Friday, October 06, 2006

The Long and Short of It

There are good days and there are bad days: those days when I figure there's no point getting out of bed. The bad days also include times when I figure that I'm writing crap and totally irrelevant-to-the-world stuff, including whatever I put in this blog.

Maybe it's the weather. Maybe I'm just feeling the doldrums. Whatever the case, that's when I normally turn to my books. Which explains my rather expansive library and my long, long list of books still to be read.

At this point in time, I find some solace in books on short stories, whether anthologies or single-author collections. I'd blame dean's influence of course but funny enough, all these stories actually helped jumpstart my writing brain to shift to the short form. (So if you don't like my stories, you can actually still blame dean!)

Seriously, the good news is that getting these anthologies is a good buy: you get the best of the lot, it's collected in a good format, and the varied range of the stories means that you won't get stuck with a bad story-- as, say in a novel or even by a story collection by a single author.

At the time I started, there was only one definitive collection of fantasy stories-- that of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's Year's Best of Fantasy and Horror-- unlike science-fiction, which had a number of year's best collections. Fortunately, there seems to be a plethora of year's best collections presently. As of last count, there were five:

  1. Fantasy: The Best of the Year, edited by prolific reviewer Rich Horton;
  2. Fantasy: The Very Best of 2005, edited by Jonathan Strahan;
  3. Best New Fantasy, edited by small press publisher Sean Wallace;
  4. Year's Best Fantasy, David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer; and
  5. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror but now edited by Ellen Datlow, Gavin Grant and Kelly Link.

The bad news is that it seems the best-of short-story anthology market seems to be a little shaky. Before, the Hartwell/Crame antho was published by one of the big publishing houses, Eos Books. Unfortunately, this was discontinued and now their antho is now in the hands of an independent press, Tachyon Publications. (Serendipitously enough, an antho I ordered before Feeling Very Strange actually came from them.) Likewise, the Strahan antho was almost discontinued by the demise of iBooks but it was later picked up by Locus Press.

So how does it compare? Well, I have none of the aforementioned books in hand yet. (Though I aim to get the Datlow collection since I'm already knee-deep in it; the rest-- alas, though the books look lovely, there are more books out there than I can spend on so we'll have to see.) However, I did try reading up on last year's selection, i.e. stories from 2004:

  1. David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer Year's Best Fantasy 5
  2. Karen Haber, Jonathan Strahan Fantasy: The Best of 2004
  3. Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant Year's Best of Fantasy and Horror 18th Annual Collection

The Datlow collection is the epitome of what's really out there: aside from the editors' selection of the best of the best in both fantasy and horror, it also has a summary on all the stuff published as of that year. However, the editors' bias is quite evident as they prefer their fantasy to be more on the weird/interstitial/magical realism side. On the other hand, the Hartwell collection adheres to the magical/genre fantasy that I must admit I'm used to but it does rather limit itself a bit to this. However, I do like both collections as it cites writers (like Kevin Brockmeier and Theodora Goss) that I might have never known about if I hadn't picked these up.

Lastly, I always thought Strahan's collection was at a disadvantage since it's usually the first year's best to come out ('round mid-year?). However, Strahan doesn't miss much in his selection and if ever you want to know what's out there but can't spend much, then this is your book. Likewise, all three books had little overlaps so if you're leery of spending on books that have the same content, don't worry too much about that.

I don't know how the new antho editors will handle their selections but I'm thinking that Horton and Wallace know their stuff. And hopefully I can procure a copy of all five books eventually.

In meantime, if you want to cheer up a depressed cat, now you know what you can get me (certain books being already available on these shores). *winks*

Edited to add:

Here's a nice review of all the anthologies. Makes me think that I should really go out and get these... *sigh*


Der Fuhrer said...

"it's collected in a good format, and the varied range of the stories means that you won't get stuck with a bad story"

too true. that's why most of the books I'm buying right now are short story collections or anthos..heheh..

Eldritch00 said...

As a huge fan of the short form, I love anthologies and collections.

If I have a "problem"--if you can even call it that--with annual anthologies though, it's only that I can't read them straight through, tending to use them as "references":

I read the stories by authors I know or have heard of, following that with the ones that seemed interesting (and this is mostly due to reading editor's blurbs, which is what I like about say, Stephen Jones and Datlow et. al.) and then set it aside for a while. I pick it up again when someone mentions an author somewhere whose name I remember seeing.

Themed anthologies and single-author collections, on the other hand, I try to read straight through. It's like listening to an album, I think. It makes any clunkers stand out like proverbial sore thumbs if the other stories are so damn good, of course, but it's certainly a good experience to read them in that "sum is greater than its parts" fashion.

(Most of my favorite themed anthologies have the odd distinction of containing at least one craptacular story, a sign that the others are so strong.)

On a more "practical note," have you seen copies of the Betancourt-Wallace horror anthology from Wildside? That's the one I'm looking for.

banzai cat said...

fuhrer: That's true though collections are few and far in-between in shops, alas.

eldritch: Heh I kinda figured, given your prolific reading lifestyle. I'm also amazed how you can stop yourself from reading just one story in an antho. I don't think I have your willpower.

On the other hand, I haven't seen the horror counterpart of the Prime books yet, only the fantasy and SF best-of. Would you order it, if ever?

ramblingsoul said...

banzai, i met your friends from high school jimand ryan last night sa isang inuman. apparently, jim knows my friend easy.

Der Fuhrer said...

just bought these short story collections/antho today:

Roger Zelazny- Frost and Fire
Lin Carter ed.-Weird Tales 2 (feat. HP Lovecraft's The Night Ocean)
David Hartwell ed.-Year's Best SF 6

plus Lloyd Alexander's The High King.

Also seen: Robert Silverberg and Isaac Asimov-Nightfall
Patricia McPhillip-The Riddlemaster of Hed

should I buy them?

paul said...

hey banzai cat. met yer friends too; was there with ramblingsoul. i know it's totally trite to say stuff like 'small world' and all that, but it's totally amusing too.

Dean said...

short fiction - gotta love it ;)

banzai cat said...

ramblingsoul: Hey man! Yeah I met up with them afterwards and told me you guys had met. I was sorely reminded of the game 7 degrees considering my gf also knows Easy and Ahmed and you also. ;-)

fuhrer: Those look good. :-) The other two books are also good though I think I remember someone saying something about the Riddlemaster not being one of her best works? But I liked it.

paul: Hey! Thanks and welcome aboard! Yeah was about to say something about a small world but figured... nah. Hehe.

dean: Hah! You would. ;-)

Speaking of which, I really have to catch up on my reading material...

Eldritch00 said...

Der Fuhrer, "The Night Ocean" is a collaboration, I think, or at least a Lovecraft fragment that was completed by someone else.

Neat purchases though, and while I've never read McKillip, I get the opposite impression from BC: the Riddle-Master Trilogy seem to be rated highly by the few mentions I've come across it online.

BC: Being able to resist a deep immersive reading in an annual anthology is really more a matter of time (specifically, the lack thereof), I guess. And they are massive volumes, too, which aren't linked by a common theme.

Also, I don't think I'd order Prime's annual horror anthology, though I would snap it up if I see a copy.

banzai cat said...

eldritch: Actually, yeah Riddlemaster really gets high marks. It's just that I've been surprised with some who weren't all that impressed with it whose opinions I respect. So, I guess it's really your call in the end.

As for the anthos, I suppose I'm not as attracted to themes as opposed to best-of (whether multi- or single-collections). However, I do realize that it's a pain to keep collecting these year-in and year-out, which is why I didn't snap up the Prime fantasy collection as soon as I saw it. That and the lack of funds. ;-)

Eldritch00 said...

One of the Datlow-Windling anthologies caught my eye in Booktopia, but they all disappeared during the sale. Did you pick it up?

I forget which volume exactly, but I think it was the one with Tim Lebbon's "White" (though I already had that one). I think it had Campbell and Lamsley, too.

Anyway, while not an annual, this looks like a BC anthology.

banzai cat said...

Oh, I got a couple of pieces there. However, I've gotten a bit tired trying to keep track of the latest best-of anthos so I haven't picked up the latest Datlow collection. Maybe later...

banzai cat said...

Ooops, I forgot: yeah, I've seen mentions of the Salon Fantastique but I figured I'll aim for the Paraspheres and the Feeling Very Strange collections first. One book at a time. ;-)