The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 17, edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin J. Grant (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004)

Like its companion volume, The Year’s Best Science Fiction, the true strength and appeal of this annual collection lies not just in the sheer number and range of stories assembled, but in the essays which precede them. Though this year saw the departure of Terri Windling, and the appointment of Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant as the new fantasy editors, I’m happy to note that the change hasn’t affected the quality of the book one bit. This is still the comprehensive, authoritative roundup, not just of short fiction, but of everything relating to the fantasy and horror fields, for the previous year.
Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant look at every aspect of fantasy, from the top twenty to first novels, from humor to fantasy in the mainstream to poetry, from anthologies to young adult, from magazines to art and even awards. If it came out in 2003, it’s likely to be mentioned here. Ellen Datlow does the same for horror, covering news, novels, anthologies, magazines, artists, poetry, small presses and more. Ed Bryant’s essay examines the role of fantasy and horror in the media, poking at various movies and television shows, music and toys. Notable fantasy artist Charles Vess talks about comic books and graphic novels as they relate to fantasy and horror, producing a thoroughly insightful and educational column on the subject. New to the series with this year’s volume is Joan D. Vinge’s essay on anime and manga, a subset of the field which has seen tremendous growth in America over the past few years. Next, Charles de Lint chimes in with a short essay on music of the fantastic, and James Frenkel finishes off the yearly summaries with a look back at the obituaries for 2003, honoring everyone the field lost in that year. Though my Roman numerals are a little rusty, that’s well over a hundred pages worth of informative, exhaustive essays, making this book well worth picking up even before the 560+ pages worth of fiction and poetry drawn from dozens of sources, both well-known and obscure.
For every big name like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ursula K. LeGuin, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, or Terry Bisson honored here, there are lesser-known authors like Philip Raines and Harvey Welles, Dean Francis Alfar, or Vandana Singh. It’s a sure bet that even the most eclectic of readers will find new stories, new authors, and new sources of publication here. Bottom line: if you like short fiction and you like fantasy, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror is the collection to pick up every year. There’s just no excuse not to check it out.

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