Thursday, January 21, 2010
Best American Fantasy 2
Best American Fantasy 2
Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (editors)
In the introduction to the first Best American Fantasy anthology, editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer attempted to define in very broad strokes what they meant by “Best”, “American”, and “Fantasy” and used a very broad definition of what constituted a fantasy story. This second volume is intentionally tighter in the definition of fantasy, here “the manifestation of fantasy is real within the story, even if only hinted at in some” (pg 12).
There are some absolutely fantastic stories in this anthology, in both meanings of the word “fantastic”. This would normally be where a disclosure of what the standout stories in Best American Fantasy 2 are, but all of the stories more than have merit. There are very few questionable stories here, all are solid, and which story rises above the rest will likely depend on personal taste. My standout stories are written by Kage Baker, Michelle Richmond, Peter Beagle, and Rachel Swirsky.
“How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth” from Rachel Swirsky is a powerful closing story. Originally published in Electric Velocipede #13, “How the World Became Quiet” is a future history of mankind after numerous apocalypses. This future history is completely unexpected and the shape of humanity is nothing like readers will expect. This is a spectacular story from one of the best new writers today.
The closing story is a far future science fiction tale, but “The Ruby Incomparable” from Kage Baker is a more traditional fantasy. Baker works with magic, gods, and a desire for immense power. This could be just any other story, but in the hands of Kage Baker, the result is nothing less than magical. Pardon the cliché.
The range of fiction in Best American Fantasy 2 is impressive, but perhaps no story demonstrates just how varied the fiction here can be is Matt Bell’s “Mario’s Three Lives”. This story harkens back to the childhood of every reader within a couple of years of thirty who played Nintendo in their childhood. Yes, it’s that Mario. This rather short story is far more moving than one would think and it perfectly encapsulates what the “Best American Fantasy” really means.
The editors VanderMeer have put together an anthology with a distinctive voice and which lives up to the billing of truly containing some of the best American fantasy published in 2007, though the stories here know no year. Best American Fantasy 2 is should be considered a “must read” anthology. Period.
Reading copy provided courtesy of Jeff VanderMeer