Everyone wants to be a anthologist, right? So we asked our panelists to put on their editor’s hats and create their very own anthology.
My fascination with far-far-future scenarios, cosmic destruction and rebirth, twisty physics and the ultimate fates of human life, time and the universe itself, has led me to the following table of contents. Some of these tales are well-known, some of them obscure, and at least one of them hasn’t been published yet (part of a dream anthology must surely be the element of surprise, even for me, its hypothetical assembler!). I also included a few novel excerpts which I think can stand alone.
The stories tend towards the visionary and expository, but I’ve tried to present a range of styles and thematic approaches, while attempting to achieve a measure of gender balance and more or less sticking to the central idea of “big things ending in a big way.” I’ve deliberately avoided near-future stories, instead opting for a wider lens and a longer view. And in a few cases I cheated a little, stretching the theme to accommodate a story I particularly liked. I’ll leave it up to the reader who wishes to play along to discover those minor infractions. Oh, and I would love to hear suggestions from readers for a possible second volume.
Table of Contents:
- Isaac Asimov – “The Last Question” (1956)
- H. G. Wells – Chapter XI of The Time Machine (1895)
- Ted Chiang – “Exhalation” (2008)
- Amelia Reynolds Long – “Omega” (1932)
- Jack Vance – “Guyal of Sfere” (1950)
- Nancy Kress – “My Mother, Dancing” (2004)
- Camille Flammarion – Part 2: Chapters IV, V and VI from Omega: The Last Days of the World (1893)
- Stephen Baxter – “The Gravity Mine” (2000)
- James Tiptree Jr. – “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” (1969)
- Edmond Hamilton – “In the World’s Dusk” (1936)
- Vandana Singh – “Peripateia” (2013)
- J. G. Ballard – “The Voices of Time” (1960)
- Ellen Klages – “Amicae Aeternum” (2014)
- Doris Piserchia – Excerpt from A Billion Days of Earth (1976)
- Rachel Swirsky – “How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth” (2007)
- John W Campbell Jr. – “Twilight” (1934)
- Donald Wandrei – “The Red Brain” (1927)
- Pamela Zoline – “The Heat Death of the Universe” (1967)
- Charles Sheffield 0 “At the Eschaton” (1995)
- Olaf Stapledon – Section 15 (3 chapters) of Star Maker (1937)
I have a thing for con artist stories. I enjoy elaborate plans, unsuspecting marks, costumes and fake accents. I prefer it when no one gets physically hurt (or at least when that’s not part of the original plan). I don’t mind it when things go horribly wrong, and the thieves have to improvise. Not so much anti-hero rogues, but schemers, liars, and smugglers. So that’s what I’d like my dream anthology to be — a whole collection of liars who won. Speculative fiction elements certainly aren’t a requirement, but they help.
The anthology would open with a Harry Harrison Stainless Steel Rat reprint followed by Kage Baker’s “Rude Mechanicals,” and eventually get to Scott Lynch’s “The Mad Baron’s Mechanical Attic,” and I’m sure Rachel Aaron has an Eli Monpress short story that would be a great fit. Beyond that I’d love to see how Tim Powers handles a Henry Gondorff style story shoehorned into the realities of real history. I’d like to see John Scalzi do a novella set in the world of Red Shirts that involves some even more elaborate scheme. And can you imagine Joss Whedon’s take on The Usual Suspects? How awesome would that be? Go ahead and throw Ellen Kushner, Steven Brust, Jo Clayton, Max Gladstone, Rachel Swirsky, Chuck Wendig, and Charles Stross into the table of contents, and I think we’re on to something.
Give me schemers who eschew violence (or not), liars who walk into the lions den unarmed (or armed to the teeth) and come out richer than they started, thieves that tell the thieves guild where they can shove it, characters that are a truly awful influence on me. Stories about the bad guys winning are fun, right?
The problem with themes in anthologies are the border cases, the edge cases. Is this really a time travel story? Does that story really fit the theme the editor set out? So my anthology embraces that idea, exploring boundaries, edge cases, stories that partake of multiple traditions and genres.
With that in mind, I present a set of stories that try and defy easy categorization:
- “Ararat” (Zenna Henderson): Zenna Henderson’s stories of the People are clearly genre, having been published in venues like the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. And yet their gentle, pastoral, frontier nature makes them feel like genre stories that Willa Cather might have written. “Ararat” starts her People series, introducing the idea of a secret community of human-like aliens with mild but very real psionic powers.
- “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (Ursula K. LeGuin): LeGuin’s stories, of which this might be the epitome in my view, always mix clear genre elements with a sharp politics, advocacy, and point of view that gives them a punch and a relevance down the decades. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is as much a psychological and sociological thought experiment as genre masterpiece.
- “The Women Men Don’t See” (James Tiptree Jr/Alice Sheldon): Alice Sheldon (better known as James Tiptree Jr) herself is an enigma, a riddle of a writer who is an edge case. A brilliant writer who used pseudonym to stake her place in the field, but with a strange and amazing personal history and life. “The Women Men Don’t See” takes a survival story, mixes in aliens, and filters it all with a frankly unapologetic feminist point of view.
- “Kiss Me Twice” (Mary Robinette Kowal): Procedurals are an extremely popular flavor to mix in with fantasy, and science fiction as well. It provides a solid chassis for an author to use for other things. Mary Robinette Kowal is too often regarded as an author of Regency Romances, but she writes excellent SF too. Here, Kowal uses a police procedural base to explore the consequences and implications of the uses, disadvantages and risks of having an omnipresent A.I. as one’s partner. Especially when things go wrong.
- “Shoggoths in Bloom” (Elizabeth Bear): H.P. Lovecraft gets a very bad rap these days for racism, sexism, and xenophobia implicit and explicit in a lot of his stories and works. And yet it’s an irresistibly rich Mythos that understandably attracts authors far and wide to play in that sandbox, even given problematic matter within it. Even more to the point, Elizabeth Bear not only uses Mythos elements in “Shoggoths in Bloom,” but she turns around and comments positively and frankly on some of those problematic issues. I firmly think it may be the archetype of the strengths of Bear as a writer.
- “A Roll of the Dice” (Catherine Asaro): Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire novels and stories explore a rich space opera universe that reworks a lot of the tropes of the genre in a more positive direction, and mixes in elements rarely found in much of the work. Set on the female-dominated planet of Coba, “A Roll of the Dice” introduces some uncomfortably role-reversed romance tropes, and in so doing highlights them in this space opera setting.
- “One (Dragon Virus)” (Laura Anne Gilman): Laura Anne Gilman is best known for her urban and secondary world fantasy novels. In her Dragon Virus sequence, though, she explores the interface between a slow-motion science fiction/science fantasy genetic apocalypse and sociological examination and speculation of the people who live, and change through it. “One” leads off this sequence, putting us at the beginning of a long, dark ride of changes for humanity and the world.
- “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” (Kij Johnson): Kij Johnson likes to mix her literary fiction with sometimes the lightest of genre touches, enough to scoop up genre acclaim without being anywhere the “center” of the field. This story, about the construction of a bridge over an unusual canyon, is firmly in that tradition.
- “The Isles of the Sun” (Margo Lanagan): In many ways, I like to think of Margo Lanagan as giving an Australian point of view on the same sort of ground that Kij Johnson (above) likes to cover. Strong literary fiction, with light genre elements. “The Isles of the Sun,” part of her Twelve Planets Press Cracklescape anthology, is part Peter Pan-esque myth, part light fantasy, and a complexly depicted, emotionally fraught relationship between a mother and child.
- “The Patrician” (Tansy Rayner Roberts): Another Twelve Planet Press story, this one from Tansy Rayner Roberts Love and Romanpunk. What IS Romanpunk, anyhow? Is it a thing? Roberts, with a PhD in Roman History, makes it a thing in this world where a near-future Australia does have a thing for Rome, enough to build a city replica in the middle of the desert. Unfortunately, it IS a shame about the manticores and the other problems with Nova Ostia.
- “All That Fairy Tale Crap” (Rachel Swirsky): And in the end of the collection, as anchor, a metafictional tale. From the Glitter and Mayhem anthology, Rachel Swirsky’s “All That Fairy Tale Crap” (which was also anchor story there) breaks the fourth wall exuberantly in speaking to the reader. It’s story and commentary on that story, bound together.
One of my favorite genre fiction categories is post-apocalyptic fiction so my dream anthology would have to be a collection of the very best end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it stories ever published. Fortunately for me, John Joseph Adams fulfilled that dream in 2008 with Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, which featured timeless gems by Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Octavia E. Butler, Elizabeth Bear, Nancy Kress, Cory Doctorow, and Paolo Bacigalupi, to name just a few. Although all the stories were unforgettable, personal favorites include King’s “The End of the Whole Mess,” which chronicles the unlikely end of the world as seen through the eyes of the Messiah’s brother; Doctorow’s “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth,” a story that follows a small group of computer systems administrators as they try to keep the Internet up after civilization has collapsed; and Bacigalupi’s “The People of Sand and Slag,” which envisions a future Earth as a wasteland inhabited by virtually indestructible post-humans. The most profoundly moving selections, however, came from Martin and Carol Emshwiller. GRRM’s “Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels” speculates what would happen if humanity were forced to live deep underground and evolve into subterranean beings; and Emshwiller’s “Killers” is a subtle and shocking story about life after America’s war against terrorism runs its course. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse — it’s as close to a perfect anthology as I’ve ever read.
- “Collateral Damage” by K.S. Augustin: An intellectually stimulating SFR from an author who routinely includes formidable heroines of color in her work.
- “The Effluent Engine” by N.K. Jemisin: Can’t go wrong with this smart and diverse lesbian steampunk romance.
- “A Gift for Boggle” by P.J. Schnyder: Features my favorite groundbreaking SFR hero: Boggle is brilliant, nerdy, overweight, disabled, and confined to a power chair. Takes my breath away every time I think about him.
- “Burned and Burning” by Joyce Ellen Armond: Sadly, it’s no longer available and I can’t even share a blurb, but it’s one of the most wild and Weird sci-fi romances I’ve ever read.
- The entirety of the SFR anthology Tales from The SFR Brigade: An anthology within an anthology, baby! Plus, it’s a fun collection of quirky science fiction romance shorts.
- “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch” by Angelia Sparrow (Adventuresses): This Western steampunk romance includes zombies and righteous grrrl power.
- “Mehra and Juin” by Sandra McDonald (War & Space: Recent Combat): “Enemy Mine” with an SFR twist!
- “Last Call on Eldora Station” by Isabo Kelly: A character-driven SFR for when you need a moment to unwind after a long day. Beats Calgon by a light year!
My “dream” anthology would be composed of a mixture of short SF/F pieces, as well as excerpts from some of my favorite SF/F novels of all time. There are certain passages from certain works which, while not stories unto themselves, have that definite quality of hooking a reader more deeply into the characters or the universe. In most cases, that’s what usually makes a book memorable for me: the chapters or scenes that make the story leap off the page, and assume a life of its own in my reader’s imagination.
TITLE: PLAYGROUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE (hat tip to Larry Niven)
- “Flare Time” – Larry Niven – from Medea: Harlan’s World
- (first few chapters) – Kim Stanley Robinson – Red Mars
- “Arkfall” – Carolyn Ives Gillman
- (opening chapter) – Chris Bunch and Allan Cole – Sten
- “The Fourth Profession” – Larry Niven
- (excerpt) – Vernor Vinge – A Fire Upon the Deep
- “Pageant Wagon” – Orson Scott Card – from The Folk of the Fringe
- (excerpt) – A.C. Crispin – Star Trek: Yesterday’s Son
- “Brenda” – Larry Niven – from N-Space
- (excerpt) – Brian Daley – Star Wars: Han Solo’s Revenge
- “The Warriors” – Larry Niven – from Man-Kzin Wars 1
- (excerpt) – Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Steven Barnes – from The Legacy of Hearot
- “The Soft Weapon” – Larry Niven
- (excerpt) – L.E. Modesitt, Jr. – from The Eternity Artifact
- “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” – Mike Resnick
- (excerpt) – Vernor Vinge – from A Deepness in the Sky
- “What Good Is a Glass Dagger?” – Larry Niven
- (excerpt) – Larry Niven – from The Integral Trees
- “Kirinyaga” – Mike Resnick
- (excerpt) – Chris Bunch and Allan Cole – from The Fleet of the Damned
Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I’ve always felt that the literature of science fiction and fantasy — or fantastika, to employ John Clute’s simpler, far more inclusive-sounding term — ought to make us feel uncomfortable in some way. Unsettled. At the very least, a reader of fiction should be left with an experience worth remembering; and an idea presented in a way that’s strange or inobvious is going to stay in the mind much longer than a story told via the path of least resistance. Certainly a work of fantasy should get us thinking about the world in fresh, unfamiliar ways — even, I’d argue, if it makes us feel slightly disturbed.
Consider Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Is there any greater conversation-starter for the topic of social responsibility, or the ethics of suffering, in literature? And I’ve always felt a profound sympathy toward Bradbury’s tragic Leonard Mead, who went out for a peaceful walk in the nighttime air and found himself declared a criminal. The short-story form is a graveyard packed full of these kinds of dystopian injustices.
I once caught an episode of the Outer Limits reboot, circa 2000, about a scientist who uses the preserved consciousness of his dead son to build an android replacement. The acting and writing were pedestrian, at best, but the quietly horrific nature of the grieving man’s ambition, coupled with the dissatisfying end result of his efforts at resurrecting his lost child, is ultimately an unforgettable piece of storytelling. Not that I wouldn’t prefer to forget it; I simply won’t.
This technique made Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” a canonical piece of writing. Call it “shock value,” if you like. But it so often defines whatever genre makes proper use of it. Flirting with human deviance and taboos; exposing the faults in all our technocultural hive-making; not to mention the use of nightmarish imagery to evoke a more visceral reaction in the reader . . .
Science fiction often becomes a study in contrasts, painting for us a clearer picture of what it means to be human by filling the negative space with a reality we’d rather not experience ourselves. There is a perceived dichotomy among critics — between fiction that holds scientific progress in a high regard, and that which shows it to be inherently dangerous or wrongheaded. But I sincerely doubt that any writer working in the field of SF believes that science or invention is a thing to be feared; instead, it seems that the literature concerns itself first and foremost with maintaining the humanity in our global society.
Whether holding to light the frightening metaphysical implications of idealism, as with Dick’s “The Electric Ant,” or showing us just how utterly different we may one day become in our unending quest for immortality through advancing biotech, as with “Married,” “Jenny’s Sick,” or “The People of Sand and Slag,” fantastika is becoming increasingly more imaginative and diverse. More dreamlike. And I think that notions of genre will prove just as elastic in the years to come, whether the intent is to elevate scientific progress, to terrify the reader, or both.
A Study in Contrasts: Fantastika in All Its Forms
- “The Electric Ant,” Philip K. Dick, F&SF (Oct. 1969)
- “Jenny’s Sick,” David Tallerman, Lightspeed (Dec. 2010)
- “Liking What You See: A Documentary,” Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others
- “Married,” Helena Bell, Upgraded, ed. Neil Clarke (forthcoming from Wyrm Publishing)
- “A Touch of Strange,” Theodore Sturgeon, F&SF (Jan. 1958)
- “The People of Sand and Slag,” Paolo Bacigalupi, F&SF (Feb. 2004)
- “Real Artists,” Ken Liu, TRSF (Oct. 2011)
- “Significant Dust,” Margo Lanagan, Cracklescape
- “The Pedestrian,” Ray Bradbury, F&SF (Feb. 1952)
- “Anuta Fragment’s Private Eyes,” Ben Godby, Shimmer no. 18 (Feb. 2014)
- “The Brave Little Toaster,” Cory Doctorow, TRSF (Oct. 2011)
- “She Unnames Them,” Ursula K. Le Guin, The New Yorker (Jan. 1985)
- “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy),” Geoff Ryman, F&SF (Oct. 2006)
- “Of Time and Third Avenue,” Alfred Bester, F&SF (Oct. 1951)
- “Red Sonja and Lessingham in Dreamland,” Gwyneth Jones, Off Limits, ed. Ellen Datlow (1997)
- “A Jar of Goodwill,” Tobias S. Buckell, Clarkesworld (May 2010)
- “Fragments of a Hologram Rose,” William Gibson, Unearth 3 (1977)
- “You Will Hear the Locust Sing,” Joe Hill, The Third Alternative no. 37 (2004)
- “Six Months, Three Days,” Charlie Jane Anders, Tor.com (Jun. 2011)
Jinkies…Theme! Theme? You expect me to compile a themed SF collection — you must be mad! I am so not editor material. Which is funny I love themed anthologies and yet I couldn’t seem to come up with one when making my list. Let’s call it the “Pokes You in the Eye with the A-Ma-Zing stick.” Now here goes — in no particular order (except for the first one, which is of course the most important) and keep in mind I am in no way an authority on SF short fiction because I’ve only recently been developing a deeper love for SF (while I’ve long been in love with fantasy) — alright don’t poke me I’m getting on with it…If you don’t like my brand of crazy, just move along to the post’s next contestant. I’ll only be mildly offended.
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh (found in The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011): Did you know in the future beautiful women are frozen and pimped out for rich men to “date” them. Yeah neither did I — now that I’ve learned…I can never unlearn and the whole premise of this story prompted a full novel, Love Minus Eighty, which so happens to now be one of my favorite books ever. Read it, read it or die!
“The Eyes of God” by Peter Watts (found in Beyond the Rift): In the future technology has advanced so much that advertisements can plant desires into your brain and security scanners at airports check your thoughts and change your personality so that you won’t do anything to harm others. While these changes aren’t permanent it raises an interesting question that explores the ethics/morality of such technology from the perspective of a man who has desires that he has never acted on. It brings forth an excellent question — one that is ages old. Are you guilty of an act, even if you only entertain thoughts of it? I tell you this — now I know your dirty little secrets and I need to go take a bath. Creeptastic and perfect.
“Wonders of the Invisible World” by Patricia A. McKillip (found in Wonders of the Invisible World): In a future where anything you can imagine is possible, researchers travel into the past to learn about human history. One researcher goes masquerading as an angel that appears to someone during the Witch Hunts. When she comes back she is tormented with her own inner demons and agonizes over not trying to stop the atrocities. Plus it has a cool scene at the end with futuristic video games, so win-win there cause I’m a recovered gamer.
“Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List” by Austin Grossman (found in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination): A super villain captures his girlfriend who has snuck into his secret lair and then proceeds to force her to listen to an itemized list of his apologies for his crimes against their relationship. This was hilarious — be sure to tinkle first so you don’t soil yourself. OK, maybe that’s extreme and I can be crude but I had a good fit of giggles. Sue me.
“Origin Story” by Kelly Link (found in Super Stories of Heroes and Villains): The dialogue in this one was full of snark and balderdash. (Sounds just like me, right? Don’t I wish.) While I couldn’t help having a constant smirk I also sympathized with the main character, Bunnatine. This is what I would imagine it is really like being in love with a super hero! They may be good guys but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily the nicest guys! I. Freaking. Loved. It!
You know SF Signal (aka James the slave driver) actually asked me for a list of 10-20 stories to make up this list but honestly I couldn’t come up with that many — or maybe I decided to spare you good readers from the endless nattering on and on that I am capable of. Let’s go with that instead — that I decided to be kind and benevolent instead of out of the loop, uninformed or the more likely suspect, lazy. (Boring truth — they just happen to be pulled from collections I’ve read within the last year). Thanks for having me *wink.*
My dream antho would be to showcase some translations of my favorite Swedish-language short stories. Many of these aren’t sold as fantastic fiction in Sweden, but might be identified as fantastic fiction abroad. Some aren’t available in English, but I’m including them in the hope that someone might catch on and translate them.
Selma Lagerlöf: “The Changeling” (Swedish title: Bortbytingen)
The Nobel Literature Prize winner of 1909 is not generally classified as a fantasy writer, but her work has a fantastical slant more often than not. “The Changeling” tells the story of a woman whose baby boy is stolen, a changeling left in his place. Tales of changelings are old, but Lagerlöf’s story offers a new perspective for its time, focusing on the woman’s experience of coping with her loss and new burden.
John Ajvide Lindqvist: “A Village in the Sky,” Let the Old Dreams Die (Swedish title: By på höjden)
Lindqvist, author of Let the Right One In, blazed a trail for new horror writers in Sweden. This story recalls Lovecraft’s non-Euclidean geometry, as a man discovers that something is … off … about the geometry of the high-rise where he lives.
Tove Jansson: “The Fillyjonk who believed in disasters”, Tales From Moominvalley (Swedish title: Filifjonkan som trodde på katastrofer)
Of all Jansson’s stories, this is my favorite. The Fillyjonk, an extremely neurotic creature who spends her days worrying about possible disasters and looming catastrophe, finally sees it happen. It’s a therapeutic, liberating story, and an excellent example of how Jansson comes at you sideways with themes that are really very dark. Jansson was technically Finnish, but wrote in Swedish as she belonged to the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland.
Torgny Lindgren: “The Biggest Words,” Merab’s Beauty and Other Stories (Swedish title: Störstorden)
Lindgren writes in a melancholy, deadpan mode about odd people and events in the far north of Sweden. You could call his works modern folktales, often set in the last turn of the century, where the border between reality and dream is smudged or obliterated entirely.
And now for some short stories that deserve translation.
Carl Ahlström: Svart rabarber (“Black Rhubarb,” no translation available)
Ahlström’s debut story is set at the end of the world. A group of young people left alone on a dying Earth desperately try to stay alive, to uphold a form of society through bizarre rules. The protagonist, Peppo, is an extremely unreliable narrator whose world has shrunk to making the perfect rhubarb cider. The deadpan absurdity and the profound darkness makes it one of the best Swedish stories I’ve read in a long time.
Marie Hermanson: Mullvadskungen (“The Mole King,” no English translation available. Published in Det finns ett hål i verkligheten, There Is a Hole in Reality)
A fairy tale-like story with a dark and melancholy bent. A king is gripped by the urge to dig himself into the ground, eventually abandoning his human form. I love this because it takes some of the more worn-out fairy tale tropes and subverts them into something completely different.
I would also like to include an excerpt from Eric Ericson‘s brilliant book Till vederbörande (To Whom It May Concern), because it’s such an awesome project. Till vederbörande is a collection of bizarre letters that he wrote and sent to random people all over the country. A series of letters all titled Telegram från andra sidan, or “Telegrams From the Other Side,” comes from the manager of a Swedish supermarket who sends reports from his new position at the supermarket in Hades. I both envy and feel a little sorry for whoever received these letters.
My dream anthology would be titled something like A Reader’s Need because the stories contained within would leave the reader not merely wanting, but needing more from those authors, driving them to seek out further tales.
“The Spacetime Pool” by Catherine Asaro (found in Asaro’s book Aurora in Four Voices). It is an excellent mix of mathematical puzzles, barbarianish men, alternate universe, and a lead female.
“Gardens of Ampheia” by Joshua Silverman. Get caught up in Thea’s life: young warrior in training, tending goats, and one horrible training accident that changes her life.
“Victory” by Lester del Ray (found in Great Classic Science Fiction published by BBC Audiobooks America 2010). Our warrior hero is trapped in a warzone and married to a nonhuman. Plenty of aliens lurk in this tale — insectoids, fungoids, and humanoids. An ebook version can be found on the Gutenberg Project: http://www.gutenberg.org/
“The Vrykolakas and the Cobbler’s Wife” by David Lee Summers (found in Cemetery Dance Issue 66). Set in 1900s Greece, a vrykolakas comes to haunt a cobbler’s wife. This tale is more than it appears.
“Adventurers Beware” by Jim Bernheimer (found in Bernheimer’s book Horror, Humor, & Heroes). Adventurers tend to adventure whether a village needs them to or not. So the locals gather around over a pint to plot how best to get rid of the adventurers. Highly amusing!
“Maiden Voyage of the Rio Grande” by Michael Coorlim. Steampunk airships! Better fighting through physics! Need I say more?
“I, Woman” by Uvi Poznanzky (found in Poznansky’s book Twisted). Enjoy a tale of a clay woman, her inherent sensuality, and her concern for what lays before her.
“Grimoire of the Lamb” by Kevin Hearne. If you have been curious about Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, but not sure you want to dive into them, then this is a great story to give you a good idea of the series. It takes place before Book 1, Hounded, of the series.
“Eathed, a Dragon’s Tale” by Troy Lee Henderson. With this one, enjoy a tale of an elderly dragon and scared, yet curious, boys.
“Still Life, a Sexagesimal Fairy Tale” by Ian Tregillis (found at Apex Magazine). Tink is the Timesmith for a city that has fallen off the calendar. The people revel in her timepeices, not truly understanding time.
“The Leavings of the Wolf” by Elizabeth Bear (found in The Book of Apex Volume 4). A divorced woman and bird biologist is looking for a way to leave the past behind.
“The Hatching” by Liesel K. Hill. More precocious children, and another dragon. The twist to this tale is excellent!
“Troublesome Neighbors” by M. K. Theodoratus. Renna has been a ranger, and a wrangler of pigs. Now she is a young Holder of Ren Creek Hold, and she has troublesome neighbors.
“The Incus” by Jim Lee (found in The Tales of the Talisman Volume 7 Issue 2). A medieval demon hunt set in Vietnam. Need I say more?
- “Red Goat, Black Goat” by Nadia Bulkin
- “Sleep Donation” by Karen Russell
- “The Resurrection Man’s Legacy” by Dale Bailey
- “A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” by Xia Jia (translated by Ken Liu)
- “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
- “The Brack” by Vajra Chandrashekar
- “Passion Play” by Malcolm Devlin
- “A Beautiful Memory” by Shannon Peavey (forthcoming in Apex)
- “The Jaguar’s Wife” by Anil Menon
- “Mulberry Boys” by Margo Lanagan
- “Old Virginia” by Laird Barron
- “Thanda Gosht” by Saadat Hassan Manto (translation)
- “The Wide Carnivorous Sky” by John Langan
- “The Anatomist’s Mnemonic” by Priya Sharma
- “Partial Inventory of Items Removed From Garden District Home,” New Orleans, December 2005 by Helena Bell
- “No Breather in the World But Thee” by Jeff Vandermeer
- “Infinities by Vandana Singh
- “Pearl Rehabilitative Colony For Ungrateful Daughters” by Henry Lien
- “Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel R. Delany
- “The Man Who Drew Cats” by Michael Marshall Smith
- “Al-Qazwini and the Man of the Sea” by Musharraf Ali Farooqi
- “The Pilgrim and the Angel” by E. Lily Yu
- “The Fisher Queen” by Alyssa Wong
- “The Hanging Game” by Helen Marshall
- “Hooves and the Hovel” of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed
- “How I Met the Ghoul” by Sofia Samatar
I don’t often dream about anthologies. One could even claim they’re a dying breed, existing only for writers. But once in a while, a certain anthology has gravitas. The stories, maybe not the best short stories ever crafted, work synergistically, creating a unified work infused with quirk and personality.
What I do dream about is texture and mood. And that is how I chose my anthology for this piece. There’s a loose association here, one of landscape remoteness and psychological remoteness. I’ve been thinking a lot about brevity lately, and minimalism, and remembering a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”
Anthologies, by their very nature will never be perfect. But, like the best mix-tape, they’re best when allowed to breathe, rather than adhering to a strict vision.
I’ve also been having climate change nightmares. As our species heads deeper into disaster, these stories below, in an abstract way, mirror the coming fears and anguish. A woman, stoned to death by her own community after drawing the “winning” lottery ticket — perhaps the nightmare to come as overpopulation looms. A dying hunter who dreams of a happy ending, of Masai “Ngàje Ngài,” the House of God,” that no longer holds the glaciers it once did. The sick crack of freezing trees, reminding us of our own fragility. Research teams, whether on earth or an exoplanet, poking and prodding mother nature, who may not have our best interests in mind. For what is the Shoggoth if not our past, screaming up the dark Antarctic tunnels to confront us? Are we not staring at the wallpaper, too? Soon, we’ll all find out.
- “The Rich, Evil Sound” – Steven Erikson
- “At the Mountains of Madness” – H.P. Lovecraft
- “Engaging the Idrl” – Davin Ireland
- “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” – Ernest Hemingway
- “The Lottery” – Shirley Jackson
- “The Yellow Wallpaper” – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- “The Most Dangerous Game” – Richard Connell
- “Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu: If you haven’t read this Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award winning story, you can read it here. You’ll cry. That’s pretty much guaranteed. It’s amazing, and beautiful, and, well, just read it!
- “Tenderfoot” (from Salsa Nocturna by Daniel Jose Older): In this story, we’re introduced to Older’s soulcatcher Carlos, who is featured in Salsa Nocturna. It’s a heartbreaker, and just gorgeous (as are all the stories in this amazing collection.)
- “Blemish” (from The Red Empire and other stories by Joe McKinney): This is a ghost story, but it’s not an ordinary one, and McKinney adds a delicate touch to a quietly unnerving piece.
- “Some Children Wander by Mistake” (from Nocturnes by John Connolly): This is a clown story, and it’s terrifying. Clowns are scary, man.
- “The Baby” by Christopher Fowler (from Magic edited by Jonathan Oliver): This story about a young girl who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy is, um, kinda icky, but scary as hell.
- “Reflections on the Critical Process” by Mike Carey (from Psycho Mania edited by Stephen Jones): This darkly funny story will especially entertain book reviewers, and it’s a clever story by a hugely talented author, who’s also one of my faves.
- “The Truth and All Its Ugly” by Kyle Minor (from The New Black edited by Richard Thomas): Another heartbreaker here, about the fierceness of a parent’s love, with an SF twist.
- “The Two Sams” by Glen Hirshberg (from Poe’s Children edited by Peter Straub): This one is just lovely and sad, and very, very good. Especially effective if you’re a parent.
- “Ozioma the Wicked” by Nnedi Okorafor (from Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman): A story about a modern girl that can talk to snakes, steeped in myth. Love this one.
- “Hurt Me” by MLN Hanover (from The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2011 edited by Paula Guran): A surprising ghost story by one of my favorite authors.