The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors by Terri Windling
I love adult fairy tales, but it seems that all too often, writers pump up the sex and violence to render the tales "adult," rather than more deeply exploring the human emotional dramas in the stories. Maybe that's why I love the anthology The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors which was edited by Terri Windling. The tales and poems here do include sex and violence, yes, but at their heart is the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
So many of the classic fairy tales include situations that we would now call abuse. Hansel and Gretel were abandoned, Donkeyskin suffered incest, and the original Sleeping Beauty was raped rather than kissed. In most of these stories, the protagonist endures great pain, then rises above the suffering and triumphs over his or her tormentors. In the old versions, the pr... Read More
AnthologyCollections of stories by various authors. In order by rating (5 stars at the top).
The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors by Terri Windling
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:
A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern readers but whose weird fiction caused them to be... Read More
Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.
Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many high-echelon, top-drawer writers” (as Mr. Vance says in the preface):... Read More
Firebirds Rising by Sharyn November (ed.)
Firebirds Rising has more science fiction in it, but is still predominately fantasy. It starts and ends on strong notes, and each story in between visits a different world. I found it interesting that in an anthology that includes selections by some of the genre’s superstars, my favorite selection, “In the House of the Seven Librarians,” was again by an unknown-to-me author, Ellen Klages.
Black Heart, Ivory Bones edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Black Heart, Ivory Bones is the sixth and final entry in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s series of fairy tale anthologies. Of the six, I’ve read four, and each has its own particular flavor, its own unique mood. While all of the books contain a mix of light and darkness, in this volume there seems to be more of a balance: “all that’s best of dark and bright,” if you will. The mood that Black Heart, Ivory Bones evoked in me was a wistfulness, maybe, or a pensiveness. When I first read the series, Black Thorn, White Rose was my favorite, but I’ve come to a deeper enjoyment of this volume as I’ve grown older. At this point I’d have to say the two are now tied in my mind.
My favorite stories in this collection are:
“Rapunzel... Read More
Swords and Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders
As the title suggests, Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders have gathered seventeen new and original sword & sorcery tales in this anthology. The stories are written by a variety of successful authors, bringing to play a broad range of styles and themes. I’m a huge fan of sword & sorcery (it’s what got me into fantasy). So I was extremely eager to get my hands on this book.
I did find Swords and Dark Magic to be heavier on the “sorcery” than the “sword,” more so than is my preference. (Like the greatest S&S hero, Conan the Cimmerian, I subscribe to the belief that when the gods breathed life into mankind, we were gi... Read More
The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
The Faery Reel is an indispensable tome for anyone who has a mania for faeries. Aside from the short stories in this anthology, the comprehensive introduction of Terri Windling on the fey and the illustrations by Charles Vess are worth the price of admission in themselves. Moreover, the last few pages feature a Further Reading section on the topic of faeries. The typography of the book is appropriate to the faery theme and makes the text quite readable. In other words, it's a really pretty book.
But The Faery Reel isn't just about exterior beauty, and I'd still buy the book if only for the story selections and the poetry. There are actually a lot of stories I liked in this anthology, and choosing a select few to talk about is quite difficult: "Catnyp" by Read More
Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories edited by John Joseph Adams
Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut The Windup Girl Read More
The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow
Anything Ellen Datlow edits automatically finds a place on my list of books to read. For many years, this included the excellent anthology series The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, which Datlow coedited with Terri Windling. When that series disappeared, much to the dismay of fans of short fiction everywhere, Datlow undertook to publish The Year’s Best Horror, which has been published by the terrific smaller press, Night Shade Books, for the past four years. This year’s volume, the fourth, is chock full of memorable stories certain to keep you up at night.
It is unlikely that your favorite part of ... Read More
Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg & Martin Greenberg
Though hardly a runaway success in its day, and a publication that faced financial hardships for much of its existence, the pulp magazine known as Weird Tales is today remembered by fans and collectors alike as one of the most influential and prestigious. Anthologies without number have used stories from its pages, and the roster of authors who got their start therein reads like a "Who's Who" of 20th century horror and fantasy literature. During its 32-year run, from 1923-1954, and in its 279 issues, Weird Tales catered to a select readership that could not help but be impressed by early efforts from the likes of ... Read More
Brave New Worlds (second edition) edited by John Joseph Adams
This anthology of dystopian fiction, edited by John Joseph Adams, contains stories from some of the greatest names in fantasy and science fiction, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow and Kim Stanley Robinson. The first edition was reviewed by Stefan Raets and earned a five-star rating. I picked up the second edition to see what the new volume added.
What I found was that the entire first edition was intact. Three stories were added, along with a study guide featuring questions for some of the stories if you wanted to use this in a book club (I w... Read More
The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology by Gordon Van Gelder (ed.)
The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology is an excellent collection of 23 stories picked from the treasure trove of short fiction that's been published in the eponymous magazine over the past 60 years. Editor Gordon Van Gelder — also the editor of the magazine since 1997 — has done an admirable job, picking stories that illustrate the diversity of both the genre and the magazine. As such, this is a great anthology for SF&F fans as well as newcomers looking for a taste.
The line-up of authors in this collection looks like a veritable Who's Who of speculative fiction: Ray Bradbury, Read More
The Return of the Sword: An Anthology of Heroic Adventure
I read and have read a lot of anthologies. They’re great for “in-between-books-reading” and are perfect when you just want a story that you can start and finish in one sitting. Anthologies are also a great source for sampling different writers.
Jason M Waltz did a great job of picking out the stories to use for The Return of the Sword. Except for only one or two stories (even the ones that weren’t particularly something to my personal taste) I found these to be very well and interestingly written.
The Return of the Sword contains twenty sword-and-sorcery tales — too many for me to summarize and rate individually here. I’d say most of the stories fall between 3 and 4 stars, but my personal favorites — "The Battle of Raven Kill" by Jeff Draper, "To Be A Man" by (FanLit’s own) Read More
The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology by Christopher Golden (ed.)
FORMAT/INFO: The New Dead is 400 pages long divided over nineteen short stories. Also includes a Foreword by the editor Christopher Golden, and biographies on all of the anthology’s contributors. February 16, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of The New Dead via St. Martin’s Griffin. Cover art provided by Per Haagensen. The UK version will be published on February 18, 2010 via Piatkus Books under the altered title: Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead. Subterranean Press is also producing a limited signed edition of The ... Read More
Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy 3 edited by Kevin Brockmeier
On a hypothetical chart, with high epic fantasy in the vein of J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen Donaldson on one end and (for want of a better term) the magical realism of Gabriel García Marquez and Graham Joyce on the other, the twenty stories in the excellent Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy 3 fall, for the most part, close to or smack on the latter extreme of the scale. If you then add a y-axis, describing how pulpy a story is, everything in this collection would trend towards the end of the scale where the most accomplished and literary pieces of short fiction res... Read More
Warriors by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.)
FORMAT/INFO: Warriors is 736 pages long divided over twenty short stories and an Introduction by George R.R. Martin. Each short story is preceded by biographical information about the author and a short description of their contribution to the anthology. March 16, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Warriors via Tor.
“The King of Norway” by Cecelia Holland. I’ve never read anything by Cecelia Holland before, but the author is described as “one of the world’s most highly acclaimed and respected historical novelists.” Not surprisingly, her contribution finds the author doing wh... Read More
Firebirds Soaring by Sharyn November (ed.)
The third entry in The Firebird Anthologies maintains the high quality of the previous two volumes. While still including some of the best fantasy short stories in the genre, this edition also branches out into speculative and science fiction, and features a novella for the first time — The Ghosts of Strangers by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, a beautifully written story of a young woman who can capture ghosts, and her responsibilities to the ghosts she captures.
Though this volume lacks some of the superstar contributions present in earlier volumes, the quality of the stories isn’t diminished. Nancy Springer starts the collection with the beautifully a... Read More
Warriors ed. by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
To quote from George R.R. Martin’s introduction “People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories.” I imagine that for most all who enjoy fantasy or almost any genre fiction, it’s the timeless tradition of the telling of warriors’ tales that is the heart of our passion. In fact, reading Martin’s introduction titled “Stories of the Spinner Rack” is enough to put Warriors on any bookworm’s reading list. For many of us who grew up in Small Town USA during the 70’s and earlier, before the big book stores and Amazon.com, we know exactly what he was talking about. It’s a very relatable trip down memory lane that primes the reader for the adventures that follow.
At 736 pages, Warriors is practically a tome. It contains twen... Read More
Firebirds by Sharyn November (ed.)
Some people don’t like short stories, especially in anthologies where you are reading several different authors. I, however, almost always have a volume of short stories on my bedside table. Even if I manage to get no other reading done during a hectic day, it is a way for me to finish a whole story in 15-20 minutes. In an age where many authors seem incapable of writing anything other than multi-novel epics, it is a treasure to be able to enjoy a whole tale in one sitting.
Many collections of fantasy short stories are a compilation of hit or miss attempts to match a loosely defined theme for the volume. The Firebird Anthologies far exceed the industry standard. They are edited by Sharyn November who has managed to collect such fan favorites as Emma Bull, Read More
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Read More