer can state with all confidence that 'like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which still plays as often as it can, YBFH has just gotten better over the decades.'
We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere; a great edition on Charles de Lint who's now beginning to set his tales in the desert Southwest; one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; and one on a fantastic new storyteller, Catherynne M. Valente who is always worth reading.
Oh, we should mention that every year that we do both best books and best music in which many of the wonderful folks we review 'ere pick their choices of what they liked for that year. And our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror series.
For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at us, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring a properly poured pint of Guinness while listening to the Neverending Session, he'll try to answer your question!
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