The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman
|Book Name:||The New Voices of Fantasy|
|Author:||Edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman. Stories by: Alyssa Wong, Sofia Samatar, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Pinsker, Max Gladstone, Ursula Vernon, Maria Dahvana Headley, Hannu Rajaniemi, Chris Tarry, Kelly Sandoval, JY Yang, Ben Loory, Amal El-Mohtar, Adam Ehrlich Sachs, Eugene Fischer, Carmen Maria Machado, E. Lily Yu, A. C. Wise, and Usman T. Malik.|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy Anthology / Short Stories|
|Release Date:||August 22, 2017 (US) August 8, 2017 (UK)|
If these ladies and gentlemen represent the future of fantasy we are in for a wild and terrific ride. All the stories have been published since 2010 so whilst they might not be technically new, their writers are blossoming, following new and different paths to their humble beginnings. Being excellent examples of their kind you may have come across some of them already but as reader who tends to stick to full-length novels almost all of the writers and all of the stories were unfamiliar to me, so it’s exciting to go into a little more depth into some of my favourites.
Alyssa Wong’s “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” is some horrific shit and I mean that in the best possible way. It is visceral, original, unsettling and wholly unforgettable. The story shows us a glimpse into the world of an extraordinary being that can hear other people’s thoughts and sees them represented as real manifestations.
“I nod, half listening to the words coming out of his mouth. I’m much more interested in the ones hissing through the teeth of the thoughts above him.”
She seeks the most depraved and vile thoughts because they taste the best, and when she catches her latest Tinder date revealing in the thought of cutting her open later in the night, this blind turns from boring into promising. Let that sink in. Wong set the bar very high here, I felt filthy after reading it and although it was probably edging closer to horror than fantasy I think it was the perfect way to kick things off this anthology.
“Selkie Stories Are For Losers” by Sofia Samatar was interesting but completely different from the opening story. It’s about family and lost opportunity and the legend of a people who can remove their skins to take on a human form and the human who inevitably steals a skin to trap a bride.
“Tornado’s Siren” by Brooke Bolander was the next story to really catch me off guard. The concept is so fantastic. What would you do if a tornado wanted to be your Valentine? Rhea is nine-years-old and finds herself huddled down in the bath and covered in blankets staring into the eye of a raging tornado when she asks, “Why?”
In that moment the storm pauses and then dissipates as quickly as it arrived. Years later upon receiving no Valentine’s cards her high school is blown down with every other kid’s card landing at the doorstep of her house. As she grows up incidents compound leaving her with little choice but to acknowledge what the hell is going on and finally take control of the situation. I loved every second of this one.
“Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” by Sarah Pinsker is a real mystery. It’s a beautiful story full of danger and tells of a girl who lives in a place with a very strange pond. It is a rite of passage for the kids in this town to take a huge leap on the rocks above but once in a while the pond takes someone. There is never a sign of struggle and no body has ever been recovered, they simply never come up after breaking the surface. So of course kids want to jump in it to prove themselves, swearing by a set of made up rules that are supposed to increase your chances of breathing air again. They also proudly recognise why they jump, to know what happens if they get taken, because the water is clear and deep, to fly for a moment and just because. This story fills the spirit.
“A Kiss with Teeth” by Max Gladstone is great dark fun. It’s about a vampire, possibly the oldest vampire, his name is Vlad after all, and his struggles living a modern life. Sounds a little hooey, like a soap opera featuring Jim Belushi, but at its heart it’s about a man struggling with his true nature in front of the mortal people he loves. His son is ignorant of his past and when they play catch he must do everything in his power to move at snail’s pace to stop the ball breaking the sound barrier and crossing three states. He cannot kiss his wife the way he would like because he still does not know his place in the world and that loneliness is palpable. It leaves him vulnerable and a man out of place.
“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon is another story about mythical beings that become human when they remove their skins. It has a nice twist at the end and is one of the more magical pieces.
“The Cartographers Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu was one of the few stories that I had read and I enjoyed it just as much the second time. It is a curious tale of division and individuality and short lived life spans and builds an incredible world in a very small amount of time.
“The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate” by A. C. Wise was literally a guide to buying a real estate if you were a witch. I didn’t find it fantastical or particularly surprising and to be honest it’s so different from anything else in the book I was left scratching me head unsure of what it was doing in this particular collection.
“The Tallest Doll in New York City” is a really weird and beautiful story about a world where buildings can fall in love. They can leave their foundations and wander down the street leaving the people inside watching with a wry delight as they flirt and make their moves. It is delightful and whimsical and the most fun in the whole collection. This was exactly the sort of story I was hoping to find and there was not a moment of darkness, which is a rarity.
“The Haunting of Apollo A7LB” by Hannu Rajaniemi was original and interesting but didn’t resonate with me the way some of the others do. A spacesuit, inhabited by its former resident, returns to its maker who was previously also his wife. She made the suit was such care and precision that it is almost a second skin but he also has someone else, a real person, trapped in there with him.
“Here be Dragons” by Chris Tarry follows a couple of would be dragon slayers who have cornered the market on protecting local villages without every actually slaying anything. They are meant to be likeable old timey con men but an instant of attempted infanticide, and the reaction to said attempt by the protagonist left me with no sympathy or empathy towards either of them and by the end I couldn’t give two squirts what happened.
“The One They Took Before” by Kelly Sandoval went right over my head. A guy posts on Craigslist about a rift in the fabric of the universe but it is a trap set for our protagonist. It is dark and mysterious but I didn’t quite get it.
“Tiger Baby” by JY Yang was so magical. A young woman feels the road of a feline in her mouth and the wildness of a tiger straining behind her beating heart. She wakes every morning like a spirit animal returning to its human form and is so sure she is something else. Her ability to attract and almost communicate with street cats only makes her feelings more intense. Will she gives herself up and completely let go? You’ll see.
“The Duck” by Ben Loory. Oh my god. A duck falls in love with a rock. He is super embarrassed but because his mates are just sort of dicks. But they aren’t complete dicks, so they decide, with the cajoling of a young female duck who believes his love is genuine, to haul the rock up to the top of a cliff and chuck it off to see if it will fly. There is so much love in this story my heart almost burst.
“Wing” by Amal El-Mohtar is another one about magic and love. Or it could be about the unluckiest girl in the world because every time she sits down to read a book someone comes up and asks her what she is reading. This is my idea of hell. It’s lovely though.
“The Philosophers” by Adam Ehrlich Sachs is completely mad and brilliant. One of my absolute favourites but to say anything would be to ruin it.
“My Time Among the Bridge Blowers” by Eugene Fischer was not one of my favourites and I didn’t really get what was going on enough to have a solid opinion. It is about both the strengths and shortcomings of 19th century colonial fiction made popular by Rudyard Kipling.
“The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado is lonely and twisted. It’s about a women whose stories can become reality…I think. She wears a ribbon around her neck that can never be undone and her major concern when having a child is that if it is a girl it will have one too. I’ll need to give it another go.
“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik won the British Fantasy Award in 2016 and gives us something that explores the power of words themselves. It is a fitting end to the collection and shows the strength that a generation of storytellers can achieve.
This is an exceptional collection of stories and I highly recommend picking it up upon its release. I was hugely impressed to find a personal connection with almost every piece of fiction contained within and I have no doubt the one’s I didn’t connect with will find eager and appreciative readers elsewhere. It is a certainty that these emerging and flourishing writers will be making more noise in the future.
Thank you to Tachyon Publications for sending me an advance copy.