The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror annuals are always a treat; read this one and The Year's Best Science Fiction Sixteenth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois and you'll have a fairly complete overview of speculative fiction from 1998 as well as hours of great reading.
Datlow and Windling, renowned for crossing genre boundaries, gather stories and poems from mainstream magazines, literary journals, and Internet zines. There are vampires, a Lovecraft homage, enchanted birds and animals, shapeshifters, adult fairy tales, ghosts, and even a hunted muse. The best are Byatt's sensuous, enchanting "Cold"--about an ice princess who marries a glass-blowing desert prince--and Straub's novella, "Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff" (which won the Stoker award for Best Long Fiction in 1999), a black comedy of revenge gone awry. The reference material includes each editor's review of the year's best novels, collections and anthologies, magazines, related nonfiction, children's books, and art. There's also a roundup of 1998's film, television, and dramatic offerings by Ed Bryant, a brief essay on comics by Seth Johnson, and obituaries by James Frenkel.
It's an invaluable source of introductions to authors you might not otherwise try, plus thought-provoking observations on fantasy in all its guises. You may not get to a convention this year, but if you've read Datlow and Windling, you'll know what a good one is like. --Nona Vero [via]