The New Voices of Fantasy
Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman, eds.
Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2017
Xena – 5 STARS ★★★★★
This is not your father’s old tattered volume of Tolkien imitations.
Collected here are contemporary fantasy stories influenced by a number of traditions and subgenres, including an urban fantasy of buildings coming alive, a Southern Gothic swimming hole with a secret, a vampire as a suburban father, and many more genre-defying tales.
Verdict: Set apart by the high quality of the prose style in all of the selections. I relished it from beginning to end. More than one story made me think: “Oo–I wish I had written that!”
Sarah Pinsker’s “Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” is surprisingly powerful for such a short and comparatively simple story. The story of teens at a swimming hole doesn’t waste a word, and leaves some haunting questions to linger on the reader’s palate.
E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” pulls off the difficult task of animal fable as allegory with suficient delicacy to avoid the pitfalls of allegory. I particularly liked the moral ambiguity of both wasp and bee social cultures. No easy hero emerged from this tale. And let’s face it, mapmaking wasps are just a supercool idea that could set anyone daydreaming for a while.
Zora – 5 STARS ★★★★★
I remember receiving my first short story collection at the age of 9. With apologies to “A Glory of Unicorns,” this volume is MUCH more entertaining (though it includes fewer unicorns). Though the stories are connected because of their “fantasy” genre, horror and mystery make many of the stories tick.
Xena enjoyed “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees.” Personally, I found its prose pretentious and flowery, but upon rereading it I enjoyed the premise and ideas behind it. I loved “Left the Century to Sit Unmoved.”
My favorite story may have been the very first in the volume: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Alyssa Wong creates a fluid and dread-soaked narrative with a morally gray main character, and she does it with skill.
Stories I’d recommend for ages 12+: Tornado’s Siren, Jackalope Wives, The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate
Stories I’d recommend for ages 14+: Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, Selkie Stories Are for Losers, Here Be Dragons
Content Advisory: Many of the stories contain some violence, and a few contain sexual content. “The Husband Stitch” in particular is centered on an explicit sexual relationship. Most stories rated G or PG. Two rated R.