Sunday, 14 May 2017

Review: The New Voices of Fantasy

The New Voices of Fantasy The New Voices of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of stories by authors who have recently hit the upper levels of speculative fiction writing - publication in the top venues, award nominations, and so forth.

I'd read several of these before, mostly in the The Long List Anthology Volume 2: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List; some of them were good enough that I read them again. I skipped Alyssa Wong's "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" (which was more horror-like than I prefer), Carmen Maria Machado's "The Husband Stitch", a magic-realist story that didn't have a strong enough payoff for me to want to read it again, and Usman T. Malik's "The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn," which was good but, let's say, took a lot of words for the amount of story in it.

I did re-read Maria Dahvana Headley's "The Tallest Doll in New York City," a lovely Runyonesque that I'd previously read in the anthology, and Max Gladstone's "A Kiss with Teeth", which I'd read twice before in other anthologies. It's that good. His novels are, for me, a frustrating blend of brilliant and flawed, but this story is excellent. Even though a lot of its excellence is in the masterfully maintained tension, and even though I (obviously) already knew the ending, it rewarded rereading.

The other story I re-read was Sofia Samatar's "Selkie Stories Are for Losers", which, the first time I read it, didn't do much for me. I appreciated it more on a re-read; like most of these stories, what it's about is human relationships, and it takes an allusive and indirect approach that, for me, needed a second read to get.

As I write this review, I'm partway through reading Event Horizon 2017, a collection of stories by authors eligible for the Campbell Award - that is, people who've recently made their first professional sale. I'm trying to figure out what the difference is between those stories and the ones in this volume; haven't quite put my finger on it yet, but it's something to do with having a second level to the story, and and extra degree of skill in weaving it together. While I didn't necessarily like every story in this volume, I appreciated the authors' ability.

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