The collaborative efforts of Ellen Datlow (horror) and Terri Windling (fantasy) are becoming something of a legend, as year after year they deliver the best horror and fantasy short fiction in a fat (500 double-length pages) anthology that avoids pigeonholes with its mingled, unlabeled sample of the two genres. As in previous years, this volume includes more than 100 pages of summaries about the year 1997 in horror and fantasy publishing, horror and fantasy in the media, and comics. The fiction includes 18 stories and 8 poems with just Terri Windling's initials, and 18 stories and 1 poem with Ellen Datlow's initials, with some (presumably dark fantasy) that are tagged by both.
Even more than usual, Ellen Datlow's horror selections introduce a remarkable variety of types of stories. One of the best tales is Molly Brown's "The Psychomantium," about a mirror that allows alternative time lines to intersect, creating double fates for the characters. "The Skull of Charlotte Corday" (photos included) by Leslie Dick takes an essayistic approach to a famous female assassin and some creepy details in the history of sexual surgery. Douglas Clegg's "I Am Infinite, I Contain Multitudes" is a striking body-horror tale that was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Christopher Harman, P.D. Cacek, Joyce Carol Oates, and Vikram Chandra contribute old-fashioned ghost stories. Gary Braunbeck's "Safe" is reminiscent of the best of Stephen King in its portrayal of realistic horror in a small town. Michael Chabon's "In the Black Mill" more than proves that Lovecraftian horror can transcend shallow pastiche. And other horror notables--such as Michael Cadnum, Christopher Fowler, Caitlín Kiernan, Stephen Laws, Kim Newman, Norman Partridge, and Nicholas Royle--make appearances.
Terri Windling's selections include familiar fantasy names such as Peter Beagle, Charles de Lint, Karen Joy Fowler, and Jane Yolen, and famous genre-crossers such as Ray Bradbury, Howard Waldrop, and Jack Womack. She also provides welcome space for fantasy poetry--charming pieces with images of the Trickster Coyote, Sheela Na Gig, and a mermaid, and titles like "Coffee Jerk at the Gates of Hell." The Pulitzer Prize-winning Steven Millhauser contributes an enchanting tale that originally appeared in the New Yorker. Other tales are inspired by an intriguing range of sources: Gulliver's Travels, Marilyn Monroe, the Scottish legend of the Sineater, the art of glass blowing, Aztec myth, and ancient Jewish lore.
There's no better way to take in the best of these two genres, both for the great selections and the ample pointers to 1997's novels, magazines, art, movies, and comics that you may not have heard about. --Fiona Webster